How to Make Pasta
Once you learn how to make pasta, your will find your own home made pasta is actually quite easy and inexpensive. Although store-bought dried pasta is quick and convenient and can be stored for a long time, sometimes nothing is better than the delicate flavor and texture of your own fresh pasta. Besides, you can make your own and dry it yourself for future use. Freshly made pasta can be stored in the freezer for a couple of months and still taste fresh.
Types of flours you can use for making your own fresh pasta:
Which flour is best for homemade pasta?
Semolina flour is more difficult to work with and makes a very stiff dough, while regular flour makes a very delicate dough that can tear. A good blend for a beginner just learning to make their own pasta, is to mix the flours - 1 part semolina flour to 4 parts unbleached flour when using a pasta machine. If you don't have either an electric or hand crank pasta machine, you will need to mix, knead and roll the dough by hand and you will find it easier to use only unbleached flour.
You can make your own fresh pasta with nothing more than a cutting board and a rolling pin, but there are many tools which can make preparing fresh pasta quick and easy and provide the best consistency. The easiest method is to use an electronic pasta machine. These machines come with instruction and recipes for different flavors and the machine includes different tips for making several types of pasta.
A more traditional method for making your own pasta is to use a hand cranked pasta machine.
I found a very reasonably priced one at Cooking.com. These machines will roll out the dough perfectly and cut them into a variety of shapes depending upon the attachment you use. This is the method I use and it is quite fun and easy once you get the hang of it.
Making fresh pasta by hand:
A small batch of dough can be made quickly by hand and then rolled and cut in your pasta machine. Here is a basic dough recipe to get you started. I blend a little semolina flour with unbleached flour to get a firm dough but one that is still easy to work with. After you get some experience, you can add more semolina if you would like a firmer pasta.
Preparing your pasta dough:
Rolling the dough with your pasta machine:When the dough is ready for the pasta machine, remove the plastic wrap and cut the dough in half, rewrap half of the dough until ready to be rolled. It is easier to use a smaller amount of dough at a time with a pasta machine. Set the rollers on your pasta machine to the widest setting. Flatten the dough and sprinkle with a little flour if it is sticky. Run the dough through the rollers of the pasta machine as you crank the handle. Take your flattened dough and fold it into thirds forming a rectangle. Now guide the end of the dough into the machine again at the widest setting again. Fold it into thirds and run it through the widest setting three times before going to the next smaller setting. This will help knead the dough. Next, move the rollers to the next smaller setting and run the dough through one time. Move to the next smaller setting and run the dough through again. Lightly flour the rolled dough strips as needed to prevent sticking in your pasta machine. Keep rolling the dough through the next smaller setting until you have reached the desired thinness of your pasta. This will usually be the second to the last setting for most pasta, but you can roll the dough to whatever degree of thinness you prefer.As you move to the thinner settings, your pasta will become become more delicate. If it tears as you roll it through, don't worry, it's not ruined. You can simply fold the pasta and start the whole process over again at the widest setting. When you have finished rolling the dough, let it dry on a cutting board or cloth until it is slightly leathery to the touch. This will prevent sticking and will make it much easier to cut the dough in your pasta machine. Don't let it get too dry or it will become stiff and brittle and will not feed through your machine. When the dough is finished drying, cut the dough into shorter strips to make it easier to cut in your machine.
- You can make a well in the center and prepare the dough in the bowl, or dump it out on a floured cutting board and prepare your dough there.
- Add 1 tsp olive oil and one whole egg into the well. Holding a fork at an angle parallel to the table, stir the egg mixture quickly and let the flour fall into it from the sides. Keep stirring this way until you have formed a sticky dough ball. You will probably have leftover flour, so only use what you need.
- Dump the dough ball onto a floured surface and knead, incorporating more flour into the dough as needed, until the dough is smooth, elastic, even in color and no longer sticky.
- To knead the dough, push down on the ball with the heel of your hand, then give the dough a quarter turn, fold it over onto itself and push away from you again with the heel of your hand. Keep turning and pushing until you achieve the desired consistency - this usually takes approximately 10 minutes.
- Once you have finished kneading, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.
Cutting your PastaWhen making your own pasta, there are a variety of shapes you can produce. If using a pasta machine, most come with a linguine and spaghetti cutting attachments. You can also buy a ravioli attachment for some machines. If you want a wider cut pasta than your machine's attachments, or if you don't have a machine, you can simply cut the dough yourself with a knife.
You can now immediately cook this pasta, refrigerate it for later use, or dry it to be stored longer. This fresh pasta will cook extremely quickly - requiring only 1 minute at sea level. Cook and enjoy!
When making your own pasta, it is common to include eggs because they add color, flavor and nutrition to the pasta. Eggs can also make the dough much easier to work with, however, when using eggs it necessary to refrigerate or freeze the pasta to keep it from spoiling.
Your pasta should be cooked within 3 days when stored in the refrigerator, but can be kept up to three months in your freezer. Fresh pasta can also be dried and stored at room temperature, but be sure the pasta is completely dried before storing.
Once you have mastered making your own pasta, you can quickly and easily make a variety of fresh pastas. With a little imagination and creativity you can create delicious meals in no time. Fresh pasta can be made into a variety of shapes, although not as many as dried because you are limited by the cutting tools that you use. However, by making your own fresh pasta, you can create an unlimited variety of flavors by tailoring the ingredients to flavor your fresh pasta any way you desire. You can make pasta with or without eggs for dietary considerations, and add garlic, mushrooms or herbs to create many possibilities of flavors which add some flair to ordinary dishes. Even chocolate can be added to make a dessert pasta!
Optional ingredients for flavoring your fresh pasta:
Spinach: Finely chopped spinach is added to the pasta dough according to the recipe instructions, and produces a medium to dark green colored pasta with a mild spinach flavor.
Tomato: Tomato paste is added to the pasta dough according to the recipe instructions, producing a light reddish-orange to dark reddish-orange colored pasta with a mild tomato flavor.
Red Bell Pepper: Roasted bell peppers are pureed and added to the dough. This produces a slightly sweet, bright orangish-red colored, delicious pasta. This is one of my favorites and goes well with many sauces.
Garlic: Crushed garlic cloves can be added and will produce a slightly beige pasta with a nice garlic flavor, see
Herbs: Add one or more freshly chopped herbs, such as sage, thyme, parsley, chives, rosemary, tarragon, basil, and oregano to your fresh pasta dough. These can be added to the flour or to your egg mixture in the flour well, and mixed in.
Saffron: Saffron is added to pasta flour to give it a distinct spicy, mildly bitter flavor and yellow color.
Lemon : Lemon pasta contains lemon juice and/or lemon zest, which provides a very mild lemon flavor and light yellow color to the pasta.
Dessert pastas are fun to make and can easily create a delicious treat. Here are some fun varieties to try:
Strawberry: Strawberries are simmered to soften them and then the juice is strained from the strawberries and added to the pasta dough.
Chocolate: Unsweetened cocoa powder and sugar are added to the flour to give the dough a mildly sweet chocolate flavor.
Try these Recipes.
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