We could dedicate this whole website to Italian pasta and still not have adequate space to cover all things Italian pasta. Every region of the country has its own style and the ingredients used vary from north (where they use more eggs) to south (where they traditionally make an egg-less dough). And let's not get started on the flours and all the tricks (actually you can download our Pasta Basics Guide if you want more tips).
Let us leave it at this: if you've never made homemade pasta dough before, this is a great place to start. The combination of flours and lots of eggs make this dough sturdy, easy to work with, very forgiving, and -- most importantly -- tastes good! We turn this basic pasta dough recipe into sheets for lasagna, cut it into handkerchief shapes for our pesto pasta recipes, fill it for ravioli, and twist it for more delicate shaped pasta like casoncelli. Bottom line it's a reliable pasta dough that'll make you confident in your pasta skills, even if you're only just starting to hone them!
Before you jump into the recipes, here are our top pasta-making tips:
All Pastas Are Not Created Equal
Every region of Italy has a pasta it's known for from Lombardy's casoncelli and Tuscany's gnudi to Umbria's pici or Sicily's busiate.
There Are Different Pasta For Different Sauces
The different pasta shapes are good at absorbing different types of sauce with shorter pastas (penne or cavatelli) "grabbing" onto sauce more than longer noodles. Also, pasta with ridges (think rigatoni) grab sauce better than smooth pasta.
Start With Less Flour
A good pasta dough is usually somewhere between 48 to 55% water (by weigh) and that level of hydration makes for a tender pasta. Generally, start by making a wetter dough because it's easier to add more flour than it is to add water. However, be sparing with the flour because you don't want the final pasta to be caked in flour!
Different Climates (And Weather) Need Different Amounts Of Liquid
The old adage is that Italian grandmothers make pasta by using 1 egg for every fistful of flour, which generally works out to about 100 grams of flour to every 1 large egg. That is a great starting point; however, the climate of where you live and the age of the flour you're using will mean you need more liquid ingredients (say in an arid climate like Palm Springs) or a touch more flour (in a humid spot like Hawaii). We keep a spritz bottle of water nearby as well as a small pile of flour so we can adjust the levels as needed.
The Ideal Pasta Dough Is Wet Enough But Not Too Much!
You want a pasta dough that's dry enough it doesn't glop onto your hands but wet enough that it doesn't crack when it's kneaded. That said when you first pull the ingredients together into a ball and knead it, the dough will stick to your hands. Don't add any water or flour until you've kneaded a few minutes and the dough is a cohesive ball. At that point the liquid will have incorporated into and hydrated the flour enough that you can add more flour or water as desired.
Knead The Dough A Long Time
The longer you knead the pasta, the better the gluten and the easier it'll be to roll out later. We recommend you need it at least 10 minutes at the start -- it will be good to go once the surface is no longer sticky, uniform in color, and smooth with just a few tiny dimples on the surface.
Rest The Dough Even Longer
The two ways you're developing the gluten in order to make the pasta structure is the same as with other doughs, by kneading and resting. Make sure to rest it at least 30 minutes before shaping but you can also let it rest up to two days before rolling it out.
Roll It Out By Machine Or By Hand
We grew up making pasta with the help of the classic Imperia Pasta Machine. If you're going to make pasta a lot, you might want to invest it in (or even get the KitchenAid Pasta Attachment for your stand mixer). However, you can also roll it out by hand with the help of a rolling pin or even a wine bottle. For tips on that, watch this video by Chef Evan Funke.
Freeze To Hold The Pasta Shape
You can cover the fresh pasta with a kitchen towel and leave at room temp if you're going to cook it that day. Otherwise, freeze it on a baking sheet then, once frozen, transfer to an airtight container for up to a month. This helps it stay fresh and hold its shape when it cooks!
Don't Cook Fresh Pasta To Al Dente
Fresh pasta cannot be cooked to al dente by nature of the fact it's already pretty soft when it's made. So, don't try to cook it to al dente -- instead cook it just a couple of minutes in the water then transfer to a pan with the sauce you want to serve it with and cook it an additional couple of minutes!
And Don't Drain It From The Cooking Water
Cook the pasta for just 1 to 3 minutes in heavily salted water but, when it's ready, don't drain it in a colander or it might stick together. Instead pull the pasta from the water with tongs or use a slotted spoon and place it directly in the sauce you want to serve it with!
can substitute all-purpose flour
can substitute all-purpose flour
For The Pasta Dough: Combine the flours and a pinch of salt on a clean work surfance and mix until they're well combined. Whisk together the eggs, olive oil, and water, make a well in the center of the flours and pour in the liquid mixture. Use a fork to whisk the eggs like you would for scrambled eggs and bring a little flour in with each move until the majority of the flour is in the egg mixture.
Using your clean hands, mix the remaining flour into the liquid mixture and begin to form it into a ball. Start to knead and turn the dough unti it is a ball (this will take a couple minutes).
If, after a couple minutes, the mixture is dry or crumbly, add a splash of water and knead. The dough should be throughly moist and evenly hydrated but not sticky or overly damp. (You can also make the pasta dough in a food processor -- head to this recipe for that technique).
Once the dough is in a ball form, knead it for 8 to 10 minutes until it is smooth and there are no cracks. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes before using. You can use it to make sheets of pasta dough (below) and then use the sheets to make shapes (like Casoncelli or Ravioli), or form the dough into a handmade shape like these cavatelli!
Pasta dough can be made to this step up to 1 day ahead. Store the dough wrapped in plastic, placed in a resealable plastic bag, and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.
To Roll The Pasta Dough Into Sheets: When it comes to the pasta, you have two options for how to roll it out -- by machine or by hand. If you're going to make pasta often, consider investing in a classid Imperia Pasta Machine (or even get the KitchenAid Pasta Attachment for your stand mixer) and then follow the instructions here. However, you can also roll it out by hand with the help of a rolling pin or even a wine bottle. For tips on that, watch this video by Chef Evan Funke.
Secure a tabletop pasta machine to a counter or fit the Pasta Roller attachment onto the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Cut dough into six pieces (they need to fit in the Pasta Roller). Press each piece into a rectangle shape. (Cover the pieces you aren't using with a kitchen towel so they don't dry out.)
Pull the roller adjustment knob straight out and turn to setting 1. Release the knob, making certain the pin on the roller housing engages the opening on the back of the adjustment knob, allowing the knob to fit flush against the roller housing.
Turn Stand Mixer to speed 2. Feed flattened, lightly floured dough into rollers to knead. Fold dough in thirds like an envelope, flatten, lightly flour, and roll again. Repeat until dough is smooth and pliable and covers the width of the roller. Lightly dust pasta with flour while rolling and cutting to aid in drying and separation.
Feed dough through rollers to further flatten the sheet of dough. Change the roller to setting 3, and repeat the rolling process. Continue to increase roller setting until you reach setting 8. Do not fold the dough during this step. Cut dough as needed to make it wieldy. Once the dough is rolled to setting 8, dust it lightly with flour then you can use it as desired to make lasagna or noodles.
If you want to cut it into noodles, let the sheets of rolled pasta rest for 10 to 30 minutes before cutting them. Otherwise, spread the pasta on a floured baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel and set aside. At this point you can boil it or freeze it for future use.
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