In this country we rarely think about making pasta. It’s something we buy prepared so we can focus on other things like a good sauce or side dish.
But there is hardly a more rewarding tradition in the kitchen than making your own pasta from scratch. No, it’s not the easiest culinary act in the book, but it’s a fun, approachable, and downright Italian one. Plus, on your dinner date or your guests, you can brag that you mixed, cut and cooked the pasta yourself.
With a few steady hands and a little baking skill, almost anyone can bake pasta. Additionally, you can play around with different styles and even opt for healthier options like the one made from whole grains. With a good playlist and a glass of good and pasta-friendly like Chianti, the task can be even more enjoyable. What have you turned your fork into a fresh batch, you may never go back to the prepared things.
Think of pasta like bread. It is made of dough, preferably on the malleable side with the correct proportion of flours. We like the recipe below from Bon Appétit. It’s technically meant for ravioli, but it’s a flexible recipe that works with almost any type of pasta.
Go to the routine patient knowing that the turnaround for the homemade stuff is not exactly quick. Be prepared to take a few stitches in the batter, as you will find that different levels of moisture will taste better depending on the variety you are preparing. The same goes for the yolk content. Trial and error is best here so don’t feel like throwing your first batch out of the park.
When it’s time to cook the pasta, be ready. Since it’s fresh, it cooks a lot faster than the dried stuff, so have your plates, tongs, and colander ready for something that feels like a lightning boil. And don’t drown your first try in sauce. Even try it out one at a time after it cools to see how it’s different and how it could be improved next time (maybe more salt or a different flour bill for a different texture).
- 3 large eggs, beaten to mix
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- In the bowl of a food processor, mix the eggs, flour, oil, and salt with your hands until a shaggy batter is formed. Knead with a dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover the dough with cling film and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
- Cut and roll as desired.
- Do in advance: the dough can be prepared 1 day in advance; Wrap tightly and refrigerate.
Essentially, you will need a few staples when making pasta. Later, when you become an expert, you can add bells and whistles like special drying racks. But for your first stitch, you can just start with a solid mixer to prepare your batter.
To start with, you’ll need a decent roller and, since flour and eggs are in the picture, a good apron. If you are going to make a certain pasta with a certain shape, you will need a special cookie cutter (for example, if you are making ravioli you will want something like).
You also need a pasta roller that feels like an impulse buy until you make a batch and get hooked. We like that in a very traditional way, as well as this sleek and modern one . You’ll want a good tray, too. Most professionals recommend glass instead of metal for even baking and less sticking to the pan.
If you don’t want a full roller, you can get away with a decent chef’s knife and some precise cutting. Often times you can get away with a decent rotary knife like a pizza cutter.
Pasta is practically a language of its own. There are many, many variations. For our purposes, we’ll focus on some of the more common types that one can make at home. However, if you are feeling innovative and want to make your own orecchiette like in southern Italy, be our guest.
Her favorite dishes for most pasta are spaghetti and pappardelle. The former is stringy and fairly normal in size, while the latter is wider, sturdier, more photogenic, and great with more elaborate recipes. We love bucatini, which are essentially thicker spaghetti pasta with a hole through it. Linguini and Fettuccine are pretty much in the same family.
Cavatelli look like tiny ears and can be made with a little practice and the thumb as a tool. You can find more varieties and a visual companion in this video. Smaller, tubular noodles like ziti and penne require fine rolling (and a thin roll for evenness), while more decorative noodles like farfalle (also known as fly) require a special pinch. Whichever direction you go, it’s fun to touch and even the less-looking things will taste great.