I bet you think making pasta is too difficult to do, right? Well, with my recipe, even if you are a beginner cook, you will be successful in making a simple yet wonderful pasta dough. All you need is a table, a tablecloth, a rolling pin, and a few simple ingredients.
What is the best flour for pasta?
It depends on the kind of pasta you want to make; different types of flour result in different tastes. I usually choose double-milled wheat durum semolina, but this will be quite difficult to find unless you live near a mill. You can make pasta with all-purpose flour, easily available in any supermarket.
Pasta from durum wheat semolina is more rustic and coarse, and the sauce clings to it more evenly. Instead, if you use more refined flour, the taste will be more simple and delicate.
Does homemade pasta have to dry before cooking?
Yes, definitely. Before cooking homemade pasta, it has to dry; otherwise, it will be too soft and will release some flour into the water. You can let tagliatelle or stuffed pasta sit in a cool, airy room to dry evenly. A collapsible pasta drying stand is easily available on Amazon, for instance, but if you have a drying rack for clothing, that could be used too. All I do is lay my pasta on a big wooden pastry board and then move it around occasionally to help it dry evenly.
Can you make homemade pasta without a machine?
I must confess; I don’t have a pasta machine, and I will never buy one. I like using my hands to knead and feel the dough between my fingers. If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can only make tagliatelle, pappardelle, or flat pasta sheets for lasagna or ravioli. If you want to make other pasta shapes, you have to buy one. It can easily be found on Amazon.
How can you make the best pasta you’ve ever eaten?
Let’s start! Put on your kitchen apron, remove everything from the table, and get a cotton tablecloth. Why cotton? Because a cotton tablecloth makes the pasta coarse so that the sauce will cling to it evenly. Pasta machines can’t make the pasta coarse, which is why I like using my hands and simple tools. The results will be fantastic.
Here is what you need:
- If you have one, a round kitchen table is better because you can move around it more easily; a rectangular table works too.
- A cotton tablecloth
- A 3-foot (1 or 1,20-meter) long wooden rolling pin; if you can’t find one, you may use a wooden dowel or curtain rod, 1.5 inches (4 cm) in diameter. Make sure it is natural unpainted wood.
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups durum wheat semolina (or all-purpose) to taste (300g about)
- 3 tbsp of water at room temperature
- Break the eggs into a bowl and keep a half of the eggshell;
- Fill 2 halves of the eggshell full of water, add it to the eggs, and beat with a fork;
- Incorporate the flour a little at a time and beat it vigorously with a fork as fast as you can.
- Do not worry about lumps; they will disappear while you work it;
- When the dough is well mixed, place it on a large wooden board (marble would be the best), flour it, and knead it quite fast. If the dough dries up, it gets tough;
- Knead in more flour, a little at a time until it gets firm, smooth, and elastic. In the beginning its texture will still be quite soft. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. Be careful with the quantity; if you add too much flour, the dough will get very compact, and you won’t be able to knead it properly. Use the palm of your hands, not your fingers, so that the flour combines better with all the ingredients and the pasta becomes smoother;
- Take the short rolling pin, flour it, and start rolling out the dough;
- Roll it in one direction and then turn it to a right angle. Roll and then turn it to a right angle again and again. Turn it on the other side to roll evenly. The dough will get thinner and thinner and more and more compact; if it is still sticky, add a little flour;
- When the pasta sheet is quite large and you can’t roll it on the board any longer, you then need a wider space and a longer rolling pin, it's time to the pasta sheet to the table;
- Lay a tablecloth on the table and roll up your sleeves because it is time to work hard. This is the secret to making the pasta rough, and the rougher the pasta is, the better it will hold the sauce;
- Flour the tablecloth and roll the pasta sheet out gently into a circular shape. You can make an imperfect circle, but do not worry as you will soon cut the tagliatelle;
- Take an edge of the sheet, hook it over the rolling pin, and wind the pasta around the rolling pin. Continue winding it around the pin while smoothing it out gently with your hands. Don’t worry about it falling apart because it’s quite pliable;
- Unroll it gently. Do not worry if it is a bit sticky; wait a bit, and it will unstick from the pin slowly. You may help it with your hands;
- Roll the dough again and again until it gets as thin as a paper sheet; you should see the pattern of the tablecloth through the sheet of pasta. The thickness is important: it must be as even as possible. If you like thicker pasta, roll it less;
- Let it rest for 30-40 minutes and then go back it. Cover with a tea towel while it rests;
- Cut the pasta sheet (in Italian it is called sfoglina) into quarters. Use a knife and the rolling pin to do this;
- Take a side of each quarter and roll it up about 2 inches (5 cm) thick and put it onto the board;
- Cut through it carefully. The wider strips make pappardelle; the thinner ones make tagliatelle; very thin stripes are called tagliolini.
- Hold an end of each strip and unroll it;
- Place the strips onto the board to dry. You may also use a pasta drying rack, which is similar to a clothes rack;
- Set the drying pasta aside in a cool dry place overnight;
- Cook it in plenty of boiling salted water for no more than 1-2 minutes;
- It combines perfectly with ragù;
What are the most common problems you will encounter?
- Why is my homemade pasta dough sticky? It happens for two reasons. First, you haven’t used enough flour. So, don’t panic; just add a little more flour and continue working the flour until the desired consistency. Second, you have used the right quantity of flour, but it is really wet and humid out. No problem; just add more flour on the rolling pin, on the tablecloth, and on the pasta until it doesn’t stick any more. Add flour, but only a little at a time, in order to not make the pasta too tough.
- Why is my homemade pasta dough tough? You have used too much flour. You can’t save it, so throw it out, and try again.
Now is the time to decide the shape of pasta. You can make tagliatelle, pappardelle, or sheets to prepare lasagna or cannelloni. The thickness of the strips will determine what you are going to make.
Pappardelle and tagliatelle: When the dough is still soft, cut the round sheet of pasta you have just made into 4 portions. Roll it up loosely and cut it into 3/10 of an inch (1cm) strips. Unroll the strips and let them dry on the floured, wooden board;
- For cannelloni and lasagna: the process is the same, but cut bigger portions to fit the baking pan for lasagna or for cannelloni.
- Let them dry for about 4-5 hours before cooking. You make it the night before, and the results will be perfect.
- Protect your pasta from dust by lightly covering it with a cotton or linen tea towel that lets it “breathe” and dry evenly.
What can I do with dough scraps from a round pasta sheet?
Do not knead it anymore because it has become too dry. You can make maltagliati or badly-cut irregular pasta shapes, which you can add to a vegetable soup or combine with pulses (beans, peas, or lentils) in a rustic soup.
Can fresh pasta be cooked “al dente”?
Since you have just made pasta on your own, you now need to be careful cooking it. Bring the water to a rolling boil, salt it, and when it returns to a boil, shake off the excess flour from the pasta and gently put it into the water at the right moment. Only put the pasta into boiling water; otherwise, it will get sticky and flimsy. Stir gently with a fork or a pair of tongs until done.
How do you know when it is done? It is done when it isn’t hard or sticky and rolls easily around a fork. With fresh pasta, it only takes about 1-2 minutes. Overcooking pasta is quite easy.
Drain the pasta in a strainer, and season it in a serving bowl with the sauce you like the most. Bolognese ragù is always one of the best options.
I have made too much pasta, how can I store it?
Fresh pasta has to be consumed in 1 or 2 days, but you may keep it in the freezer. Allow it to dry thoroughly, place it into a container lined with aluminum foil, and cover it with another piece of foil.
It can be frozen for up to a month. Frozen pasta does not need to be thawed, so just drop it into boiling water. It will just take a little longer to cook.
Can I bake with fresh pasta without first boiling it?
Yes, of course. Pasta isn’t usually boiled when you make lasagna; sometimes it may be just seared for a few seconds in salted boiling water. In a baking pan, layer the sheets of pasta with the ragù or béchamel sauce. The sauce should be quite liquid in order to cook the pasta evenly.