Making Pasta by Hand
Making pasta is a little like culinary alchemy. With a minimum of mixing, kneading, and shaping, the simplest of ingredients -- flour, water, oil, salt, and eggs -- are transformed into edible gold. Homemade pasta is easy to prepare, whether by hand or with a simple pasta machine available at most cookware stores.
Why make your own pasta if you can purchase it ready made? You can taste the difference. The result is more tender and delicate than packaged pasta, and will more fully absorb whatever sauce coats it. However, a quality purchased fresh or dried pasta can be almost as good as the pasta you prepare from scratch.
In the following steps you’ll learn to make delicate narrow and wide ribbons, wrappers for stuffing manicotti and cannelloni, the little bundles known as ravioli and tortellini, and broad sheets for layered lasagne. You’ll also discover the secrets to hand-shaping bow tie-shaped farfalle, the little cups called orecchiette, and more. For all of these and for any dish that calls for homemade pasta, use our basic recipes. The recipe is so simple that after the first few times you prepare it you probably won’t even need to refer to it. Or, use purchased fresh pasta, available in the refrigerated case of many supermarkets.
This technique demonstrates the essential steps for making pasta dough completely by hand. Other of our related techniques describe how to mix pasta dough with a food processor, and the proper way to knead and roll the dough with a hand-cranked pasta maker that clamps onto a kitchen counter or table. Still other related techniques detail how to cut and shape pasta dough and how to identify and use the myriad dry pasta shapes available. Even the best pasta, whether fresh or dried, can be ruined if improperly cooked. Our steps for cooking pasta explain this elementary but critical technique. Most of our pasta recipes call for twice as much uncooked fresh pasta (homemade or purchased) as dried.
Adding Egg Mixture to Flour
Stir together flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well or depression in the center. In another bowl combine eggs, water, and oil and pour liquid into the well of the flour mixture. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
Kneading by Hand
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. To knead, curve your fingers over the edge of the dough and pull it toward you. Then push down and away with the heel of your hand. Give the dough a quarter turn, fold toward you, and repeat the process. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes before rolling out.
Rolling the Dough
Divide the dough into recipe-sized portions, usually in fourths. Set one portion on a floured work surface. Flatten with a rolling pin to about a 1/8-inch thickness. Cover the remaining dough with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap so it won't dry out, or freeze for later use (see Storing Dough).
Rolling Dough to 1/16 Inch
Continue rolling the dough until it is 1/16-inch thick. A one-quarter portion will roll out to a square about 12x12 inches. After rolling, let the dough rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes so the surface will dry slightly.