Among the most versatile of all pastas are the silken, flat ribbons cut from fresh dough. Called by a variety of names, depending on the width of the noodle, all ribbon pastas are superb with creamy sauces, pesto, and tomato-based sauces.
Homemade pasta ribbons with straight edges can be cut with a sharp knife or with the roller blades of a pasta machine (only a commercial machine will produce ribbons with ruffled edges). The cutting blades of a hand-cranked pasta machine are preset to two prescribed sizes: 4 inch wide for fettuccine or 1/16 inch wide for fine noodles -- a similar size to spaghetti. When you cut the dough with a knife, the strips can be the traditional widths or any that appeal to you, including wide lasagne .
After you have made the dough and rolled it out (see our techniques for Steps for Making Pasta: by Hand and by Machine), it must rest on a towel, uncovered, for about 20 minutes to allow the surface to dry slightly. This step keeps the pasta from sticking when it is rolled and sliced with a knife or when it is fed through the machine. If the sheets are very long, cut them into a manageable length.
These steps show how to create ribbons by cutting a sheet of rolled dough with a knife or with a hand-cranked pasta machine. After you have cut the ribbons by either method, the pasta can dry for up to 1 hour before it is cooked. You can drape it over the dowels of a special wooden pasta rack, or wrap it into little nests and place in a lightly floured shallow baking pan. If the pasta will not be used immediately, let it dry completely, preferably overnight. Once dried, place it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To freeze for up to 8 months, let the ribbons dry for 1 hour, then seal in a freezer bag or container.
Homemade pasta that has been fully dried can be used interchangeably with packaged dried pasta in the recipes in this book. If cooking homemade ribbons right away, follow the directions given for fresh pasta.
Rolling Up Dough
After the surface of the thin dough sheet has dried slightly, roll up the sheet loosely like a jelly roll. Donít squeeze the roll or the dough might stick together.
Be sure your knife is very sharp. Slice the rolled dough into 1/4-inch-wide strips for fettuccine, 1/8-inch-wide strips for linguine, or any width desired. For lasagne, cut the dough into 2 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Secure the cutting attachment to the machine. If necessary, cut the rolled pasta sheet in half to match the width of the machine. Feed the pasta sheet through the 1/4-inch-wide cutters.
Machine-cutting Fine Strands
To make narrower strands, simply feed the rolled pasta sheet through the fine cutters, rather than the wider fettuccine blades. The fine strands will be more delicate than fettuccine, so handle them carefully. Use as you would spaghetti.