Italian

How to Make Fresh Pasta Dough Like a Chef

February 15, 2016

If someone asks me about the quantities in my pasta dough recipe, I enjoy yelling “Quanto Basta!” and grinning. The phrase means “until it’s enough”—it’s the way I wish I could answer most culinary questions.

Take pleasure in the fact that our hands have memories—they’ll remember the texture of perfect pasta dough and alert us if the dough is too wet or must be kneaded for longer.

But don’t worry if your hands don’t know pasta dough yet. The dough is forgiving, and you’ll learn quickly. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, your first try at making pasta will yield some sort of noodle. Creating pasta from nothing more than flour and eggs is a true delight.

Photo by James Ransom

Here’s how to make pasta dough with your senses, not numbers:

Add flour to a large mixing bowl.

You could use all-purpose flour, but I prefer to use Italian 00 flour, which is ground extra fine and gives the pasta a silky, soft texture. I usually add 1 part semolina flour to 3 parts Italian 00 flour. The semolina adds a texture to the finished pasta that’s usually referred to as al dente. But if you prefer a more silky bite of pasta, use less semolina, and if you want more bite, use more.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Take pleasure in the fact that our hands have memories—they’ll remember the texture of perfect pasta dough and alert us if the dough is too wet or must be kneaded for longer." This is an amazing sentence...I took the liberty of quoting you on my Instagram. Hope you don't mind. I find making pasta therapeutic and love everything about it. Best, Joanna - Instagram culinaterrae ”
— Joanna
Comment

How much flour should I add? How many eggs should I get ready?

Quanto Basta! (But, if you really need a more specific answer, you can count on using approximately 1 egg and 100 grams of flour per person.)

Photo by James Ransom

Crack some eggs.

Make a well in the center of your flour. Make it look like a volcano. Crack eggs into the center of the volcano. Here’s an important trick: *When your eggs nearly reach the top of your mound of flour, you’ve added enough eggs.

Sometimes I add extra yolks to my pasta because they’re rich and fatty and add a density to the finished dough. You can experiment with different combinations of egg whites and yolks in your dough and determine what you like best—there are no wrong answers. The egg whites have a high water content, and they will give your dough a softer texture.

Make dough!

Using a fork, beat the eggs in the center of the flour, then slowly bring flour into the egg mixture. When almost all of the flour has been mixed in with the eggs, discard the fork and use your hands. Gather the dough into a ball and knead the dough inside the bowl for about a minute. The dough should feel wet and tacky. For now, this is good. You can always add more flour to a wet pasta dough, but once your dough becomes too dry, any attempt at rehydrating it usually ends in a gummy lumpy mess.

Transfer the dough onto a clean surface. Leave the dried bits of dough and trace amounts of extra flour in the mixing bowl. Wash your hands. Start fresh.

Photo by James Ransom

Knead the dough.

Knead the dough and add flour as necessary until the dough is no longer tacky. If you can knead the dough without it sticking to your hands, you have added the correct amount of flour.

Photo by James Ransom

Pause early in the kneading process and slowly stretch the dough apart in your hands. The dough will appear to tear and pull apart from itself. After approximately 10 minutes of continuous kneading, if you stop and try again to slowly pull the dough apart, you should notice that the dough stretches without tearing as much. The dough should also appear smoother, sleeker, and more homogeneous. These are indications that you have kneaded the dough enough.

Photo by James Ransom
Photo by James Ransom

Give it a rest.

The final step is to let the dough rest. Cover it tightly in plastic wrap, and leave it out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. If you knead your dough properly and let it rest for at least 30 minutes, it will be easy to roll out. If you skimp on either of these steps, you may have trouble rolling out your dough.

Roll it out.

No matter what tool you use to roll out your dough, remember to have some extra flour nearby to make sure your pasta does not stick to the countertops or to itself. Lightly dust the pasta as you work. There are a few ways to roll out the dough:

-Rolling pin: The one shown above is available in the Food52 Shop, and we love it! The goal is to make your pasta as thin and delicate as possible. It can be hard to do—but experience will get you there.

-Hand crank: This is an affordable, reliable way to roll out the dough. It can get the dough very thin. This is what I use at home.

-Kitchen Aid mixer attachment: This is what I use at work. It’s fast and efficient and electric so you can use two hands to pass the dough through the machine and catch it (unlike the hand crank, which requires you to crank with one hand and manipulate the dough with your other hand).

-A luxurious option: This electric machine is expensive and large but it is easy to use. I see this type of machine in serious restaurants where they make pasta for 200 people per night. It’s a pleasure to use this machine, but in no way necessary.

Photo by James Ransom

Make noodles.

Roll the dough up so it looks like a log. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into ribbons. Spread the ribbons apart with your fingers—they unravel to become noodles.

Most pasta rollers (the hand crank and the Kitchen Aid attachment) will come with an add-on attachment that will cut a sheet of pasta into noodles. When I roll dough with a rolling pin, I cut the noodles with a knife. Our Shop also has a clever rolling pin that cuts perfect noodles in one swipe—check it out!

Photo by James Ransom

pasta perfect tools


39 Comments

Joanna November 1, 2017
"Take pleasure in the fact that our hands have memories—they’ll remember the texture of perfect pasta dough and alert us if the dough is too wet or must be kneaded for longer." This is an amazing sentence...I took the liberty of quoting you on my Instagram. Hope you don't mind. I find making pasta therapeutic and love everything about it. Best, Joanna - Instagram culinaterrae
 
Katileigh March 10, 2016
I use King Arthur flour mixed with semolina. You can get the Italian flour at Italian markets, or from Amazon.
 
Katie March 10, 2016
Where does one find Italian 00 flour? I've not seen it at any of the groceries near me
 
witloof February 25, 2016
This is great, thanks!
 
Katileigh February 23, 2016
Hi Cindy... I roll out and then dry mine on clean dish towels to a kind of leathery consistency so that when you roll and slice it, it doesn't stick together. Sufficiently kneaded dough will do this readily. If I'm using a machine to rolll and cut, I will sometimes cook it right away, but carefully. Fresh pasta doesn't require a long boil, though it can't be predicted as precisely as boxed pasta. Just be sure to have a full rolling boil (salty enough water so you can taste it) before you drop the pasta in, and the stir to keep the strands apart.. I tell my young friends that they should salt it like soup, because some recipes require the addition of some of the pasta water and you don't want to overwhelm the dish with brine. You must watch fresh pasta cook. When the pasta floats, check it for doneness. The finer the cut, the quicker it cooks. Less than 5 minutes, for sure.
 
Cindy H. February 23, 2016
Do you let it dry a bit, or just cook like regular pasta in boiling water - probably for not that long I would imagine???<br />Thank you, Cindy<br />
 
Author Comment
Josh C. February 23, 2016
Hi Cindy,<br /><br />I do not like to let it dry. I like to either cook it right away, or freeze it right away and cook it later. It cooks like regular pasta in boiling water. It will cook very quickly, and it will rise to the surface of the water when it is ready.
 
jude1 February 23, 2016
My grandchildren love my pasta. 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour and 4 eggs from the chicken coop. I try to have some dried on hand. I dry fettuccini on a coat hanger hung on a kitchen cabinet. But fresh with almost anything on it..........
 
Iryna N. February 22, 2016
My grandmother in the same way cook noodles
 
Lauren B. February 21, 2016
Ooh, I remember when our Mom was going to graduate school at night we would always hope her class was gonna be on Tuesdays since that was luchshen night at our Grandma's. She would make her noodles in the morning and they would dry on the board under a tablecloth in the living room until she would boil them. Then she would fry them in BUTTER! Then serve with farmer or cottage cheese for me and raisins and cinnamon for my brother. The best....
 
Bob February 21, 2016
My mom would give the extra dough to the kids to squeeze in our little hands. Then we'd toss the "ribbles" into her potato soup. Yumm!
 
Mona K. February 21, 2016
My mom always made homemade pasta. After she made it, she'd dice up onion very finely and fry it until dark brown. Then she'd add the cooked noodles and a good amount of thick fresh cream and let it heat through (never boil). Salt and pepper and you had the best knudla ever....
 
Katileigh February 21, 2016
Excellent explanation. The only thing missing is my 4'9" grandmother standing by, coaching me on when the dough was just right. She taught me about how the variations in egg sizes and the moisture content of flour was critical to having a perfect pasta every time. I could say that it was almost a badge of honor to not need a recipe (for anything in her repertoire), but that would seem too proud to her. She was a lovely lady who just knew how to cook. And had the most amazing patch of basil in her backyard. Memories...
 
Bob February 21, 2016
After decades of teaching kids, teens, and new cooks to make something that seems impossible to get wrong, my emphasis is on kneading (ten minutes seems like an hour) and resting -- for longer than seems possible. Patience, grasshopper.
 
Anne B. February 21, 2016
I echo Susan's question. I swear by my KitchenAid pasta attachment and tossed the hand crank with glee. For Papardelle is usually take it to number 5 but wonder if that may be too thin. Also, for the semolina flour is there a grind you would recommend?
 
Robert A. February 21, 2016
My mother made homemade pasta regularly. She even had a special device to roll it out on, it was a piece of canvas, which came with two pieces of wood and two lengths of metal to stretch the fabric tight. Then she rolled the dough out on the fabric.
 
Susan S. February 21, 2016
Hi Josh- if using the Kitchenaid attachment, what thickness do you recommend ending up with for Papardelle or Tagliatelle?
 
chefrockyrd February 21, 2016
I grew up in a household where we made our pasta all the time. All kinds but usually fettucine, very thin large sheets for lasagna, tortellini for soup, corkscrew pasta that we wrapped around a metal wire and so many ravioli we put them on clean white sheets on the bed. There was no other place in the house that large and flat. One of my first cooking experiences as a small child kneeling on a kitchen chair, was to seal the ravioli with a fork, going very carefully around the edges or I got a dirty look. Punching holes in them where the filling is, makes them come apart or leak filling when boiled. <br />As far as drying them we did that with fettucine and twirled them into nests and dried them on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. My aunts even stored them in the warm attic. Once dried they went into clean recycled shirt boxes. No one ever got sick. <br />Now when I make them, I dry them overnite on a sheet pan with corn meal or semolina and when hard I put them into plastic boxes in the freezer so they won't get crushed. <br /> Measuring to make pasta? It was never done. We made it as you said with a pile of flour on a big wood board, some salt and a bunch of eggs. <br />I hope that you try it, even once. Its easy, can be done quickly and you will get great satisfaction from it. Once you make it often you can try other types, and let me say one last thing- there is NOTHING like lasagna made with hand made lighter than air dough. We roll it till you can read thru it.
 
Shelley C. October 6, 2016
Do you have to boil the sheets first? I want to make no boil noodles.
 
burns W. February 21, 2016
I make homemade pasta about once a week & use the Kitchenaid mixer for it. There is one really important addition I would recommend here because what makes this successful is the correct hydration. Flour can be accurately weighed out, but eggs can vary in weight. My solution is quite simple: WEIGH your eggs. One per person. Divide the weight of the eggs by .6 and you will precisely get the weight of flour to use to give you a dough that is at its goldilocks point: not too dry, not too wet. My short blog on it is here: https://homecookexplorer.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/perfect-homemade-pasta-every-time/
 
Tina February 21, 2016
Do you have any recommendations for making gluten free pasta? I use Better Batter or Cup 4 Cup gluten free flours as a substitute in recipes that require flour; do you know if these are viable alternatives?
 
Picholine February 21, 2016
Can I make in a food processor ?