Hand Made Pasta

By Arlene Marshall (TwinLakesChef) on December 20, 2010

What? . . . make my own pasta?! Think I've lost it? Actually it doesn't take any longer to make the pasta than to use packaged pasta. And it tastes so much better!

Results with hand made pasta will be of far better texture and taste better. 

 Pasta dough is a very simple dough, made of about 3/4 of a cup of flour and 1 large egg per dinner serving.  Flours do vary widely in moisture content and not all "large" eggs are exactly the same size.  Thus, 3/4 cup of flour and 1 egg may produce a rather soft dough one day and a dough so firm that it will not ball two weeks later when a different batch of flour is used.  Dough will also get softer as its temperature increases.  (A dough may be quite stiff at room temperature and quite soft at body temperature.)

 To make good pasta, do NOT use all purpose flour.  The highest gluten content flour available should be used.  Use semolina flour if you can get it; bread flour is a good second choice.

You can make your pasta in a food processor, in a food mixer, and by hand.  Purists will tell you that they can taste the difference between hand made and the other ways of making pasta.  I am not persuaded that the extra work produces a noticeable difference.  The aim is to make a dough which is stiff at room temperature, meaning that it will barely sag when left sitting in a ball.

 Whatever method you use for mixing, the dough must sit at room temperature for at least 15 to 30 minutes after being kneaded to give the gluten a chance to develop and make the dough stretch easily without tearing. 

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 I prefer a food processor (the easiest and fastest way).  Put the flour in the bowl with the steel blade and start the machine.  Drop in the eggs, oil and run the processor until the dough either forms balls (or a cylinder) dancing around the processor or has worked itself into corn-meal like sand.  The ideal moisture content for the dough is just the boundary line between the corn-meal and the ball stage.  Until you get the feel of it, do the following: if the dough balls, add flour a tablespoon at a time until the ball barely starts to break up;  if the dough corn-meals, stop the machine, press the corn-meal into golf ball size balls, return them to the processor and turn it back on.  If the dough then balls, it is just right; if it falls back into corn-meal, add water 1/2 tsp at a time. After you have done this a few times, you'll know exactly how it should feel and what range will make good pasta. Note that running the dough in the processor will raise its temperature rather quickly.  If the dough feels warm to the touch, you will have to learn to compensate for the heat induced softness as you judge how much flour to add, if any.

 The dough can be rolled out with a rolling pin but a hand cranked pasta roller (I have an Atlas.) will speed your work and produce more uniform results.  A useful trick:  after you have rolled the pasta, but before you cut it into noodles or roll it into spaghetti, coat the sheet of dough with flour. This will keep it from sticking to itself as it comes off the cutting rollers.  (If you have to flour the dough as you roll it into sheets, you have too much moisture in the dough.  Flour it this time, but next time make it drier.)

Now to the rolling.  Break off a piece of dough from the ball about the size of a large egg (as you get more proficent, you can handle larger amounts).  Flatten it and start to feed it through as you crank and you should start on the widest setting.  After it goes through, you adjust the machine to the next smaller setting and crank it through again. Continue until you get a nice thin sheet.

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The Tweak You can see that we have some flat leaf parsley (we have also used basil) that has been washed and has been drying on paper toweling.  Lay the sheet out and place the parsley at regular intervals on the pasta. 

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Then put some water in a custard cut and dip a finger into it; rub water between all the pieces of parsley to moisten the pasta.  Next you will lay a second sheet of pasta over the first and press down making sure there are no bubbles.

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Now it is ready to crank through the machine one last time.  Lay back on the counter and using a ravioli cutter, cut into squares or rectangles.

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Arrange on a cookie sheet and freeze.  After frozen, they can be stored in the freezer in a ziplock bag.

 Once the pasta is rolled out and cut, it should air dry for 10 minutes or more.  A pasta drying rack is useful for this purpose, but you can even hang it on the back of a kitchen chair.  The pasta can dry for up to several hours with no ill effects, but I prefer to freeze it on cookie sheets and then bag into ziplock bags.

 Once you have mastered the art of regular pasta dough and know what final consistency is correct, you can try variations.  For example, add finely chopped spinach and make spinach pasta (you will have to add extra flour to compensate for the moisture in the spinach).  Try adding finely pulverized (use blender or processor) dried mushrooms, dried chili peppers, fennel fronds, etc.  The final consistency should be the same, adjusted by adding more flour or water as needed.

 Some people add olive oil (use about a teaspoon of olive oil and a medium size egg per 3/4 cup flour) to their pasta dough.  Try it, you may like it. 

Cooking Pasta  It is best to boil pasta in as large a pot  as possible, i.e., in as much water as possible.  The pasta should only be placed into vigorously boiling water. Freshly made pasta needs to be cooked for only 30 seconds, more or less, depending on how thick the pasta is.  If you used adequate amounts of water, which resumes boiling within seconds of the pasta being put into the water, 30 seconds should be ample.  Do not hesitate to taste.  Store bought pasta will, of course, take much longer since it is fully dry.  However, the procedure is the same for both kinds of pasta.

 Comparison of Dry (store bought) to Fresh Pasta

A 5 egg pasta makes  about the same amount of cooked pasta as 1 lb of store bought pasta.  If you must use store-bought -- either because of time or you're not in the mood, or you need a  shape you cannot easily make at home, do yourself a favor  and buy imported Italian pasta.  They use a much better  grade of flour and it shows in the results.

 Ravioli For ravioli and other doughs that will be filled, it is important that the dough be more pliable and a bit stickier than for rolled pasta.  Consequently, you will want to either add about 2 Tbsp water to a 4-5 egg batch, or replace one of the eggs in a 4 egg batch with an equal volume of water.  Alternatively, try adding 1 tsp of butter to a 3 egg batch.  The results depend as much on the gluten and moisture content of your flour as anything else, so a little trial and error is essential.  You can always knead in a little more flour or a few drops of water at the end. Ravioli fillings are endless and exciting!  And with the right kitchen tool, very easy to make.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Oh... Sharon Dec 24, 2010 3:45 PM 6
great for kids, too Lance Dec 22, 2010 10:25 AM 1
Getting Started TwinLakesChef Dec 20, 2010 8:58 AM 0

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