You are going to start by making a wide and shallow well, fountain, or fontana of the flour. In the hole of the well you will crack your eggs and add your olive oil (if using). Begin by beating the eggs until they are homogenous. Then using a fork or your fingers stir around the perimeter of the eggs to incorporate the flour bit by bit.
Once you have a thick sludge in the middle, incorporate the rest of the flour and knead thoroughly for 15-30 minutes until it is densely elastic and smooth but not tacky. It really does take a while. I find that sometimes the dough will stop accepting flour and you will have some left over. Don’t force it
, if you need to leave flour and crumbs behind to keep the dough moist enough that is fine. Alternatively, if you find your dough to be too dry or crumbly, wet your hands occasionally as you knead to incorporate more. If it is too wet and sticky, sprinkle more flour on your surface and continue to knead the flour into your dough. Try to give it a chance to come together before adding any flour as gluten formation usually helps with stickiness. Then let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes in plastic wrap or under a bowl. This resting period will allow the gluten to relax and the flour to fully hydrate.
Great photos of the well technique can also be found here
and in this
If you are rolling out by hand use a rolling pin or a wooden dowel (or broom handle!) like this
It should be VERY thin. Millimeters thin. The thickness of a cotton bed sheet. A nonna would probably tell you it needs to be thin enough to read the newspaper through. If you use it for stuffed pasta be sure to press any edges you double up to keep them from getting too thick. People often want to start with stuffed pasta but quickly find it can be hard to make them light and delicate without a very thin dough to start with. A machine is best for this but if you are persistent with rolling and strategic in what shape you choose, you can make it work.
If you are using a mechanized pasta roller see the below and peep these images
Once the dough has rested, covered, for 30 min, flatten it into a rectangle that will fit in the pasta machine. I will usually divide the dough into smaller pieces so they are easier to handle as the sheets can get quite long. Keep pieces covered until you start rolling them out to keep them moist. Flour the machine rollers and the dough rectangle lightly and roll it through at the widest setting (usually that is labelled at #1) Then fold it in on itself
to square off the edges and run it through again at the same wide setting. Then run it through the next smaller setting (without folding this time), and continue slowly decreasing until you reach the second to last or last setting, it depends on how thin of a pasta you want.
At this point you can cut the sheets into shapes or strips
or you can use this dough for filled pasta
or layered dishes
. Keep the pasta on a floured tray to keep from sticking. Coarse semolina is best as it will sink when you boil the pasta rather than sticking to your dough, but whatever flour you’re using is fine. Freeze extra pieces or scraps for future use! Boil in water salted like the ocean for 2-5 minutes depending on the shape and size.
Shapes to try: