Homemade Fresh Pasta Tutorial
Since I’ve been posting about flours lately, I thought I’d give you something to make with all your new flour knowledge (and there’s a little bit of new info here, too, about semolina).
To that end, here’s how to make the pasta itself, instead of buying that dried, hard stuff at the store. Note: there is nothing really wrong with the dried hard stuff at the store – just buy the quality kind.
The quick and dirty: you don’t need a pasta machine to make any kind of flat pasta noodles or flat, filled pasta like ravioli. All you need is a lot of counter space and some time. And, in my case, enough energy left over to clean up all the flour in the kitchen.
However, if you make a habit of turning out homemade pasta, you’ll want a machine to save time and biceps. If you want to make extruded pasta shapes like macaroni and penne, a machine that extrudes dough is essential, like a pasta attachment for a KitchenAid stand mixer.
Homemade pasta is surprisingly easy to make. And the recipe, though there are variations, is the same whether you want spaghetti, wide pappardelle, or wider lasagne noodles. By the way, pappardelle are ribbons as wide as two fingers; tagliatelle are one finger wide.
Before we get started, you should know a little about flour, so read my posts about flour if you haven’t already:
Even if the titles don’t seem like they’d add much about fresh pasta, the background info on flour will help you know what to expect and how to decide what kind to use.
In truth, a lot depends on the quality of your flour, the season, the climate and the ambient temperature and humidity in your kitchen when you make the pasta. My advice is to experiment with what you think sounds interesting and arrive at your own conclusions. That’s where the flour blogs come in handy.
You should definitely make as much pasta as you can each time. It is fairly time-consuming and requires attention and physical work. It’s easily stored, and you won’t regret having made as much as you could at the time.
The quick and dirty about which pasta goes with which sauce: the wider, flat noodles like pappardelle and tagliatelle are best with rich sauces, like meat sauces, or this wonderful pork and kale sauce from Fattoria di Corsignano:
Thinner ribbons like fettuccine or linguine are best with cream sauces like Alfredo or this superb parmesan and truffle oil sauce we had at Tenuto Casanova (bragging about my trips to Tuscany here):
One more quick and dirty: you need lots of clean counter space to make pasta. And an apron.
For a starting point, here’s the basic recipe:
- rolling pin or pasta roller
- knife or pasta cutter roller
- pasta drying rack or similar
- 1 cup flour (142 g) for each serving
- 1 egg for every cup of flour
- 1 pinch salt for every cup of flour
- 1 dash olive oil for every cup of flour, optional
- Sift your flours together if you are using more than one type (see notes). Mound the flour on the counter. With your fingers, make a well in the middle all the way to the counter underneath. It should look like an extinct volcano school science fair project.
- Break the eggs into the well in the center. Add the salt over top of the eggs. Add the olive oil if you are using it.
- With your fingers (or a fork), begin mixing the eggs in the center without breaking through the flour around the sides.
- As the eggs become a uniform mixture, begin incorporating the inside walls of the flour into the eggs.
- Proceed gradually incorporating the flour until all of it is mixed with the eggs. The dough should be soft and pliable. If it’s too hard, add a teaspoon of water at a time until you achieve a good, workable consistency.
- Let’s face it: you’ll have some dough stuck to your fingers. Rub a small bit of flour on your hands to get the dough off and press it into the ball of dough.
- Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes with the heel of your hand. Push the dough down and away from you. It helps if you place one hand on top of the other; this gives you more leverage and strength. Turn the dough over and push down and away again; repeat over and over. This is kneading.
- Cover the dough with a clean towel and let it rest at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. (This is a good time to wash your hands and get your glass of wine refilled.)
- Now you are ready to roll out the pasta. Separate the dough into as many sections as cups of flour in the recipe. For example, if you started with 6 cups of flour, separate the dough into 6 equal portions.
- You can use any flat, round object for rolling, or you can use a pasta machine. I've used rolling pins, pasta machines, and even glass tumblers and wine bottles.
- As you roll the dough, form it into long, wide, flat sheets. In one cooking class, my instructor taught us how to hold one end of the sheet in one hand just off the counter and exert opposite force with that hand while pressing down on a rolling pin in the other hand to roll in the opposite direction. This facilitates pulling the sheet of dough right off the table and dropping it on the floor.
- Once you achieve the thickness you want, the dough is ready to cut into noodles. You can freehand it with a knife for flat edges or a nifty fluted pasta cutting tool like this one, which gives the noodles a crinkle edge.
- Or you can roll the sheets up from opposite ends and cut through them with a knife, then slide your knife blade under the middle and lift, producing a very fun cascade of noodles.
- You should have made lots more pasta than you plan to use immediately, so now all that's left is to dry it. You can hang it on a wooden rack manufactured for the purpose, or improvise with beer glasses and toaster oven racks. Or you can make "nests" by wrapping a handful of noodles loosely around an inverted glass. Remove the glass and let the pasta dry in that form.
- Once the noodles are completely dry, you can cook them or seal them in an airtight container for storage. They are very brittle and fragile once they dry, so use caution when putting them in the containers. Pasta nests are easier to put in bags or containers without breaking than straight noodles. Store the containers in a cool, dry place or freeze them.
There you have it. Now I expect you to serve fresh pasta at your next get-together. It would be nice if you invited your instructor!