We started making pasta at home a few years ago. We’ve become very comfortable with the process and have had some great results making whole grain pasta, gnocchi,mushroom noodles, egg noodles and other treats (you’ll find many of those recipes here).
Every once in a while, I crave a better version of the pasta I grew up with. The white-flour carb-loaded starch that isn’t the dream health food but it delightful to eat. We’ve had varying results trying to make ‘authentic’ pasta like our Italian friends make by hand – until now. I did some more research, including picking an Italian Chef’s brain (our friend Massimo Bruno) and am finally thrilled with the results:
Before we share the recipe, here’s a few tips on what we’ve learned:
- A pasta machine is a great help. Although it’s possible to roll and cut pasta by hand, this can easy take the task from an hour or two of active work to about 20 minutes.
- A good pasta machine is better than a mediocre one. I’ll review ours soon; we’ve just replaced a $30-$40 generic cutter with a $65 “high-end” pasta cutter. Each time we make fresh pasta we will save $5-6 a meal based on the cost of fresh pasta. At once-per-month, this unit will pay for itself and last many years longer.
- Semolina flour. I had never used it and, because of that, I was teasingly sworn at in Italian. It’s not the healthy choice of a whole grain but it’s the choice of many Italian pasta makers around the world. Lifting the bag showed me why – it felt soft and fluffy, even when constrained by the packaging.
- Use your hands. A food processor will do the job (and some argue it will yield better results) but it’s really far easier to knead with your hands than cleaning the machine after.
- Dont’ cut your dough until the end. This was a major lesson – I used to cut it into small balls that were easier to handle. Get used to handling a long strand of dough and you’ll end up with equal-lengths of pasta (the balls produce oval sheets which produce pasta of different lengths).
- Roll the pasta on the widest setting, toss a small bit of flour on it, fold it in half and roll it again. Repeat 5-7 times and you’ll have a better texture and sheets that are the full-width of the pasta machine.
- When I fold the pasta in half, I fold the ends into the middle. This helps keep the ends square and resolves the oval issue.
- Roll as much as you can into a giant pasta rectangle and cut at the end – it will be easier to cut identical sheets in this way.
- Let the dough rest a lot. It should rest for 30 minutes after your initial kneading and at least 10 minutes between rolling out and cutting into noodles.
The entire process is about 15-20 minutes of active work and takes place over about an hour. The results are phenomenal!
Ingredients (yields enough for two very-full plates or 4 healthy side dishes)
- 1.5 cups semolina flour (available at Italian grocers)
- 0.25-0.5 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt (a healthy pinch)
- Scatter flour on a large, secure cutting board (or directly on counter).
- Add salt, scatter to spread on surface.
- Make a ‘hole’ in the middle of the flour (like you’d do with mashed potatoes as you prepared them for a ‘gravy lake.’)
- Add the olive oil and 0.25 cups water water into the middle of the flour. Be careful to ensure it all fits (spread the flour further if needed).
- Begin to incorporate the flour by swirling it around the edges where the water meets the flour. A loose dough will form. You will likely need to add the rest of the water to make it come together (it should be the texture of play dough).
- Knead the dough until it is consistent and smooth when stretched.
- Cover with a damp cloth, allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
- Roll and cut the dough per the instructions above.
Cook in boiling salted water until al dente (this generally only takes a few minutes).
What tips would you add to this list?