Everything you need to know to make homemade pasta

Everything you need to know to make homemade pasta
Fresh pasta is simple to make but takes practice to master. svariophoto/Getty Images
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
  • All you need to make homemade pasta are flour, eggs, and water.
  • Fresh pasta dough can be cut into a variety of shapes, from lasagna sheets to pappardelle to ravioli.
  • Rely on how the dough feels rather than strict measurements - you can always adjust as needed.

Making pasta from scratch is time-consuming but not as hard as you might think. It's a fun family activity with kids, or it can be relaxing and meditative on your own.

Adam Berger perfected his pasta-making skills at several Michelin-starred restaurants in Piedmont and Tuscany. Now, he makes a dozen varieties of fresh pasta daily at Montelupo Italian Market and Rallenti Pasta in Portland, Oregon. "I am a purist and prefer very simple doughs and very minimal sauce to allow the pasta that you just slaved over for hours to be the star of the dish," Berger says. Below, he'll walk through everything you need to know to make simple delicious homemade pasta.

Use the best ingredients

Everything you need to know to make homemade pasta
Use high-quality ingredients. Anchiy/Getty Images

The ingredients in homemade pasta are very simple, but each one contributes significantly to the final dish. For the best homemade pasta, use high-quality ingredients.

Flour: The most common traditional Italian fresh pasta is made with 00 flour and eggs. 00 refers to the grind of the flour, and this is the most finely milled version. Berger says that 00 flour is similar in protein content (11-12%) to American all-purpose flour, so you can go ahead and use all-purpose flour too so long as you use a quality brand.

Eggs: Eggs vary by size, weight, yolk size, and color so pasta dough is often mixed by feel rather than with strict measurements. Some doughs, like taglierini, call for whole eggs and extra yolks for a richer, brighter dough.

Salt: Don't put salt in the dough, but rather salt the boiling water that the pasta is cooked in. The salted water is absorbed into the pasta. Oil: Berger uses extra virgin olive oil in many doughs for flavor and elasticity - especially dough for filled pastas, such as ravioli. "The oil helps the pasta to be flexible so it can be folded without cracking," he says.

Flavorings/coloring: For flavor and color, puréed vegetables such as spinach and beets can be mixed in. "I really like blanched, shocked and pureed nettles for a vibrant green color," Berger says.

What else you need

  • Medium bowl
  • Wooden cutting board
  • Fork
  • Bench scraper
  • Plastic wrap
  • Semolina (for dusting)
  • Pasta roller (optional)
  • Rolling pin (optional)

How to make homemade pasta dough

Everything you need to know to make homemade pasta
Knead the dough until it's smooth and uniform. Anchiy/Getty Images

Pasta is very tactile and measurements may need to be tweaked based on the size of the eggs and the humidity in the air, which affects how flour absorbs moisture.

Generally, aim for slightly less than one cup of flour per egg and adjust the final consistency with water or more flour. By weight, that's about a quarter-pound of flour per whole egg. If you want to add olive oil to your dough for increased elasticity, add 1 teaspoon per egg. Plan on using one egg per person.

  1. Put flour in the bowl. Experienced pasta makers don't bother with a bowl and mound their flour directly on their countertop, but if you're worried about making a mess, there's no shame in using a bowl.
  2. Make a well in the center of the flour. You want high sides and a deep well that can contain your eggs.
  3. Add the eggs. Crack your eggs into the well in the flour and scramble them with a fork.
  4. Incorporate the flour. Use your fork to slowly pull the flour from the sides of the well into the middle of the eggs.
  5. Finish combining by hand. Knead the dough with both hands once the egg is mostly incorporated. You can ditch the fork at this point. If the bowl is too small or this process feels clumsy, you can dump the dough onto a cutting board for this step.
  6. Knead the dough. Knead for five to 10 minutes or until the dough looks smooth and taught. "The dough should look homogeneous without any flour or egg chunks and [be] slightly moist to the touch," Berger says.
  7. Rest the dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it sit out at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. "This allows the dough to hydrate and for the gluten to relax so it will stretch when rolling," Berger explains.
  8. Shape your dough. More on this below or click here to jump down to how to roll out your dough.
  9. Cook your pasta. Boil in salted water. "Fresh pasta will cook anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on thickness and how long it has sat out," Berger says.

Quick tip: Use a stand mixer to cut down on prep time. Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Mix on low speed for a minute or two to combine, then go to medium speed for five more minutes or until you see the dough is nice and smooth. Wrap in plastic and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

How to make eggless pasta dough

Eggless dough is made with just semolina and water and is traditional in southern Italy. It's a good option for vegan guests and lends itself to extruded pastas because the harder durum wheat holds up to the pressures of the extruder. All the dried pasta you find in the store, is made from this type of dough.
"A simple dough of good durum semolina and water makes for a wonderful pasta with more bite than the egg pasta with 00 flour," Berger says. He recommends a ratio of 2 cups of semolina to ¾ cup warm water, then follow the same steps above.

Quick tip: If your dough is too crumbly, sprinkle a small amount of water in as you knead it, 1 teaspoon at a time. If your dough is too wet and sticky, incorporate 1 tablespoon of flour at a time as you knead it. Keep adding until it reaches a consistency that can be easily handled.

How to roll out homemade pasta dough

Everything you need to know to make homemade pasta
A tabletop pasta sheeter can roll out and cut your noodles quickly. Westend61/Getty Images

To roll out dough at home, you can always use a rolling pin, but you may have trouble getting it thin enough. Berger recommends a simple tabletop pasta machine that clamps to the counter.

  1. Start with 1/4 of the dough. Keep the remainder in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out.
  2. Always start with the widest setting on the rollers. If you put a thick piece of dough into a pasta roller on a thin setting, you will damage it. "The first several passes serve two functions," Berger says. "It is part of the kneading process and continues to develop structure, and it allows you to form a nice rectangle shape."
  3. Roll out the dough, fold it in half, roll it out again. Do this five or six times. Don't touch the thickness setting yet! If the dough has any stickiness, lightly sprinkle it with flour. Do not try to make every pass perfectly square, just keep folding the dough completely in half and eventually you will be left with just a small tail at each end.
  4. Begin rolling the dough thinner. Pass the dough through the roller one setting a time until it reaches the desired thickness. Remedy any stickiness with a sprinkle of flour. Once you reach the desired thickness, usually setting five or six, then you can begin cutting.
  5. Cut into strips. If you're using a cutter attachment, slice your dough into 6-12 inch lengths depending on your preference and run these pieces through the cutter attachment. Sprinkle with semolina and lay out on a sheet pan with a little bit of semolina.

    If you're cutting your pasta by hand, a typical chef's knife works fine. Lay out a strip of pasta, short end facing you, sprinkle with semolina, and simply fold thirds, like a letter. Then simply cut the "jelly roll" of pasta letting the knife do all the work and avoid cutting vertically down smashing the pasta.

    Cut into equal widths, then lift up the cut pasta and separate the strands. Lay these on a semolina-lined sheet pan and cut the next sheet.
Quick tip: Berger recommends using semolina rather than flour to sprinkle on the cut noodles. Semolina will fall off the pasta when cooking, but all-purpose or 00 flour will stick, possibly making the pasta gummy.

Tips for the best homemade pasta

Everything you need to know to make homemade pasta
The more often you make pasta, the better you understand how everything should look and feel. Mladenovic/Getty Images
  • Don't overhydrate the dough. Pasta dough will moisten as it rests and become easier to roll out.
  • Don't sweat mistakes. It's just flour and eggs. You can always start over if things don't feel right.
  • Let yourself make a mess. You'll probably end up with flour all over your kitchen. Accepting it can ensure you have more fun enjoying the process.
  • Practice makes perfect. Berger says a regular pasta-making routine (several times a month) is necessary to get the hang of it.
  • Don't waste the scraps. Roll up noodle scraps or broken pasta pieces in plastic wrap, let them rest for 20 to 30 minutes, and re-roll.
  • Do not rush. Berger recommends setting aside two hours to make a batch of pasta.

Insider's takeaway

All you need to make fresh pasta from scratch is 00 or AP flour, eggs, and water. Or you can make eggless pasta with durum semolina and water. Knead the dough by hand until smooth or pop everything into the bowl of a stand mixer and let it do the work for you. A tabletop pasta sheeter makes rolling out the dough easier, but a rolling pin and some elbow grease can get it done too.

Don't be discouraged if your pasta isn't perfect on the first try. It's a tactile skill that takes practice - and who doesn't want an excuse to eat more pasta?

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