Homemade pasta

June 27th, 2008 by Dawn

To me, nothing beats pasta made at home.  People think it’s difficult and time consuming, but it’s really one of those things that takes a few times to learn and get the swing of it, and then it’s actually pretty easy to make.  It takes me less than half an hour to go from flour and eggs to fresh noodles for the two of us, including cleanup.

Homemade fettuccine

The key to good homemade pasta is good fresh eggs.  We buy ours at the U-District market, usually from Skagit River Ranch or Sea Breeze Farm.  You only need to add flour and you’re on your way.  I’ve seen recipes using olive oil, water, semolina flour, salt, and other things, but I subscribe to the method I learned from Giuliano Hazan, which was passed down from his mother Marcella.  Marcella is an opinionated writer, but many including myself consider her the authority on authentic Italian cooking.  She says:

The basic dough for homemade pasta in the Bolognese-style consists of eggs and soft-wheat flour.  The only other ingredient used is spinach or Swiss chard, required for making green pasta.  No salt, no olive oil, no water are added.  Salt does nothing for the dough, since it will be present in the sauce; olive oil imparts slickness, flawing its texture; water makes it gummy.

I find that unbleached all-purpose flour works really well, and in Italy they typically use 00 soft-wheat flour.  Marcella points out that semolina is primarily used for factory-made pasta, which is in a completely different category than egg pasta:

The boxed, dry pasta one refers to as factory-made includes such familiar shapes as spaghetti, penne, and fusilli.  These cannot be made as successfully at home as they are in commercial pasta plants with industrial equipment.  Dry pasta from factories is not necessarily less fine than the fresh pasta one can make at home.  On the contrary, for many dishes, factory-made pasta is the better choice, although for some others, one may want the particular attributes of homemade pasta.

The Hazans’ cookbooks are great for getting a better feel for which sauces go with egg pasta and which with factory-made pasta.  A good rule of thumb (although there are plenty of exceptions) is to use factory-made pasta for olive oil based sauces and egg pasta for butter and cream based sauces.

Last Saturday evening, I made some fettuccine which we enjoyed with Bolognese sauce from our freezer.  Every once in a while we prepare a big batch of Bolognese so we can make sure we always have some in our freezer for quick meals.

Pasta Bolognese

Egg Pasta
Makes 2-3 servings

1 to 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 eggs

Pour about a cup of the flour into a mound on a wood surface, and set aside the rest to incorporate later if you need more.  Create a hollow in the center of the mound, like a volcano, and break the eggs into the hollow.  Using a fork, beat the eggs lightly while slowly incorporating some of the flour from the walls, a bit at a time until the eggs are no longer runny.  Bring the mound of flour toward the center with your hands and work it together with the eggs.  Incorporate more flour if it is too sticky.  You will know that you’ve added enough flour when you can press a clean finger into the center and it comes away clean.

Using the palm of your hand, knead the dough.  Push forward with the heel of your palm, stretching it a bit, then fold it in half as you pull your hand back toward you.  Turn a quarter turn and repeat this motion of stretching, folding, and turning until the dough is completely smooth, about five minutes.  Immediately wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.

Set up your hand-crank pasta machine, and lay out a couple clean towels.  Cut the dough into 2-4 equal parts (it’s easier to work with smaller pieces, so start by using four parts).  Leave all but one part wrapped in the plastic wrap.  Flatten the ball of dough with your hand.

With the machine at its widest setting, roll the disk through the machine.  Remove it and fold it in thirds.  With the folds on the sides, roll it through the widest setting 2-3 more times.  Narrow the opening between the rollers by one notch.  Roll the dough through again, just once.  Continue narrowing the opening and rolling through until the pasta is the desired thickness.  When you are about halfway done, the pasta will become very long and unwieldy – you can place it on the towel, cut it in half, and switch between the two pieces each time you narrow the opening.

Allow the pasta sheets to dry for a few minutes on the towels until they are leathery but not too dry or brittle.  Cut strips using a fluted pastry wheel to make pappardelle, or feed it through the machine’s cutting attachment to make fettuccine.

5 Responses to “Homemade pasta”

  1. ms. proust says:

    Man, you two are amazing! So good to see you today & to visit your blog. I envy the time you devote to both cooking & writing as we have often succumbed to taco truck dinners or quick fixes while trying to roll with the punches of a new job/schedule for me & a packed work week of driving about wine-makers for Ken. By the time we eat we’re too gosh-darned hungry to pose our plates for blog shots!

    Looking forward to getting together to raise a glass to the first signs of summer,

  2. KimdaCook says:

    I would love to do what you two do, cooking and writing wow, I have tried doing the home made pasta but just going very irritated and gave up. But I will get it one day ill keep on trying.

  3. Laura Parker says:

    My husband and I have just started making homemade pasta. Do you use the racks every time you make fettuccine noodles, even if you are going to cook them immediately? I am just not clear on how you use the racks. Any help would be appreciated.

  4. Dawn says:

    Hi Laura,

    You don’t have to use the racks, but I often do to prevent the pasta strands from sticking to each other and to make it easy to transfer into the boiling water. But last night, I made pasta, and just let it sit on some towels on the table instead of using the rack. It’s optional and depends on how moist your pasta is.


  5. Dry Pasta says:

    Just want to saay your article iss ass astounding.
    The clarity in your post iss justt spectacular and i could assume you’re an expert
    oon thiss subject. Welll with your permission allow mme to grab your RSS feed to keep uup to date with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please keep up the ratifying work.

    Here iis my website … Dry Pasta

Post a Comment