~ How to: Make Egg Noodles from Scratch for Soup ~
In an Eastern European household, when one refers to noodles, one is referring to egg noodles that go into soup. When one refers to pasta, one means dried or fresh spaghetti or macaroni shapes that get sauced. I grew up with a clear understanding of the definitions. Now that I am all grown up and out in the world, I am continually confused by folks who refer to lasagna sheets as lasagna noodles, or expect to be served pasta with sauce when they've ordered "noodles with gravy"!
Noodles are not pasta! Pasta is not noodles!
The difference between noodle dough and pasta dough is: noodle dough refers to a product containing only eggs (or egg yolks) and flour, while pasta dough, which usually contains eggs (or egg yolks), also contains a liquid such as water or milk. Macaroni, which falls into the pasta category, contains no eggs or egg products. Both noodles and pasta are rolled to the desired thickness, then cut into flat, thick or thin strips of various lengths or into squares. Noodles differ slightly from fresh pasta in that, shortly after being rolled and cut, they are immediately (gently) dropped into boiling water to cook, while any type of pasta requires some length of drying time prior to cooking. After the noodles are drained, rinsed and cooled, they store well in the refrigerator for 3-5 days!
My mom makes the best egg noodles I have ever eaten and I'm sure she got the recipe from her mother (my Coaldale Baba). Egg noodles are incredibly easy to make. In fact, when I was about 7 years old, when my mom would make them (usually on Saturdays during the Fall and Winter) she began teaching and allowing me to roll the dough and slice the noodles. If you've never tried to make noodles, or have been afraid to try, you really need to give noodle making a whirl. Once you've eaten them homemade, you'll thick twice about substituting even the best store-bought version to add to your soup!
~ Step 1. In a large mixing bowl, place 2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour.
~ Step 2. In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together 4 jumbo eggs and 2 teaspoons salt.
~ Step 3. In a small bowl, set aside 3/4 cup additional flour. A couple of tablespoons will be used during the mixing process and the rest used for bench flour during the rolling process.
~ Step 4. Using the fork, push the flour out of the center of the bowl to form a "well". Pour the egg mixture into the "well". Using the fork, begin stirring very small amounts of the flour into the "well" and continue stirring until almost all of the flour has been incorporated.
~ Step 5. Using the heel of your hand, aggressively begin to gather and push down on the dough, giving the bowl a quarter turn each time you gather and push. Continue this kneading process for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in and add up to 2 tablespoons of additional flour, if necessary, to keep dough from sticking to bottom of bowl. You will have a solid, well-mixed ball, with small blisters on the surface.
Note: The kneading process transforms basic flour and eggs into a smooth dough. The harder the dough is worked, the better the end result will be. Kneading also gives dough its elasticity, so the harder the dough is worked the more elastic it becomes as well. Without sufficient resting time after it is kneaded, 1-3 hours works best (and experience has taught me that overnight in the refrigerator does not work well), the dough will spring back and not hold its shape when you attempt to roll it.
~ Step 6. You will have about 1 1/4 pounds of dough. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half. Briefly knead each half a few seconds to form a 3/4"-thick elongated disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 1-3 hours.
Note: When the dough is unwrapped, it will be sticky. Just pull it loose from the wrap and quickly reform the disc.
To roll the dough and cut the noodles:
~ Step 1. On a large pasta board, sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of the bench flour. Roll the first disc of dough, as thinly as possible, into a large rectangle approximately 16"-18" x 12"-14" in size. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour evenly over the top.
~ Step 3. Using a very sharp knife and as little pressure as possible, cut the dough across the strips to any size you prefer (1/4" for thin egg noodles or 1/2" for wide egg noodles, gently placing the noodles on a baking pan as you work. Toss with 1 tablespoon of flour. Repeat this process with the second ball of dough.
~ Step 1. In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Gradually add the noodles by hand, gently sprinkling them into the boiling water. Stir immediately, but very slowly, to prevent noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and cook, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook!
Note: Homemade noodles cook very quickly, in 2-4 minutes depending upon their thickness. After they are all floating on the top of the bubbling water, test for doneness (by tasting) about every 20-30 seconds.
~ Step 2. Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. This will halt the cooking process and bring noodles to below room temperature. Store and refrigerate well-drained noodles in a food storage container for 3-5 days. Return to room temperature and use as directed in recipe.
How to: Make Egg Noodles from Scratch for Soup: Recipe yields 6 cups of cooked noodles.
Special Equipment List: fork; plastic wrap; large wooden pasta board; rolling pin; paring knife or chef's knife (whatever works best for you); baking pan; 8-quart stockpot; colander; food storage container w/lid
Cook's Note: I really hope you will give these a try. Aside from the time it takes for the dough to rest, making the dough, rolling it out and cooking the noodles only takes about 30-45 minutes!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)