Fresh, homemade pasta is one of those projects that everyone should try at least once. While dried pasta is cheap and really available, making fresh pasta at home- like most things- is so much better. It cooks up faster (due to it not being dried), tastes fresher (duh), has a better texture and it’s easy to customize! Add some fresh or dried herbs to flavored olive oil to your dough and make your pasta the star of your dish. Homemade fresh pasta takes a little time and muscle, but the recipe is dead simple with only a few ingredients. Plus, it’s just fun. It’s a fun project if you’re cooking with someone, for a romantic dinner or easy enough for kids to participate and immensely satisfying to create something like this from scratch.
In this method, I used my stand mixer, but this can all be done by hand with slightly more effort. I prefer to knead the dough by hand and use the mixer’s attachments to roll and cut the pasta, but you can mix your dough in the mixer if you prefer using the dough hook. Either method will achieve similar results. As always, with simple recipes such as this, quality ingredients are the key and buying the best quality you can afford will yield the best pasta. Let’s start with the recipe and talk about ingredients and technique.
Basic Pasta Recipe:
2 cups AP flour
2 cups semolina flour
sprinkle of fine salt
dash of olive oil
Optional: fresh or dried herbs, very finely chopped.
Pasta dough is very forgiving and unfussy. It is also not an exact science. As with most things in the kitchen, it comes down to a matter of preference. So view these measurements as a jumping off point and experiment a little, adding or subtracting for your preference.
Flour: Semolina flour is a high-protein flour made from durum wheat and makes a hearty pasta because it develops a stronger gluten structure, which means a more pliable dough that is easier to work. AP flour will work if that is what you have or prefer, making a slightly more delicate noodle, likewise you can use all semolina for a ‘meatier’ texture (a preference for pasta that holds on to the sauce due to it’s coarseness and creates a toothy noodle texture). Another recommendation are the pasta-specific “00” flours, which are much finer and create a ‘silky’ texture. These specialty flours (the semolina or 00 flour) should be easy to find in a regular grocery store, but if you can’t or don’t want to purchase a specialty product that you fear will go to waste, feel free to use good ol’ AP flour, it will be perfectly fine, just double that to 4 cups; obviously.
Salt & Olive oil: just a pinch will do, kosher or sea salt is fine. Just use a fine grind to avoid salty crystals in your pasta. And save a pinch to your pasta water, salting your water when you cook it. The olive oil is for a little extra fat to solidify the dough, only a very small amount is necessary. You can add a splash to your pasta water too, in addition or instead of salt. Some say it’s to keep pasta from sticking together. I just really like olive oil.
Making the Pasta Dough
You can throw all your ingredients in the mixer and mix, if you prefer. Use the hook attachment and mix on medium until a dough ball forms. I prefer mixing by hand, here’s how..
On a clean, large and dry surface, such as your kitchen counter, create a little flour ‘volcano’ to contain the eggs. Add the eggs and a sprinkle of salt and a touch of olive oil. Using a fork, mix the eggs into the flour. Use the fork to break the yolks and whisk to incorporate the dry and wet ingredients. Use a bench scraper to scrape up the flour from the bottom to add into the top.
Once your dough has begun to come together, roll it into a ball shape and begin to knead. If your dough is sticky, sprinkle a little flour on out and knead the dough into it. If your dough is slightly dry you can wet your hands slightly and knead the water into it. To knead the dough, force the ball into your counter with the heel of your hand in a circular motion, rounding it up into your fingers and pushing it back down again. Working the dough this way structures the gluten which is what the pasta needs to hold it’s shape. Once the dough is formed, it needs to rest to let the gluten relax. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, and up to a few hours.
Making the Pasta Shapes
When you’re ready to make the noodles, unwrap your dough ball and cut into quarters and keep wrapped. The quartered dough will be easier to manage. Form round balls and flatten slightly in preparation to run though the machine. Run each piece though the machine to flatten; you’ll adjust the width as you push the piece through, gradually making the dough thinner and thinner and thinner.
Once you have thin sheets, run them through again to cut them into the desired noodle shapes, linguini and spaghetti are below. For things like lasagna and ravioli, use the pasta sheets as is. (I won’t go into tremendous detail here, because your machine will have instructions and they will differ if you’re not using the same equipment.)
Create little pasta ‘nests’ by piling the noodles on a lightly floured tea towel and cook right away. Alternatively, you can freeze pasta dough (at the stage before rolling out) or after shaping into noodles, making sure they are tightly wrapped. But fresh pasta is best when cooked right away, and that’s kinda the point, right? Enjoy the pasta-porn below.