Cooking a pasta dish never fails to elicit a wide smile from the faces of everyone in the dining table. It is one of the dishes that can bring people of all ages together. The secret to a good pasta dish, aside from the sauce, is the pasta itself. You can purchase ready-made pasta or you can get your hands messy to create your own. Homemade pasta is very easy to make and very fun, too. The best part of it is that you can put all of the loving you have in making the best homemade pasta in your dish. Here’s how.
Prepare Your Materials and Tools
The old-fashioned method of making pasta only required flour, eggs, a large flat surface, and a rolling pin. Some chefs still prefer using the old methods rather than using fancy gadgets and tools. It is true that you can make pasta almost anywhere without having to rely on modern tools. However, using these gadgets can make your pasta-making experience more fun and enjoyable.
A stand mixer is ideal as it can help you combine all the ingredients in a more consistent manner. A pasta maker can also come in handy when turning the dough into thin sheets. But if you don’t have such a device, a hand-cranked pasta roller will suffice. If such a gadget is unavailable, then an ordinary rolling pin can turn your dough into sheets.
Other materials you’ll need in your pasta-making activity can include a tray lined with parchment paper for holding the rolled-out dough. You will also need a plastic wrap or a kitchen towel to maintain the dough’s moisture. This also prevents it from drying out.
Get the Best Ingredients
Flour is your base ingredient in making any kind of pasta. In general, there are three kinds of flour that are very common in many pasta recipes. These are all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and “00” flour. The latter type of flour is rich in protein and comes with very fine texture. This gives “00” flour-made pastas their characteristic silkiness.
If you want your sauce to adhere to your pasta, then semolina flour is the way to go. This is also perfect for those who want their pastas to have a rougher texture and substantial heartiness to it. All-purpose flour is good for different dishes; hence, the name. It can be “doughy”, however.
You can start with all-purpose flour. If the resulting pasta suits your taste, then you’ve found the magic base ingredient. If you prefer a silkier feel to your pasta, you can mix equal parts of all-purpose flour and “00” flour. If you want to add more body to your pasta, then an equal amount of semolina flour to your all-purpose flour should do the trick.
In addition to the flour, you will also need other ingredients such as eggs, oil, water, and salt.
Some will not use egg, only water. This can lead to pasta dough that is mushy and bland. Others may use only the egg whites. This can produce pasta dough that is much better-formed than water-only dough. There are also home cooks who prefer using the egg yolks only. This can result in pasta that has a bright golden color and a silkier texture. The issue with this approach is that you will have more egg flavor. Plus, the fat content of egg yolk may spell trouble for those who are wary of fatty foods.
Some may opt for a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks. You can start with 2 egg yolks combined with one whole egg. Add this proportion to every 5 ounces of flour that you use. For instance, if you’re going to use about 10 ounces of flour, then you can put 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks. This is if you want your pasta to have more egg flavor. If not, you can always adjust by adding water and reducing the number of egg yolks to 3.
Get Ready to Make the Dough
If you are going to use a stand mixer, making the pasta dough is easy. You can dump all the ingredients into the mixing bowl and turn on the machine. Let it run until the ingredients turn into a big ball of dough. Keep whipping the dough for a few more minutes or you can add a little personalized touch using your hands.
If you’re like some individuals who prefer making things with their own hands, here’s how you can make handmade pasta dough:
- Dump your flour onto a clean, dry, and flat surface like your table or kitchen countertop. Create a small mountain with the flour. Make a hole right in the center of the mound of flour. It’s like creating a crater of a volcano. Make sure to make the crater wide enough to accommodate the eggs.
- Drop the eggs into the crater. The old-fashioned way of doing this is by dropping whole eggs and egg yolks into the center of the flour. Only then are they whisked. The more modern approach is to whisk the eggs in a bowl first before pouring them into the flour crate. After the eggs, you can add your oil and salt.
- Use your fingers to bring the flour from the outer edge of the mound towards the “egg pool”. Be careful not to “break” the sides of the mound as the egg pool may run off. Keep on piling up flour into the egg pool until you can get a sticky but wet consistency.
- Scrape off any dough that may be present on your hands. Use a bench scraper to scrape loose flour into the ball. Turn the dough about 45 degrees every time you fold flour into the ball. This will help incorporate more flour into the dough. Keep on folding the dough until it feels firm and dry. Once you have a craggy-looking doughy ball in your hand, it’s time to knead.
- Kneading can be the most tedious task of all. In kneading the ball of dough, it is best to use the heel of the hand to press into the dough. Observe a downward and forward motion of the heel of the hand. Rotate the dough about 45 degrees and knead it again. Get a paring knife and slice into the dough. You should not see any air bubbles inside. If there are, you need to knead it again. What you want to achieve is a ball that is smooth and almost elastic to the touch. If you press your knuckles into the ball of dough, it will bounce right back almost in an instant.
If the ball feels tacky and wet, you can add flour and knead it again. If the ball feels too dry, you can spritz some water onto the dough and start kneading it again. Keep in mind that if the ball is too dry that it cannot hold its form, adding water won’t save it.
Rest Your Pasta Dough
Forming a ball of pasta dough doesn’t mean you can use it right away in your dish. You have to rest it first so that its gluten network will relax and the flour will keep on hydrating itself. If you decide to roll your dough without resting it, you will end up with dough that’s too elastic and too dry to roll out.
This is true for conventional rolling pins. But, if you’re using a pasta roller, then it is possible not to rest the pasta dough. Do keep in mind, however, that resting your dough for at least 30 minutes can lead to a much better pasta. Sure, unrested pasta dough can still make for a pasta dish. But is it good?
Put the ball of dough in a large bowl and cover it. It is also possible to wrap the ball of dough with plastic wrap for resting.
Rolling and Cutting Your Pasta Dough
After resting the pasta dough, you can cut it into smaller portions if you like. Most home cooks will cut their dough into four, using only one at a time. Store the remainder in the refrigerator so you can use them in the future.
Get your pasta roller and set it to “0” thickness. Pass the dough through the inlet and catch it in the opposite end. Fold the dough into thirds, then rotate it about 90 degrees so that the straight edges will be on the sides of the machine. Send the dough again. Repeat the fold-and-rotate maneuver one more time. Continue this procedure as you go through the different thickness settings of the machine.
Once you’re satisfied with its thickness, you can run the dough through the pasta cutting attachment of the device. If you don’t have a pasta cutter, it is possible to slice it using your kitchen knife or cleaver. It may not turn out in even widths, however.
Don’t forget to dredge your pasta in flour once you are done cutting. This is to help prevent them from sticking together. You can then set your newly-made pasta on a cookie sheet so you can have them ready for your dish. Some prefer to dry them on a drying rack.
Making homemade pasta is more fun than taking them out of the box. You can put your heart into every strand of pasta that you make, making each dish more special and meaningful.