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I have looked up numerous pasta recipes and all of them suggest adding a certain number of whole eggs and a certain number of additional egg yolks. I am just curious why we need only yolks? How would the pasta be different if I added a total number of whole eggs instead? Is it a matter of colour, or texture, or both? And more importantly how

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  • Hi, and welcome! Nice first question. We are a bit specific about what questions we take, and the one about pasta fits quite well. The last paragraph about generically deciding on extra yolks was not only a different question, it would have needed a full book to answer. We not only don't take more than one question per post, but also don't take questions whose answer would be so voluminous. You would need to know the role of both the egg white and the egg yolk in the exact recipe which you are working with, and whether they are already well balanced or not, before you can start deciding.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 15:44

2 Answers 2

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It’s about what properties you’re looking for in the pasta. Serious Eats had a primer on fresh pasta a couple of years ago, and they discussed some of the differences:

https://www.seriouseats.com/best-easy-all-purpose-fresh-pasta-dough-recipe-instructions

Egg Whites, Egg Yolks, Water: Identifying the Best Source of Hydration

With my flour selected, it was time to test different sources of moisture. My first step was to make three doughs, keeping the hydration level as consistent as possible across the board. I used three equal measurements of all-purpose flour as my baseline; one batch got water, one batch got egg whites, and the third got egg yolks.** I added just as much as I needed to make the dough come together. This is what I wound up with; you can probably tell which is which. ** I stuck with large eggs for all my tests, and even weighed them to make sure that I was adding consistent amounts of water, protein, and fat to each dough.

(image) The water-only pasta (right) was a total bust—the noodles were bland, mushy, and...well...watery. And the egg white pasta (center) wasn't much better: Whites are almost 90% water, so, while the noodles weren't quite as bad as the water-based version, which literally fell apart and stuck to each other in a big, gluey mass, they definitely weren't winners. The yolks, on the other hand, made a beautiful, golden dough (left). Yolks contain about 48% water, 17% protein, and around 33% fat. More yolks will deliver more color, more egg flavor, and silkier noodles.

Unfortunately, that high fat content complicates things a little bit. Though it's not exactly scientifically accurate, you can think of that fat as making the gluten proteins all slippery, preventing them from building a strong network—when I tested this using different amounts of olive oil, I found that, sure enough, more oil made for softer, mushier, less elastic noodles. And, to complicate matters even further, I had a really hard time getting the flour and yolks to come together. It was a dry, tough dough that was difficult to mix and knead—not exactly beginner-friendly.

Difficulty aside, an all-yolk pasta may make great noodles, but it's not sufficiently elastic to use for stuffed pastas, which require a dough that can be rolled more thinly and is, quite simply, bendier. I needed to strike a better balance.

At this point, I knew there was no point in adding water—if I wanted additional moisture, egg whites were definitely a better bet. It seemed clear that my dough was going to require a combination of whole eggs and additional yolks. I ultimately settled on three yolks for every egg white.

What's that? You like softer, mushier noodles? Good for you. Add a teaspoon of oil to my basic recipe. Want a richer, eggier flavor and a more golden hue? Throw in an extra yolk and add a little more flour. This is your dough.

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It is not actually required. I have never seen an egg pasta recipe which uses extra yolks, and Ruhlmann, a cook who wrote a book with prototypical recipe ratios, also uses whole eggs only. So you can certainly make (good) pasta without the extra yolks, and using extra yolks is just one possible variation. You simply have happened to come across recipes written that way.

If you use more yolks, you can expect a stronger eggy taste and a slightly gooier texture than with whole eggs. Possibly also a color difference, if you have dark yolks and use a lot of them, but you can't rely on that. If you need colored pasta, you should simply color it.

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    Funny, one of my favorite chefs on Youtube makes all his pasta with WAY more yolks than whole eggs. His ravioli dough calls for 2 whole eggs plus SIX yolks. They are darn good though and I've never had a problem rolling it out or shaping it. Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 18:09
  • @PeterMoore I never said that you cannot make pasta with (extra) yolks, or that pasta with extra yolks isn't good. The claim was the opposite: that you can make good pasta without extra yolks.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 18:47
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    I know I just thought it was curious that you've never seen a recipe with extra yolks. It seems like most of the recipes I see use them. No idea why it's more popular in some circles than others. Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 18:49
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    @PeterMoore ah, I see now, thanks for clarifying! Indeed, I have no idea why there is such a difference between recipes.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 18:51
  • @rumtscho possibly older/historical recipes had to use more yolks as there was imbalance between available whites and yolks - cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/113540/… Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 22:49

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