I LOVE PASTA. There I said it. I love pasta so much that I could eat it at every meal and probably never get tired of it. The best thing about pasta is you can make any type of dish from it so it never gets old. Ramen, spaghetti, mac and cheese, lasagna, you name it – I can probably make it with pasta, and I probably have some ready to go in the cupboard. But premade pasta, while convenient, is nothing compared to the real deal. Fresh pasta is where flavor and texture come together to create the perfect combination on the plate, making a elegant and delicate dish. Making fresh pasta seems scary – but it’s not difficult at all! Give it a try… you’ll never go back to the box!
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What you’ll need…
Making fresh pasta requires only 3 ingredients – flour, eggs, and a tiny bit of oil. The rest of the process comes together with patience and proper technique. To start, you’ll want to gather the necessary hardware: a large bowl to mix your dough or a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, a clean surface to roll out your dough, some plastic wrap, a rolling pin, a knife or bench scraper, a cooling rack, and optionally, a pasta maker.
Don’t let the “pasta maker” scare you – you absolutely do NOT need a pasta maker to make amazing fresh pasta at home! All you need is a rolling pin and a little bit of elbow grease. That being said, a pasta maker will take your fresh pasta game to the next level. It allows you to get an even and consistent thickness across the board, and requires a lot less sweat and effort as the hand rolled model.
I got my first (and only) pasta maker in the ninth grade. It’s a hand cranked metal machine that clamps to the counter that I found on clearance and could afford with my baby sitting income at the time. I still use that same machine to this day!! It looks something like this. You can find a similar one for a reasonable price on Amazon.
My machine allows me to make pasta sheets, fettuccine (or wider pasta), and angel hair or spaghetti pastas. I find that this covers everything I need to make but you may find yourself needing more from your pasta maker. There are some higher end pasta makers you can invest in that save you effort and time. Your investment really depends on your preferences. My model is a hand crank model, which requires some time, effort, and patience to ensure even pasta sheets. The hand cranked model is a huge leap from hand rolling out the dough, but still requires some technique and elbow grease. If you want to make a little more of an investment, and make a large variety of pastas, you can get attachments for your stand mixer like this KitchenAid Pasta Press or this KitchenAid Stand Mixer Pasta Attachment Kit.
Let’s talk technique…
The main reason people find that making fresh pasta is so difficult is because it requires a little time and patience as well as some experimentation to achieve the right consistency. My first batch of fresh pasta turned out lumpy and dry because I was starving and impatient.
Feel the dough
The first step to great fresh pasta is to “feel the dough”. I know, sounds hippy-dippy, right? Flour is a unique substance and can differ depending on the surroundings – what works for me in bone-dry high altitude may require a little less tweaking in tropical regions. You’ll want to start with a base recipe (like the one I’ve included below) and add a little extra flour, water, or oil based on how the dough feels. When kneading the dough, you want the dough to be soft and smooth. It shouldn’t stick – that means you’ve got too much moisture – add a tiny bit more flour. If it’s crumbly and won’t stay together, it’s too dry. You’ll want to add a little oil or water to the party to get the right consistency.
Patience is key
Patience is also important. After initially making the dough and kneading, you’ll want to let that dough rest for an HOUR wrapped in plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out before attempting to roll it out or run through the pasta machine. Why in the world would I tell you to wait for fresh pasta? The wait time allows for the flour to hydrate and the gluten to relax. This will help create a smooth texture when you roll out the dough. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
Need some visual evidence? Check out the science of making fresh pasta over at Serious Eats.
Let it roll
If you’re hand rolling the dough, roll the dough as thinly and evenly as you can without creating any tears or holes in the sheet. My rule of thumb is that if I lift up the sheet, light should be able to pass through but no holes or “windowpanes” should occur (too thin). You’ll want to try to make the sheet as even as possible so the pasta cooks properly.
If you’re using a machine, roll out your dough so that it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Set your pasta machine’s sheet attachment to the largest or thickest setting (on mine this is 7). Pass the sheet through a few times, rotating so you don’t overwork the dough in one direction. Crank down a level and pass the sheet through. Continue until you get to the thinnest setting (mine is 1). Then cut into strips using the other roller attachments or use the prepared sheet for stuffed pasta. If you’re using a hand cranked machine – consistency is key here. Try to turn the crank slowly and consistently so you don’t stretch one section of the dough more than another section.
Let’s get cooking…
Fresh pasta shouldn’t be scary! Use this recipe to make fresh pasta dough that you can use to make ravioli, tortellini, or cut pastas like fettuccine or spaghetti.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3 whole eggs
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Put ingredients in a large bowl or a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix until thoroughly combined.
Flour a clean surface with some flour. Turn out dough onto floured surface.
Knead the dough until you reach the desired consistency.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 60 minutes. While the dough is resting, use this time to make the filling for the stuffed pasta. Let the filling cool before assembling pastas.
Unwrap dough and place on floured surface. Divide into four pieces. Select one piece and re-wrap the remaining pieces so the dough doesn’t dry out.
Flour a rolling pin and roll out the section of dough evenly until you reach the desired thickness. You can roll out the pasta by hand or use a pasta maker to achieve the correct thickness.
Cut using a knife for a more rustic look, use the pasta maker to cut into strips, or use the sheet and some stuffing to make stuffed pastas.
Bring water to a rolling boil in a pot. Add sea salt. Place pasta in the boiling water – fresh pasta takes between 3-5 minutes to cook and will float to the top when ready.
Serve with your favorite homemade sauce or with butter.