The Complete Guide to Making Homemade Pasta
Practice makes perfect pasta!
Making pasta from scratch—spinning flour and eggs into sheets of gold—is one of the kitchen activites I romanticize most. The reality might not always measure up: I have plated up thick, too-chewy strands and been met with flaky, too-dry doughs, but the (eventual) satisfaction of a golden, chewy bowl of comfort is enough to have me try my hand again. Fresh pasta is more porous than its dried counterpart and marries so well with the heavier sauces like a rich ragu or the soupy cacio e pepe like the one I often daydream about from Padella.
Making pasta is truly one of cooking's great experiences. Making fresh pasta is also one of those rare activities where a crowd in the kitchen is welcome. It takes time, so it’s useful to have a production line of extra hands to help knead, feed sheets through the machine, press out shapes and to test the boundaries of kinship or the true meaning of ‘hangry’. Equally, you could call it solo meditation, pour yourself a glass of wine, switch on a podcast, and get kneading.
You need entertainment. Here’s how to make all kinds of fresh pasta, plus all the tips—prego!
How to make pasta dough from scratch
There are various ways to make fresh pasta—some recipes state any flour will do, some add olive oil or water, or extra egg yolks, but to give you the most reliable pasta recipe I know, I opt for a mix of fine, type 00 flour (for silky pasta) and semolina flour (for a sauce-clinging finish) á la KS chef Johanna.
Basic pasta dough recipe
200 g (1 ½ cups) type 00 flour
100 g (1 cup) semolina flour
If you’re vegan, traditional Southern Italian and Sardinian recipes for eggless pasta exist, and are used for sturdy pasta shapes like orecchiette. The pasta is made from approx. 2 parts type 00 flour, 2 parts warm water, and 1 part semolina flour.
How to make fresh pasta at home
1. Weigh out and mix type 00 flour and semolina flour, then tip them out onto a clean work surface—you’ll need a fair amount of space. Make a deep well in the center and crack in the eggs. Use a fork to whisk them into the flour to form a shaggy dough. Don’t worry if you have a lot of excess flour at this point, you just want to make sure the egg is incorporated into some of the flour so you can then switch to your hands to bring the ingredients together without it being too messy.
2. Now, how long do you need to knead for? If you’re guessing I’m going to say "till it’s smooth and elastic", you will have guessed correctly. First of all, the smoothness you’ll see in an evenly-colored dough that should develop a slight sheen to it as it hydrates. The dough will become more elastic the more you handle it, making it easier to knead. It’s tiring, but satisfying work, and will take up to 10 minutes (of course you could also short-cut and use a stand mixer or hand mixer fitted with a dough hook to speed things up). The lengthy process helps to activate the gluten and give you bouncy pasta with bite to it.
3. The kneading technique is a key part of the process: Use the heel of your hand to stretch the dough out, then fold it back on itself and repeat the process as you work the dough. If your dough feels too sticky, incorporate a little more flour, if it feels too dry and hard to work, add water a few drops at a time, working in between—but wait until you have kneaded your dough for a few minutes before judging whether any adjustments are necessary. Cover your dough and let rest for approx. 30 min. in the fridge.
How to use a pasta machine
1. After the resting time, split your dough into four equal pieces. If you’re using a traditional, hand operated pasta machine, which in my opinion is all part of the fun—clamp it to your work surface. One at a time, roll the pieces out until they’re approx. 0.5 cm (¼-in.) thick, then pass the sheet through the widest setting of your pasta machine usually marked as ‘1’. Fold the edges of this flattened piece out so you have a long rectangle.
2. Feed it though once more, and from then on, each time you pass the sheet through the pasta machine, turn the dial to the next thinnest setting and repeat this process until you each the desired thickness. Most pasta machines come with extra attachments to create fettuccine or spaghetti—you can pass them through the same way and watch your strands of fresh pasta make their way into the world. Dust your pasta nests with a little flour, tossing lightly to prevent sticking.
Don’t have a pasta machine?
If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can of course roll your dough as thin as you can with a rolling pin—then either cut to lasagna-sized sheets, or sheets to make ravioli, or roll as tightly as possible into a long rectangle and slice into rings to unfurl into fettuccine, tagliatelle, or pappardelle.
Can you store fresh pasta?
It’s best to first portion out your (flour-dusted!) pasta before storing in an airtight container. In my experience, fresh, homemade pasta (or pasta dough) doesn’t keep particularly well. In the fridge, it will last a couple of days max—the dough will otherwise tend to dry out or become too moist.
The wizened community of the internet claim freezing pasta and dropping it directly into boiling salted water yields good results—I’m intrigued and will give it a try. I’ll stick to cooking it right away as I forsee clumping, but if it’s something you’ve had success with, let us know in the comments!
How to cook fresh pasta
Like all pasta (for the full guide on how to cook pasta see here), fresh pasta needs to be cooked in a large pot of boiling, generously salted water. The cooking time however, is far less that dried pasta—something like 2 to 4 minutes, depending on your preference.
How to make ravioli
To make ravioli, you need to start with two evenly-sized rectangular sheets of pasta (use kitchen scissors to trim). There are two ways you can tackle it.
Evenly space a small dollop of your filling along one of the sheets. Use your finger to moisten around the ravioli filling, depending on the desired shape to help the other layer of pasta stick. Lay the remaining sheet over the top and use your fingers to press around the ravioli filling—the aim is to seal it off without trapping any air inside, and pressing down to seal the the edges of the two sheets of pastry. Then, using a ravioli stamp, cookie cutter or pastry wheel to press out the shapes.
There is another way to do it with two differently sized cookie cutters: After dividing out your filling, use the small cutter to cut out circles around your fillings. Using a cookie cutter the next size up, cut out the same shapes from your remaining sheet. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edges of the cut-out shapes and press the larger sheet over the small sheet with filling, pressing your fingers around the edges to remove any air bubbles. Voila!
To master the technique, watch KS chef Johanna make her famous potato and mint ravioli. I want a plateful right now...
How to make colored pasta
Colored doughs are beauties to behold! They aren’t as complicated as they might seem and no artificial colors need to be involved—all you need are common ingredients like fresh spinach or beetroot.
To make spinach pasta (4 servings)
350 g (2 ¾ cups) type 00 flour
50 g (½ cup) semolina flour
200 g (7 oz) baby spinach
1. Blanch the baby spinach in salted water until wilted. Place in a sieve to drain and rinse under cold running water, or transfer to an ice bath. Squeeze the spinach to drain it.
2. Add to a measuring cup with 3 eggs. Use an immersion blender to process into a fine puree.
3. Measure out flour and semolina and tip out onto a clean work surface. Make a deep well in the middle and use a fork to incorporate the egg as much as possible, then, like in the technique for basic pasta, use your hands to bring together as a dough, knead until smooth and elastic, and let rest 30 min. before processing further.
Have we answered all your questions or are you pasta caring? Let us know in the comments!
Published on November 19, 2019