Few ingredients contain as few components and give as much life to as many dishes as fresh pasta. Fresh pasta doesn't reach al dente, hold up well to baking, or support hefty amounts of sauce; but it has one thing dried pasta doesn't: Adaptability. A basic pasta-making technique gives you the freedom to incorporate almost any flavor or coloring. If you want emerald-green spinach fettuccine, add about 1/2 tablespoon of pureed spinach for each cup of flour. For pumpkin pasta, add pumpkin puree. After you learn the technique, start experimenting.
Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl using a fork. You need 2 cups of flour for about 1 pound of pasta.
Sift the flour into a pile on the work surface. Dig a deep well in the center of the flour using your fingers; it should resemble the mouth of a volcano. Add 3 whole eggs to the well for every 2 cups of flour. If you're making flavored pasta, beat the puree with the eggs before adding them to the flour.
Stir the eggs using a fork slowly; the eggs will pick up flour while pushing some of the flour into the eggs.
Continue stirring and pushing in small amount of flour until a soft dough forms. After the dough just comes together, transfer it to a lightly floured section of the work area.
Knead the dough quickly until firm, or about 1 minute. Add more flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
Roll the dough out to a 1/4-inch thickness. Pass the dough through the pasta machine and fold it in thirds. Repeat the folding and rolling technique five times. If you don't have a pasta machine, roll it out to the thinness of a nickel using a rolling pin; fold it in thirds and repeat four more times.
Cut the rolled pasta 8 to 12 inches long, or the length you want the noodles. Pass it through the machine or slice it into noodles using a knife.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.
Jenean Hare/Demand Media