With some practice, fresh pasta is quite easy to make and does not take that much time. Especially if you are not making a large quantity. The taste and especially the texture are better from what you can buy in a store, and the best thing is: you can make your own stuffed pasta such as ravioli and tortellini. Store-bought ravioli stuffing very often mostly consists of bread crumbs and other ‘fillers’. Home-made stuffed pasta is always a big hit at my dinner parties because of the wonderful light texture of the pasta and the delicious filling.
Some people think that fresh pasta is always preferred over dried pasta. I do not agree. Dried pasta has a different texture with more ‘bite’ that is just as desirable as the light, sometimes almost feathery, texture of fresh pasta. It is just a variety and it does match better with some types of sauces. As a rule of thumb, fresh pasta is a better match with more delicate sauces and dried pasta with stronger sauces.
There are three critical success factors for making your own fresh pasta without any trouble:
- Use the right flour (see below)
- Use a pasta machine (of course it is possible to use a rolling pin instead, but it takes much more practice to get it as thin as you need)
- Ask someone to help you with the pasta machine (unless you have an electric one)
The classic recipe states 100 grams (or 5/8 cup) of flour for each egg. However, eggs come in different sizes and the egg to flour ratio also depends on the type of flour. So I recommend to start with a little less than 100 grams (or 5/8 cup) of flour per egg, since it’s easier to add a little more flour than it is to add a little more egg (although water is also an option).
I recommend to use Italian flour: semola di grano duro (also known as ‘semolina flour’) and/or grano tenero 00 (doppio zero). With ’00’ the pasta will be lighter and smoother and the dough will be easier to knead, whereas with semola it will be slightly less smooth, have more taste and will be harder to knead. To make tagliatelle or fettucine, I usually use mostly semola. To make stuffed pasta, I usually use at least half or more 00. For making fresh pasta without eggs (i.e. with water) Italians always use semola.
For the eggs, it is advised to use fresh organic free-range eggs. I would like to do a blind test of pasta made with organic free-range eggs versus those white chicken-molesting ones and see if I can taste the difference. I will post the result on this blog!
For a richer pasta dough, substitute whole eggs with egg yolks (around 3 egg yolks for 1 egg).
See separate instructions for steps 1 and 2 using a stand mixer.
Step 1: Mix the dough
If you own a food processor, the easy way is to use it to mix the dough instead of by hand.
Beat the eggs lightly with the ‘pulse’ button of the food processor.
Add 90% of the flour at once and mix by using the ‘pulse’ button of the food processor.
Keep adding a bit of flour at a time and mixing it in with the ‘pulse’ button until the dough is only slightly sticky.
To make the dough by hand, make a well in the center of the flour and break the eggs into it. Use a fork to beat the eggs and incorporate the flour.
Step 2: Knead
Lightly flour your work surface and your hands. Knead the dough by hand for at least 5 minutes until it is smooth and pliable. Add a little flour at a time if needed to make it almost dry, it should not be sticky.
Knead by folding, pushing forward and turning.
Step 3: Rest
Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for half an hour or up to a few hours.
You can skip this step if you are in a hurry, but the resting is better because it allows the flour particles to absorb the egg moisture fully.
Step 4: Rolling out
Take a piece of the dough about the size of an egg. Keep the remaining though wrapped to prevent drying out.
Flatten the piece of dough into a disk with your hands and dust it with flour.
First we use the pasta machine to do some more ‘kneading’.
Using the widest setting, run it through the pasta machine.
Fold the dough in half, trying to shape it into a rectangular shape, and run it through the pasta machine again.
Repeat this step for 5 times or more, until the shape is sufficiently rectangular and the dough as a smooth ‘feel’ to it. Dust the dough with flour.
Set the pasta machine to a narrower setting, and run the sheet of dough through the machine without folding it. Repeat this step until you’ve reached the desired thickness, sprinkling with flour if needed. If the dough is too sticky, it will tear.
Now go to step 5a for tagliatelle or other noodles, or step 5b for lasagne or step 5c for stuffed pasta.
Step 5a: Cutting tagliatelle
Keep the sheet of dough a bit thicker for wide noodles such as tagliatelle or pappardelle, and make it thinner for smaller like fettucine.
Dust the sheet of dough with flour on both sides and let it dry for at least a few minutes.
Cut the sheet of pasta into smaller sheets of the desired length, usually around 30 cm/12 inches.
You can use an attachment to your pasta machine to cut into tagliatelle (1 cm or 1/2 inch), fettucine (0,5 cm or 1/6 inch) or pappardelle (2 cm or 1 inch), or roll up the pasta and cut the roll into slices with a knife and then unroll again. Arrange the pasta loosely on a floured plate or tray to prevent sticking.
Cook in salted water for only a few minutes, if it is thin then usually 1 minute is sufficient.
Step 5b: Lasagne
Cut the sheet of pasta into the desired size, taking into account that it will increase in size when you cook it.
Fresh lasagne can be used without pre-cooking, but it is much easier to handle when you do pre-cook it because the pre-cooked sheets do not tear as easily as uncooked ones.
To pre-cook, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add a few sheets at a time. Cook them for about 30 seconds and take them out with a slotted spoon. Cool them in cold water and let them dry on kitchen towels, patting them try with kitchen towels.
Step 5c: Stuffed pasta
For the best results, make the sheet of dough as thin as possible without tearing it.
To make ravioli or agnolotti:
Make sure that you do not flour the top side of the sheet of pasta so that it is easier to close the ravioli. If needed, you can moisten the areas that need to stick together with a bit of water.
Put small heaps (about a heaped teaspoon) of filling just off-center on the sheet of dough, leaving about 2 cm (3/4 inch) in between heaps.
Fold the sheet. Use your fingers to close the individual parcels and try to push out as much air as possible (because air can cause the ravioli to break during cooking).
Cut into individual ravioli using a pastry cutter (or a knife).
Keep the ravioli on a floured surface until you are ready to cook them. When using a moist filling, make sure to turn them after 10-15 minutes to prevent sticking to the surface!
To make mezzalune:
Cut circles with a diameter of 8 cm (3 inches) using a glass or a cookie cutter.
Put some filling just off the center of each circle, fold in half and press the edges together, trying to get most of the air out.
Keep the mezzalune on a floured surface until you are ready to cook them. When using a moist filling, make sure to turn them after 10-15 minutes to prevent sticking to the surface!
To make tortellini:
Same as mezzalune, but fold each around your finger and press the ends together.
To make round ravioli:
Same as mezzalune, but use two slightly smaller circles for each, put the filling on the middle of the first circle and close wit the second circle.
Cook stuffed pasta for just a few minutes in boiling salted water.