Thursday, October 22, 2009

How To Make Homemade Pasta

October 2009 399 Grab yourself a cup of tea and pull up a chair. This is going to be a long one. Only because I want you to make homemade pasta and I’m going to take you through the process step-by-step, so you’ll have no excuses. I’ll let you off the hook if you don’t have a machine to roll out the pasta – only because rolling by hand is not easy. That’s because I use semolina flour in addition to regular unbleached flour.

Semolina, the inner, granular, starchy endosperm of hard wheat, has a lot more gluten and will give the pasta more bite.  After the finer particles in the flour have been sifted out, what’s left is the grittier, coarser semolina.

I used to make pasta with only regular flour and it’s good, but after you’ve boiled the pasta and drained the hot water, it sort of plops into the colander in one tangled mass -  the pieces are ornery and want to stick together, even though you haven’t overcooked it. There’s no real “toothiness” to it.  Semolina changes all that and gives you real “spring” in the pasta. I buy semolina flour in bulk at a local health food store, but it’s also available in small packages at our supermarkets, next to the packages of quick-cooking polenta. I also just found out that the flour maker King Arthur makes a “Perfect Pasta Blend” that includes semolina, durum and all-purpose flours. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s available by mail if you can’t find it in stores.

Semolina, which is also what I use when I make gnocchi alla romana, is much more yellow than regular all-purpose flour, as you can see in the photo below:

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Once you have the semolina, the only other ingredient you need is eggs. I know a lot of recipes also have you adding water or olive oil, but not mine. Mine is made the way it’s made in Emilia-Romagna, where my mother and her family are from. I don’t even add salt. You add salt to the boiling water later.

Here is a photo of how I used to make pasta for many years – the way it’s done in Italy by little old grandmas and the way many traditionalists still make it here. Start with a wooden pasta board. In this case, I inherited a fabulous pasta board from my mother-in-law. It’s probably at least 75 years old and has some cracks in it. But it’s humongous and filled with memories so I’ll ask my husband to keep repairing the cracks until they can’t be repaired any longer. Now most of you probably don’t have a pasta board, so use a large wooden chopping board – or just your counter top. But a wooden board is preferable because it gives the pasta more texture in the final product – useful for having the sauce cling to it.

OK, so you make a little mountain with the flour and then make a well in the center –now you’ve got a mini Mount Vesuvius. Crack the egg into the well and start beating the egg with a fork, pushing against the flour with your other hand to hold the volcano wall from collapsing.  The flour eventually gets amalgamated with the egg and becomes too dense to work with the fork. At that point, you have to use your hand.

October 2009 147 In the photo above, I used only one cup of flour and one egg. I did this just to show you what it looks like to do it by hand. But after making it this way for years, I then saw Lidia Bastianich mix pasta dough in the food processor and life as I knew it ceased to exist. If my food guru can make it in the food processor, so can I. And so can you. But if you want to be a purist, or just want the experience of making it on the board, give it a whirl. But I’m telling you – mixing pasta dough in the food processor is like finding the Holy Grail, the meaning of life, and George Clooney’s phone number all at once. 

Add the semolina, and the regular all-purpose flour to the processor, along with the eggs. Give it a whir until a ball starts to form. When you’re adding the flour, it’s best to hold some back because if you add too much in the beginning, it’s very difficult to form a good ball of dough. It’s always easier to add more flour if the dough is too sticky. In the photo above, the dough forms a ball, but there’s still a little clinging to the side of the food processor bowl. You can remove it from the bowl and put it on your board and start kneading in a little more flour until it’s no longer sticky.

You can use the same recipe each time you make dough, but it can come out different each time. That’s because a lot is dependent on whether you use large eggs, jumbo eggs or small eggs and whether it’s a humid or a dry day. When it’s humid, you’ll find you need more flour. When it’s dry, you’ll need less. It takes practice but eventually you’ll get a “feel” for it.

Now you knead the dough. Press your palm into the dough and push it into the board away from you.

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Pick up one end of the dough and fold it over the other end.

October 2009 359Then smush it down into the board using your palm like you did before.

October 2009 360 After you’ve kneaded it on the board for five minutes or so, the dough will start to feel a little smoother. But it needs to rest for at least a half hour to an hour more before you can roll it out. That allows the glutens to “relax.” I cover the dough with a bowl, but you can wrap it in plastic wrap if you like.

After a half-hour or so, you’re ready to start rolling. I use a pasta machine, something that would be considered heresy to my cousin Lucia in Italy who use a mattarello (or a very long rolling pin). She’s also the one I told you about a while ago who won the Miss Tagliatella contest in her region, so you can see I’m a novice compared to her. I’m sure she’d think I was taking the easy route by using a pasta machine.

Until she gives me some pointers and until I get a mattarello, (my husband has promised to make me one), I’ll continue to use the pasta machine and I’ll bet you will too. Cut off a small portion of dough and keep the rest covered. This pastry cutter is in the picture just to give you some perspective on the size of the dough to start with. It’s a piece about the size of a half a cupcake probably.

October 2009 292 Then smush down the piece with the palm of your hand to flatten it. This will make it easier to initially push through the machine.

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Keep some flour on the board and pat the piece on both sides with some flour.

Start by coaxing the dough through the largest opening of the pasta machine. On mine, it’s the #1 opening.

Here’s what the dough looks like after the initial pass through the machine and just before I am ready to put it through the #2 slot:

October 2009 362 Keep putting the dough through the rollers, moving up one number higher each time. Pat the strips of pasta with flour so it doesn’t stick when you’re feeding it through the rollers. My machine goes to #7, but I usually stop after rolling the dough through #6, which is thin enough. Here’s how long the above piece of dough looks after it’s been through the #6 roller. At this point, I usually cut it in half because it’s too unwieldy to handle.

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The dough should be resilient, but thin enough that you can almost see through it. At least that’s how I like it. You may like it thicker, or even thinner, at the #7 setting.

October 2009 285-1  At this point, you have to decide what shape pasta you want. If you want pappardelle, cut them by hand, using either a knife, or a pastry wheel. I like to make pappardelle about an inch to an inch and a half wide and I use a ruler to guide me in cutting along the long edge.

October 2009 153-1 For lasagna, keep the entire width of the pasta as it comes out of the machine, trimming the edges to make them even:

October 2009 302-1To make  tagliatelle or fettuccine, I feed the dough through the attachment that came with the pasta machine.

October 2009 368 You can also make even thinner pasta – tagliolini - with the attachment:

October 2009 155-1 You need someplace to put all this pasta while you finish rolling out the rest and clean up. If you’re pressed for space, hang a coat rack over your kitchen cabinet door and use paper-coated coat hangers like this:

October 2009 374 Otherwise, put some flour on a board and make little “nests” of the pasta. This allows you to store whatever you don’t use much more easily.

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If you’re not using it right away, make sure to dry it completely before storing it, otherwise it can turn moldy in a plastic bag or container.

Now serve it up with your favorite sauce, maybe even my mushroom truffle cream sauce.

The first time you make homemade pasta, it may take you a couple of hours to make a batch large enough for four people, but as you become more proficient, you should be able to complete the work in 1/2 hour (not including time for the dough to rest).

Thanks for hanging in through this long post.

Homemade Pasta Recipe:

Printable recipe here

Enough for about four servings:

3/4  cup semolina flour

3/4 cup unbleached white flour

2 large eggs

Place most of the semolina and regular flour into a food processor bowl. Keep about 1/4 cup of the flour or semolina aside. Add the eggs, then pulse the ingredients until a ball starts to form. Add more flour or semolina if it seems too sticky. Put on a board and knead, adding more flour as needed. Let it rest under a bowl, or covered with plastic wrap, for at least a half hour. Work the dough through a pasta machine per instructions with the machine. Make sure to flour the dough as you make each pass through the rollers, so it won’t stick.


  1. Your tutorial is great, Linda. You've answered a lot of my questions about making pasta. I've been trying to decide if I should put the pasta attachment to my mixer on my Christmas list. I'm thinking "yes."

  2. I am still scared.
    Homemade bread & pasta I just don't attempt.
    Maybe you can ease my fears.

  3. Mom gave me this lesson when was about 10 years old, and I still remember it so very (even though making homemade pasta is not one of my favorite hobbies)

  4. Great post. I love making pasta. I always do the nests but I love the hanger idea.

  5. Thank you Linda...I must attempt to do this one day!

  6. I make pasta all the time (I have had my manual pasta maker since 1983) but I never get tired of seeing the process - I recently'scored' for 12 bucks at a thrift store all the pasta attachments for my kitchenAid mixer so I dont have to crank any more!

  7. Thank you so much Linda! I tried making homemade dough rolled out by hand - fail. I will try again using your tips and the help of the Cuisinart and KitchenAid! I am absolutely craving your mushroom truffle cream sauce!

  8. Hi! I just find your blog and your tutorial is great. I've seen some blogs and tv shows about homemade pasta, but i am a little bit scared, mainly because i dont have a pasta machine. You definitely answered some questions i had, and i think i will try it soon. I just have two questions: how long you can store the pasta uncooked? and how long you cooked it?
    Thanks a lot,

  9. I've been using my food processor for years, I've been known to colapse many a "wall"! What a time saver especially when your making 400 ravioli's. I love your paper coated hanger idea, and that board of yours is priceless! It looks huge.

  10. Linda - Thanks for the post. Just recently started making my own pasta, but only with AP flour. I've had fun mixing on the counter, but I'll have to try my Cuisinart along with semolina.

    Kitchenaid Users - From what I've found on the internet, the pasta attachment has plastic internal parts that break easily and aren't worth the money. Best to go with a stand alone machine - some even come with a little motor if you don't like cranking.

  11. Well done Linda! You make it look so easy! ( and it really is with practice) I love the hanger idea..I've been drying mine on a clean sheet tossed over my bed so I can stretch it all out.

    Did you see the new Williams Sonoma Kitchen Aide pasta maker that makes bucatini, spaghetti, fusilli, and rigatoni?! I so tempted to ask Santa to give it to me! :-)

  12. Complimenti per questa ricetta e per il tuo blog ricco di contenuti e simpatia, ho visto che sei di origine Italiana, io vivo in provincia di Venezia.
    ciao Daniela.

  13. Don't mind the long post at all. Love the coat rack idea!

  14. I've never had homemade pasta (how sad is that). I'd love to try it someday...if I can borrow a pasta maker just to be I can do it before I buy it.

  15. Love this post. I make pasta all the time! Nothing beats fresh pasta. And oh I hear you girl on the pasta machine. A few years ago I set to work on ravioli without a machine. Next day I bought one!!!

  16. I love your hanger technique and am going to steal it the next time I make pasta. Great post!

  17. What a good idea to use coat hangers! The biggest problem for me in making pasta is where to put the industrial quanties we need for six adults while we are trying to set the table!

  18. You did an amazing job. I should try someday.

  19. I love this and saving it - for the winter when I will make pasta. I will also try the King Arthur flour - how wonderful is that? You pasta is scrumptious.

  20. Homemade pasta is just one of those things I am scared to try. I'll make a three layer cake but I'm scared of noodles. I LOVED this tutorial - so well written and great photos. My neighbor has the Kitchen Aid attachment and she has offered for me to use it anytime. I'm gathering my courage...

  21. Awesome post & tutoral Linda. I just bought the pasta maker attachment for my Kitchenaid last week. Now I'm anxious to try it out! TY for all the great tips!

  22. Even after your awesome directions, I can't even imagine trying to make my own pasta!

  23. Grazie, I like the food processor phase, much easier.

  24. I followed your tutorial and recipe and this is the best batch of pasta I've made. First time using semolina flour. I did use my Kitchenaid vs. food processor and used my new Kitchenaid pasta rollers (Christmas gift) and the pasta came out perfect. Thank you for taking the time to share your learnings. Rosa, Fairfax VA

  25. Great post!! I would like to have a pasta board. Would you please give the dimensions of your board and the type of wood that it is? Any advise on this would be appreciated.

  26. I make homemade the same way you posted here, but whenever i dry it it becomes very brittle. It breaks apart very easily. Any idea what i might be doing wrong? Thanks!

  27. to anonymous: It's natural for it to become brittle. That's what is supposed to happen when it dries out - otherwise if you store it in the cupboard, it can get moldy.

  28. I found your tutorial a day too late and had already attempted making pasta by hand. I will know for next time to use your tutorial first, it is great! I have linked your tutorial through to my blog, so I can make sure any new pasta makers have your help first, I know they will appreciate it!

  29. I can't get semolina that easily here in Paris...I'm passing all your tips to my husband...He is the "official" pasta maker in my home...
    Thanks !!

  30. I borrowed a pasta machine to make some rosemary crackers, and have been tempted to make some pasta. After reading your post, I'm going to try it! I need to make lasagna this coming weekend, and will try something this week just to practice.... Thank you so much for your post!

  31. What a great blog! I'm a newly wed who recentlygot in touch with my Italian roots on our honeymoon in Italy. We received the new cuisinart food processor and kitchen aid mixer with a set of pasta of pasta attachments. Now after searching the Internet for hours looking for tips-I know how to use them! Tomorrow I make my first attempt! Thanks for the help

  32. Hi! I just wanted to let you know I used your step by step method about a month ago for my first pasta. Tonight will be my second. I forgot to come by at the time to tell you how great it was. Thank you so much for laying it all out like this. Homemade pasta is the best!

  33. I made lasagna noodles with your recipe and instructions today. They turned out great! Thanks for the recipe and photo instructions!!

  34. After trying several pasta dough recipes including those adding oil, water, salt and failing every time, I decided to use your recipe.
    It is fool proof! It came out so well, I have been making pasta all day!
    I mixed the dough in my KitchenAid with the dough hook until it all came together then kneaded the dough for 10 minutes. I did have to add 1 Tbsp of hot water as the mixture was a bit dry. That's all it needed to come together in the mixer bowl.
    Thanks so much!

  35. Linda,

    My wife and I finally made it to Italy a few years ago and discovered the magic of fresh pasta for ourselves. Last year we purchased a pasta machine, but it sat in the cupboard as we feared that we would not be able to recreate the flavour and texture we enjoyed so much.

    Well, we broke out our machine and followed your recipe and we are in heaven once again.

    Thank you for bringing fresh pasta back into our lives!

    James & Allison

  36. Thank you for this tutorial. I just got the pasta attachments and now I feel ready for my first batch of homemade pasta.

  37. Thanks sharing such a useful information of making pasta in home it is natural pasta which you can made in your home. definitely i will try this in myhome.

  38. If I can do it anyone can. The tutorial was helpful and for some reason I was feeling bold...broke out the pasta machine I bought 4 years ago (box was still taped up)had my netbook on the counter the whole time for reference. My teenage daughter came home and was so impressed she "tweeted" about the hanging pasta. We had a wonderful dinner together and I think she feels even more loved since I "worked so hard" (NOT)to make her dinner. Thanks Linda for making me look like a culinary goddess.

  39. Thanks for sharing home made pasta recipes with us after read your blog i can learn easily how to make pasta in homeplease do regular posting.

  40. What a great heritage for your mom to pass on through you. This information was just what I needed to fill in the gaps left by the instructions for my new pasta maker. Thank you! I did want to note that after some research I decided against the pasta attachment for my Kitchenaid and went with the highly rated and lower priced Imperia (made in Italy). I'm really glad I did.

  41. Making a homemade pasta may entail a lot of effort but the outcome is surely rewarding. Homemade pastas are richer in taste and flavor, which are perfect for pasta dishes to be served on special occasions and events.

  42. thank you so much for a wonderful post! i used it in my first time making fresh pasta. i hope you don't mind, i linked to this great post when i blogged about my first attempt. i received the roller attachment as a gift this christmas and your detailed tutorial walked me through exactly what to expect.