So do any of you remember nearly one full year ago when I posted this ravioli and asked if anyone would be interested in a homemade pasta tutorial?  The response was overwhelmingly, “Yes!”  I certainly never forgot about it but I kept finding other things to post about instead.  Well, I finally made it happen.  Let’s talk homemade pasta.

First, let me say right off the bat that there are tons and tons of different ways to do this.  Some people swear by a certain method of mixing, some think a special type of flour is crucial, etc. etc.  I’m just here to show you the basics.  Then you can decide for yourself what works best for you.  Special equipment is not required.  You can make homemade pasta with just your hands and a rolling pin.  However, if you have the tools, use them.  I find it much, much easier this way and the process isn’t nearly so taxing.  In fact, making your own pasta may sound like something that would take hours, but especially if you have the equipment, you can have it made from start to finish in just under an hour.  Not bad at all.

To start, gather all your ingredients together.  You will need flour, eggs, salt, olive oil and a little bit of water.  Now, as the flour goes, you can make homemade pasta using just all-purpose flour.  That said, I think it tastes better, has a better texture, and is easier to work with if you use a combination of all-purpose and semolina flour.  There is also something called 00 flour that some people swear by for pasta making.  However, I’ve done a lot of reading on this topic and the reviews are mixed.  Ultimately, most think it’s not essential and since it is difficult to come by, I have no interest in pursuing it further.  The blend of all-purpose and semolina works great for me.

Combine all your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center.  If you prefer to make the dough by hand, you can create a mound of flour in the center of a work surface and make a well in the center.

Crack the eggs into the well of the flour mixture.

Start mixing the dough together.  If you are using a mixer, a dough hook works great for this.  If you are doing this by hand, use a fork and start using small circular motions to slowly pull in flour from the edges of the mound into the egg mixture.

Eventually you will end up with a dough that is a bit dry and shaggy looking, and it doesn’t quite stick together.  At this point, I prefer to do the rest of the mixing by hand, so I turn the whole mess out onto a work surface.  And if you’re already doing it by hand, great, stay where you are!  Once the mixture is on the work surface I add the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of water to the dough, and continue to knead until a cohesive ball of dough has formed.  You may need to add a tiny bit more liquid or a tiny bit more flour to get a workable consistency, depending on various factors in your own kitchen.

This is what it looks like when it is finished kneading.

At this point, divide the dough into four pieces.

Cover the dough balls with a damp kitchen towel and let rest 20-30 minutes before proceeding.  (If you are making a filled pasta, this little break is a great time to make your filling.)

From here on out, the steps done with my pasta roller can also be done with a rolling pin.  It will just require a lot of elbow grease.  The basic idea here is to first get the texture of the pasta dough completely smooth and malleable.  So, take one dough ball out, leaving the rest covered at all times when not in use.  Flatten it just enough to be able to go through the pasta sheet roller on the widest (thickest) setting.  (Due to the speed the pasta roller allows, I find I am able to work with two dough portions at once, making the process faster and more efficient.  You can decide what workflow works best for you.  Just be sure that any dough not in use is completely covered by a damp towel.)

This is my work horse.  I love it.

Go ahead and run the sheet through so that it is thinned and flattened.  It may look a bit scraggly and torn the first time through.  That’s okay – we’re just getting started.

Return the pasta sheet to the work surface and fold it into thirds.

Flatten the dough out once more with the rolling pin, again to a thickness so that it is able to go through the pasta roller (if using).

Run it through again on the widest setting.  You can see already that after just two times through, the dough is smoother and more evenly mixed.  I typically repeat this process (flatten, fold into thirds, flatten again, and so on) about four to five times total until the dough is smooth and supple.

Once you are happy with the texture of the dough, you can start thinning the sheets out.  If using a pasta roller, go ahead and set it to the next setting (just slightly thinner than the thickest sheet).  At this point there is no more need for folding into thirds, etc.  The objective is simply to flatten the sheets to your desired thickness, or thinness as it were.

Go ahead and run the pasta sheet through, thinning it out.  Repeat this process on progressively thinner settings until you achieve the width you want.

The sheets may become long and unwieldy to work with during the thinning process.  That’s okay – just cut them in half and keep on working.

Since I intended to use this dough for a stuffed pasta, I went to a thickness where it was just slightly translucent.

Now, if you are making long strands of pasta such as fettuccine or linguine and you have a pasta cutter, run your thinned sheet through the cutter and voila!  You’re done.  If you don’t have a pasta cutter, you can place a pasta sheet on a cutting board and spread with a very light dusting of flour.

Fold it into thirds.

Slice into strips with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.

Unfold the strips and ta-dah!  You made pasta!  At this point, finish using any remaining dough as needed.  Just be sure to keep the finished pasta covered with a damp towel.

If you don’t plan to use the pasta right away, it can be stored.  First, dry the pasta for 1 hour (for long strands, this requires a drying rack.  I’ve never done this.)  At this point it can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen  for up to 3 months.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of the tutorial – stuffed pastas.  Yum!