One day, as I was binge watching Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, I reflected on how often the chefs would comment on how they did everything in house – from sauces, breads and sausage, to yes, pasta. I began to feel as if I’d love to be able to make that statement – that everything in an entire meal was made by me.
I’d already gotten to the point where premade gravy and pancake mix were banned in my house. I could already throw down a killer lasagna with homemade roasted tomato sauce and scratch made bechasmel. Not to mention my homemade meatballs. So why not go to that next level and do the pasta from scratch?
The recipe for basic pasta is pretty simple – flour, salt, egg and water (some recipes call for olive oil as well). It’s the rolling and the cutting that’s the tedious part.
My first attempts using a tabletop manual pasta roller/cutter were a bit frustrating. It was kind of a pain to get the machine clamped to the countertop and to remain stable. I also had a bit of trouble with getting the dough thin enough for the proper texture but also strong enough to stay together when boiled.
Then, two things happened. First, I decided to invest in a pasta roller/cutter set for my KitchenAid stand mixer. (Thanks Whirlpool retiree discount). I also happened across an episode of Beat Bobby Flay where the challenging chef was making pasta, and talked about the importance of, in the first few passes through the roller, of brushing the pasta sheets with flour, folding in half, and running through again until the dough is silky and elastic.
Those two things did the trick. Honestly, the pasta attachments that work on the power takeoff of the stand mixer are amazing. I know it sounds like a blatent plug for my former employer, but these are so well made (in Italy, no less) and do such a quick and masterful job of turning out pasta that they are totally worth an investment if you’re going to make pasta with any regularity. And the technique of adding flour to the early stage sheets until the dough is the perfect texture is clearly the way to turning out pasta that is tender but strong at any thickness.
So, is there really a difference between fresh pasta and dried in a box? Yes, it’s like night and day – just very silky and tender. The first time I did spaghetti from scratch it was described as “melt in your mouth” by my son who is not given to effusive praise of my meals. (He does say that one of the best things about coming home is my cooking, but he doesn’t feel a need to wax poetic about every meal. “I take it for granted that your cooking is going to be at a certain level, Mom. I’ll let you know if it’s not”). So I take him pointing this out as high praise, indeed.
Be aware that fresh pasta is going to cook much faster than dried – from two to four minutes, depending on the thickness. Also, it’s best to make the dough the same day you are going to roll and cut it. You can dry or freeze the noodles to cook another day, which I haven’t tried yet, so I can’t vouch for how this affects texture, etc.
So, if you’ve got some sort of pasta roller/cutter languishing in a cupboard, break it out and give fresh pasta another try. You’ll be glad you did.
- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 2-4 tbsp water, ,as needed
- Combine flour and salt in mixing bowl.
- Add eggs into flour. As you mix, pull flour into eggs until you have a soft dough. Add water as needed until you can form a ball that is the consistency of play doh. This can be done in a mixer or by hand.
- Knead dough either by hand on a floured board, or in a mixer with a dough hook, until it is firm. Add flour if needed to keep from sticking.
- Form dough into a ball and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Divide dough into two pieces. Shape each piece into a flattened oval and sprinkle with flour. Pass through widest setting of pasta roller. Sprinkle with flour, fold in half and send through roller on widest setting again. Repeat this step until the the pasta sheet is smooth.
- Continue to pass pasta sheets through progressively thinner roller settings, until at desired thickness.
- If cutting into noodles, cut sheets into desired lengths and pass through pasta cutter.
- Cook fresh in boiling salted water for 2-4 minutes until al dente. You can also freeze or dry the pasta for later use. (Dried pasta will take 7-10 minutes to cook).