If at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again. If there's a pasta machine involved, maybe wait for the flour to settle first.
For my birthday I was lucky enough to be given a pasta maker from my parents. I have been wanting to make my own pasta after watching Michela Chiappa's Simply Italian on channel 4 (which, like Little Paris Kitchen and anything Nigel Slater's ever touched, makes for perfect sick-day viewing). Michela has a ton of useful tips for making pasta which I had never come across including using polenta or semolina to stop the pasta from sticking and some beautiful ways of adding herbs and colours to homemade pasta.
My first attempt at making egg-free pasta obviously was nowhere near as easy as Michela makes it look. However, I've managed to eat a meal from each attempt I've made, and the good news is it does get easier and quicker! Once you've got a knack to it and an evening free, dried pasta will feel pretty drab in comparison to the gorgeous pasta shapes you'll be able to make in around an hour. And if all else fails, you can always make bows!
Makes enough for four-six portions (but you can also freeze the dough to use at another point)
2 cups plain flour
1 cup 00 flour (I use a mix of flours and so far this mix has lead to the best results but you may want to experiment)
1 and 1/4 to 1 and 1/2 of water
Pinch of salt
Pour the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the water slowly, incorporating a little flour from the edges each time to gradually build up a ball of dough. Use your hands to get all the flour and water mixed together- it needs to be moist but not sticky.
Turn on to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. These will feel like the longest 10 minutes of your life but after about six you will see the dough begin to change and feel stronger and more elastic- add a little more water if you need it to keep it moist.
Cover the pasta with clingfilm and set it aside in the fridge for half an hour. In this time I start making a sauce to go with the pasta. You could also set up a tray or large plate for your pasta to dry on while you're making the batch. Sprinkle polenta or semolina over the try to stop the pasta sticking, as this will fall to the bottom of the saucepan when boiling the pasta and will not effect the taste.
Take one of the pasta dough pieces and with your hands stretch it into a shape similar to a lasagne sheet. I have found this easiest to work with through the pasta machine. On the widest setting, roll the pasta through the machine twice. Then run through each roller setting until you get to the thinnest. You may need to fold it over if it gets too long, and add more flour to the pasta and machine if it starts to stick. It doesn't really matter how it looks at this point, just to get it through the rollers.
Once you've been through each setting twice, roll it through your chosen pasta shaper- I've been using the wider setting to make fettucine as this is easiest for now. Hold the pasta loosely in your hands as it comes out the rollers so it doesn't stick together, then place on the polenta tray.
After you've shaped all the pasta, boil a saucepan full of salted water. In another little pan, take a few spoonfuls of the sauce you've made and heat up gently. Once the water is bubbling, drop the pasta in and move around with a fork to stop it cooking together. It should cook much faster than dried pasta- in about 2 to 4 minutes. Then lift out and place in the smaller pan with the pasta sauce, and cook for another minute. This will allow the pasta to soak up the sauce while it is still cooking. Trust me, the finished result is entirely worth the faff.