While there are many different types of pasta in Italy, the most luscious is that made at home with soft “00” flour and fresh whole eggs. The fat of the yolk gives the pasta added elasticity and richness. Throughout Italy, the duck egg is the most prized for making pasta. Hard to come by, duck eggs aren’t for sale, you just have to know someone with a duck. Luckily I know Novelia.
Novelia is my friend from Abruzzo whom I visited recently, and while she doesn’t have a duck, she knows someone who has a duck. It’s all about who you know in Italy. Well, this duck of a friend of a friend is having a pretty good spring and has been producing a lot of eggs. Novelia had been given three of them. If you can get your hands on a duck egg, it is a treasure to be guarded and protected and sometimes shared. Since she could use only two and as she shares my passion for pasta, she also shared her treasure.
I carefully brought the treasure home in a nest I made in the car, double wrapped in aluminum foil and plastic.
I introduced it to the hen eggs and let it lord over them for the night, then the next morning we made pasta.
One large duck egg is equal to about four medium hen eggs. The shell is more compact and heavier than a hen’s, the white is clearer and thinner and the yolk is denser and stickier. Encased in an elastic sack that’s thicker than a hen’s, the yolk yields to the touch before breaking and oozing slowly out of its encasing. The pasta was soft and beautiful, we used about 3 cups of “00” flour and kneaded it until it was satiny and elastic.
Fresh Pasta Dough
Following is a basic recipe for the dough for whole egg pasta, used for making homemade tagliatelli, papparadelle, spaghetti alla chitarra and all stuffed pasta shapes.
1½ cup “00” flour or 1¼ cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
Use 1 egg for every 2 people you are cooking for. If you can get a duck egg, it should feed six people. Place flour in a bowl or on the board or table, make a well in the center, add the eggs and beat with a fork or two fingers, mixing the yolk and white together and gradually incorporating the flour. When the dough starts to come together, form it into a ball, gathering and scraping up all the loose ends of dough. Knead it until it’s smooth and elastic. If the dough is at all sticky, add additional flour, just enough to keep it from sticky to your hands and the board. The dough should be smooth, satiny and stiffens the more you work with it. Depending on the humidity and the size of the eggs, you may need more or less flour, which can be determined while you work it. When the ball is smooth and elastic, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest at least 10 minutes. Use a pasta machine to elongate and shape the sheets of pasta.