Let's talk fresh pasta

I’m a fairly accomplished cook, been doing it for a long time and there aren’t too many styles of cuisines I haven’t tried making. (edit: this post got longer than I thought, so scroll down to last parapraph for tl;dr version).

But one thing I’ve meant to try and have not really gotten around to, is making my own fresh pasta from scratch. I guess I had always thought it seemed like an awful lot of work for what I figured would not really be all that much better than pasta from a box.

But my 16 year old has gotten interested in cooking lately. He’s been making his own pizza, dough and all, from scratch, and pretzels and bread. Most recently he started making his own pasta by rolling out the dough until it’s very thin and cutting it with a knife. He’s not really good at cutting even rows, so the resulting noodles are crazily varied in width. But the resulting pasta after a quick couple minute boil is amazingly good.

I do most of the daily cooking, and for weekday meals I often, maybe once a week, make a quick Bolognese-style sauce with ground beef, peppers, onion, garlic, crushed tomatores, etc. Boil up some box noodles and serve. Simple enough to prepare after I get done with work. Now my 16 year old, since he gets home from school much earlier than I get done with work, has volunteered to make fresh pasta a couple times, and it transforms an ordinary weekday meal into something really special.

Yesterday I made Chicken Fra Diavolo sauce (a spicy tomato-based sauce with diced chicken) and solost-jr volunteered to make pasta. I said, I think we have a pasta maker way in the back of the pantry cupboard somewhere, and he was eager to try it out. Mrs. solost bought it probably before solost-jr was born, we used it once and forgot about it, since it’s a nightmare to clean.

We got the pasta maker set up, and he worked on making extra-thick spaghetti-style noodles. Just making the pasta is a lot of work-- he was getting tired turning the handle, so we took turns for awhile. And I was helping him by cutting the noodles when they got long enough, then carefully folding them and putting them aside. Then it turned out the noodles stuck together so badly we had to re-run them though the pasta maker after all that work, and lay out each noodle separately on a bunch of cutting boards and other flat surfaces. It was fairly comical and a ton of work, but it ultimately resulted in another batch of amazing pasta and a fantastic meal.

So, this leads to fresh pasta-making questions. For those of you who make your own pasta, what are your tips and techniques? How do you keep just-made raw pasta noodles from sticking together-- dust with a little flour? Is a pasta maker more trouble than it’s worth? I looked up a pasta cutter online-- it looks like a pizza cutter with 6 or 8 cutting wheels, so you would roll out the dough thin and cut several linguini-size strips at once. That looks like it might be far easier than a pasta maker.

Practice. There’s definitely a learning curve.

Yeah, you want a kind of general cloud of flour to develop in your kitchen while you’re making it. Apply generously at every possible opportunity. If you don’t have to clean flour off of everything in the room, you’re not using enough.

And get a pasta drying rack they’re only like $10 and is worth it if you plan on doing this often.

I have a pasta attachment for the KitchenAid mixer. It works quite well, I can mix the dough in the mixer than use the attachment to make sheets and a couple of linquni and some thinner noodles. I usually make enough for a couple of batches of noodles and flatten the rest out to sheets to put in the freezer. I use coarse semolina flour to keep the noodles separate, and use a substantial amount of the semolina in the dough. Sheet are good for lasagna, ravioli, manicotti, or just slicing up to into noodles or other shapes.

The pasta attachment is no trouble. The dough should be fairly dry before putting it through so it doesn’t get gunked up and cleans easily. Sheets I lay out on parchment paper, and I have a wooden tree thing for hanging noodles.

Could this be the problem?
Why not buy a new pasta maker!

A necessity. We make pasta from scratch when the weather is horrid and we have nothing better to do, maybe once a year.

My wife and I made pasta semi-regularly from scratch for about a year, to the point where we bought a (non-motorized) pasta roller/cutter tool. But… in the long run, we stopped. It isn’t the learning curve (who cares if it looks perfect!), but the time and cost was just not worth it. And cleaning was an absolute pain! We mostly made filled pasta rather than noodles though, so everyone’s experience will be different.

Tips and tricks depend a LOT on local factors though, especially humidity. We live in front range Colorado where the average humidity is under 20% inside, and we rarely had problems with sticky issues even with minimum flour. I will endorse (for noodle pasta) a drying rack, and they’re easy to make but so cheap to buy it’s not a really needed hack.

Of the things we still make from scratch, we’d rather spend the time to do bread, and on rare occasion, we’ll make homemade spaetzle or a small batch of noodles made by hand and cut on a cutting board. The specialty equipment isn’t super expensive, but it’s one more thing that takes up limited cabinet space - and the stand mixer, the Dutch oven, the pressure cooker, slow cooker, food processor et al already take up a lot.

For me, it’s pretty straightforward. 1 large egg for each 100g flour. Sprinkle of salt. I just mix it together in a bowl using the “well” method. Once egg and flour (I’m fine with AP, but I sometimes use a Polish noodle flour) are incorporated, I start kneading. It will feel quite dry and crumbly to begin with. I just try to get everything together. Then I knead for 10 minutes or so until it comes into a smoothish ball. If after two or three minutes it seems too dry, I moisten my hands to get a little more moisture into it, but it should be a pretty sturdy dough. Now, most important part for me: wrap it in plastic and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. The rest time relaxes the dough and makes it much more pliable.

Then I dust my work surface with flour, divide the dough if needed, and roll out my dough with a rolling pin. This takes me about 5-10 minutes, so if you have a pasta maker, use that. I fold the dough a few times and cut into paparadelle or linguini. Dish with flour to keep from sticking. Hang them and let them dry for a few minutes. Cook.

I have a pasta machine, which I find helpful and frustrating in equal measure. But one method you might like to try is hand rolled pasta. Southern Italian pasta uses much more rustic techniques, whereby you roll the pasta with your fingers tips to make a variety of different shapes, such as orecchietti, roman-style pici or trofie.

I find these much simpler to make, they don’t stick together as badly as these types of pasta don’t use egg, and they make for a lovely, more chewy ‘cucina povera’ style of finished product. Worth a go - I find it more fun to do, and because the finished shapes are naturally quite wonky, it’s a little more forgiving than trying to make spaghetti.

Thanks, a lot of great advice so far! Especially:

Sounds like we definitely need one of these:

Only if there’s one that’s not a total nightmare to clean :grimacing:

Speaking of pasta makers, I’ve left the science of the pasta-making up to my son, but I know there are different types of pasta dough for different types of pasta. My son claims that the only real pasta is made with eggs, but I know there’s eggless pasta. Is the eggless version maybe easier for making extruded pasta from a pasta maker, like your Pennes and Rigatonis?

Just noticed this. Great tip! My wife has made gnocchi once or twice, in the style of her Grandmother. She’s half Italian, is a great cook when she tries, but just doesn’t enjoy cooking as much as I do. Fortunately solost-jr seems to have inherited the ‘enjoyment of cooking’ gene from me.

See my post above. Egg pasta is more Northern Italian, eggless more Southern - neither is the ‘correct’ way. You make different kinds of pasta with them - you wouldn’t use eggless for spaghetti, normally, for example.

Yeah, the drying rack is great, if for no other reason than it keeps it all together. The first time we made pasta, we were hanging the stuff up all over the kitchen wherever we could, and ended up forgetting about at least one bunch that hung there for a couple of days before one of us noticed it. :smile:

Yes. Also, I hang it from pasta hangers (or a collapsible washline if doing bulk), not laying flat.

I love mine, so going with “no”. I especially wouldn’t be able to make decent ravioli or tortellini without it.

Every pasta maker I’ve ever bought (I’ve had 3, two for cooking and one for polymer clay) came with an attachment for making linguini, that used the same crank as the flat rollers. Like this:

Just wanted to follow up on @MrDibble’s post, as his model looks similar to the one I used to have - they do a great job, and if you make a lot of pasta, it’s going to be a huge time saver. But those models are a PAIN to clean. Most (!) of the time you can brush off the majority of crumbs, and maybe use compressed air (if you have a compressor, or if you have a spare can that DOES NOT have an bitterant) to get the rest - but plan on periodically going whole hog on the damn thing with toothbrushes, bottle cleaners, and tools for disassembly.

Basically you can’t clean them in a sink (want to keep it from rusting, and of course dishwasher is right out), you’ll need to get every last tiny crevice clean, and you’ll often need to break them down.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not super hard, but it can be a time-consuming chore - which is why I went back to doing small batches of hand cut when I did want to do fresh pasta at home, just throw the cutting board in the dishwasher when I was done.

That’s not generally been my experience. I just use a brush to get off the flour, I don’t do anything else. About once every couple years I take it apart to give it an oiling, but that’s about it.

I don’t think we’re actually disagreeing though - as I said, most of the time it was brush it out, and use the compressor from the shop to, shall we say, energetically evacuate the cutting blades and rollers.

But my model suggested a full clean after any raw-egg based pasta. I of course, didn’t do that, unless I saw leftover bits that a cleaning clay didn’t get. But sometimes there is slop you can’t get any other way. And when that happened, there was the ‘ugh’ moment.

I am not speaking against the machines, and if you are cooking for a family of 4+, or are making frequent batches, it is a huge help. But for just the two of us? It was easier to go back to doing it all by hand and not worrying about cleanup and storage.

This is a perfect example of how one’s circumstances make a big difference.

We have pasta attachments for our Kitchen Aid stand mixture. One is a roller, the other is a fettuccine cutter. Works great, no cranking.

I’ve always understood spaghetti to be made from a dried, eggless pasta made with semolina. Is this incorrect?

The trick I learned to keep the strands of linguine from sticking to each other as they exit the pasta machine:

Let the flat sheets of uncut pasta dry out just a little bit first. Let them sit out for maybe half an hour so that they stiffen up slightly, and then run them through the cutting blades. Now that they’re no longer so moist, they shouldn’t stick together. Then dust the noodles with semolina flour and lay them out in loose birds’ nests.

Fresh pasta is worth the hassle, IMO. I just don’t often have the time to do it.

I think with everything, you’ll keep with it IF you make pasta that you can’t easily buy. Different colors and shapes, fillings, etc. Or ravioli sheets for customized ravioli fillings such as lamb and feta. For example, my kids are getting into foraging and they easily find stinging nettles. Therefore, I make

  1. nettle pasta dough
  2. ravioli with nettle filling
  3. nettle pesto

For shapes, this one for 29 hand made shapes is pure porn, and Jamie Oliver has a whole bunch of great pasta related videos and his simpler shapes are here. Speaking of porn, Pasta Grannies is pretty great although the recipes are more a suggestion than a guide. There are several shapes that are fun and easy to make such as Orecchiette.

In my pasta journey, making the basic Cacio e Pepe was a light bulb moment. It is one of the most basics of sauces, and if you can master this it will pay dividends throughout the pasta journey. At most basic ,it is noodles and olive oil. Much improved with a bit of cheese that becomes a “cream” sauce. Here is Kenji’s take, and I found this one had additional tips and tricks. I found making a corn starch slurry was easier than depending solely on starchy pasta water to thicken up the sauce. And I found that when the pasta is emulsified in the pan, turn off the heat then incorporate the cheese. (Dried pasta is totally fine for this).

In the special department, your kiddo could take on making Raviolo al Uovo, or a slightly runny egg yolk ravioli in a bed of ricotta cheese. You have to experiment on the cooking times, but this is really good in a browned butter sauce. Most italian restaurants don’t have this on the menu. (I also have back yard chickens, so it’s especially nice to make). Here is one link

I have a KitchenAid & a pasta roller attachment. Much easier than a hand crank.

I am getting into making ravioli. There are tons of videos for different shapes. I’ve discovered that it’s pretty easy to just do these by hand and cut the shapes. I do have a raviolli frame but don’t use it much once I figured out using a pasta cutter is pretty dang easy.

For eggless pasta, here is one take.

Your son might pick up something from 5 Mistakes to Avoid

Again, it’s been my life learning that if you can make it but can’t buy it, you’re much more likely to keep it up.

It varies by region, and is probably as much a matter of taste as anything. Egg pasta, made with 00 durum flour, is more traditional in northern Italy, where spaghetti is a default - it makes for a smoother, silkier pasta. Whereas eggless pasta with semolina flour is coarser, so ideal for hand made knobbly shapes. But at the end of the day, everyone has their own opinion, so it’s worth experimenting to see which you prefer.

The north/south divide on the use of eggs is likely down to the south having been a much MUCH poorer region.