serves: 4 servings
Most countertops and work surfaces are built at a height that is comfortable for chopping and mixing. The best height for kneading any kind of dough is slightly lower-at about hip level, where you can really get your weight into the kneading process. If you have a convenient surface at such a height, use it to knead dough. If not, any countertop will do-just stand back a little from the table so you're pushing out, not down, on the dough. My grandmother's method for kneading dough is a little different that most-she taught me to dig my knuckles into the dough in between rounds of gathering and pushing the dough. I pass that method along to you here.
Even if you prepare the dough in a food processor, I suggest you finish kneading the dough by hand. Once you develop a feel for the right consistency of pasta dough, you'll never lose it. You'll be able to make adjustments to the kneading time or the amount of flour or water to work into a dough each time you make it.
3 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
warm water as needed
Spoon 2 2/3 cups of the flour into the workbowl of a large capacity food processor fitted with the metal blade. Beat the eggs, olive oil and salt together in a small bowl until blended. With the motor running, pour the egg mixture into the feed tube. Process until the ingredients form a rough and slightly sticky dough. If the mixture is too dry, drizzle a very small amount of warm water into the feed tube and continue processing. Scrape the dough out of the workbowl onto a lightly floured wood or marble surface. (To mix the dough by hand, see the Note below.)
Knead the dough by gathering it into a compact ball, then pushing the ball away from you with the heels of your hands. Repeat the gathering and pushing motion several times, then press into the dough, first with the knuckles of one hand, then with the other, several times. Alternate between kneading and 'knuckling' the dough until it is smooth, silky and elastic-it pulls back into shape when you stretch it. The process will take 5 to 10 minutes of constant kneading, slightly longer if you prepared the dough by hand. (Mixing the dough in a food processor gives the kneading process a little head start.) Flour the work surface and your hands lightly any time the dough begins to stick while you're kneading.
Roll the dough into a smooth ball and place in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least one hour at room temperature, or up to 1 day in the refrigerator before rolling and shaping the pasta. If the dough has been refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature for about an hour before rolling and shaping.
To Mix The Dough By Hand: Pile 3 cups of flour in a mound on a marble or wooden surface, Make a well in the center of the mound, like a crater in a volcano, all the way to the work surface. Beat the eggs, olive oil and salt together in a small bowl until the eggs are foamy. Pour them into the well. Beat the egg mixture with a fork while slowly incorporating the flour from the sides of the crater into the egg mixture. The more flour you incorporate, the thicker the egg mixture and the wider the well will become. Continue beating until the dough becomes too stiff to mix with a fork. If the dough becomes too thick to mix with a fork before almost all of the flour is incorporated , drizzle a tiny amount of the warm water over the egg mixture and continue mixing. (It is possible you will not need any water at all.) Flour your hands well and knead the remaining flour into the dough until a rough and slightly sticky dough is formed. Shape the dough into a rough ball and set it aside. Sprinkle your hands generously with flour, rubbing them together to remove any remaining scraps of dough from your skin. Scrape any dough and flour from the kneading surface and pass all these scrapings through a sieve. Discard the scraps in the sieve and use the strained flour to continue kneading the dough. Make sure your hands are clean and flour them lightly and knead the dough as described above.
Wash 6 cups (lightly packed) stemmed fresh spinach in plenty of cool water, changing the water if necessary, to remove all traces of sand and grit. Drain the spinach well and transfer it, with just the water that clings to the leaves, to a large pot. Cover the pot and place it over medium heat. Cook, stirring the spinach once or twice, until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes after the water in the bottom of the pot begins steaming. Drain the spinach and let stand until cool enough to handle. Squeeze as much liquid from the spinach as possible with your hands. (The drier the spinach is, the less flour the pasta dough will absorb and the more tender the finished pasta will be.) Combine the eggs called for in the recipe and the squeezed spinach in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until the spinach is finely chopped. Proceed as above, substituting the spinach-egg mixture for the eggs called for in the recipe. It is likely the spinach pasta dough will take a little more flour during mixing and kneading than egg pasta dough, even if you have been very careful to squeeze out the water.