How to Make Fresh Homemade Pasta

I absolutely love fresh homemade pasta. When I first learned how to make fresh pasta, I was taught the traditional old-fashioned way. Eggs and flour were kneaded by hand. This is not easy to do. There is a much lower moisture content in pasta dough vs bread dough, making it more difficult to knead. It is no surprise that I searched for an easier way to make pasta. Luckily, I found it! My food processor now does all the hard work for me when I make fresh homemade pasta.

At it's most basic, homemade pasta dough consists of flour and eggs. Let's start there and then move on to other variations. For each entrée sized serving of pasta, I use one large egg and 100 grams of all-purpose flour. I prefer to measure by weight, since it is much more accurate than measuring by volume. If you don't have a scale, 100 grams of flour equals about 3/4 of a cup. So if you want four servings of pasta, you would need 400 grams, or 3 cups, of flour and 4 large eggs. Put the flour into the work bowl of your favorite food processor fitted with a dough blade. Pulse a few times to aerate the flour. Whisk the eggs, then add to the food processor bowl. Pulse a few times to combine, then let run for a full two minutes to knead the dough. You are developing the gluten, which gives the pasta the needed elasticity.

Remove the pasta dough from the food processor. Form it into a ball and lightly dust all around with flour. Place the dough in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. This allows the liquid from the eggs to fully absorb into the flour. It also lets the dough relax a bit, which will make it easier to roll out. You can skip this step if you are in a hurry, but the next step will require a bit more muscle.

If you have a pasta roller/cutter you can use the instructions that came with your machine. If not, you can get the job done with a rolling-pin and knife. Place the rested dough on a lightly floured cutting board. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Use your rolling-pin to roll to the desired thickness. The thickness you want may vary depending on the final dish you are making, but in general you don't want it any thicker than a nickel.

Cutting the pasta offers you the opportunity to personalize the pasta for your specific purpose. I like wide, long noodles with a hearty meat sauce. I find Alfredo or other cream sauces go well with thin, long noodles. I use wide, short noodles for soup. Just dust the rolled dough with flour and use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut into the desired shape.

You may either use the pasta immediately or allow to dry at room temperature for up to 4 hours. Pasta that has been dried tends to better hold its shape when boiled. Fresh pasta cooks quickly, 2 to 3 minutes in salted boiling water is all it needs, even if it has been partly dried.

I try to substitute whole grains for refined flour when possible, and pasta is no exception. I do, however, suggest you try your hand at white pasta before moving on to whole grain. Whole wheat flour is much denser and harder to work with and it is good to familiarize yourself with proper technique before attempting a more difficult variation.

Whole wheat works better than other whole grains due to its high gluten content. Use the same ratio of flour and egg, but add 1 teaspoon of water per serving to the egg before whisking. This will make the dough easier to work with. You can also do a 50/50 mix of refined flour to whole wheat, adding 1/2 of a teaspoon of water per serving to the dough.

To make spinach pasta, use 2 ounces of frozen chopped spinach and 1/2 of an egg per 100 grams of flour. Place the spinach into a towel and wring out as much moisture as possible. Put it into the work bowl of your food processor fitted with a multipurpose blade. Add the egg and process until very well puréed. Switch to the dough blade, then add the flour. Pulse to combine, then let run for 2 minutes to knead. Follow instructions above for resting, rolling and cutting the dough. Enjoy!




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