I never really knew how to make homemade pasta and in fact I'd always assumed you'd need a bunch of fancy equipment to do it. But it turns out that's not true at all. With a rolling pin and a lot of elbow grease, the home cooks of centuries past were able to deliver beautiful bowls of handmade pasta on a nightly basis.
And you can too, because you don't technically need a pasta maker to get the job done. Sure, that machine makes uniform noodles and cuts your workload in half, but if you don't have one and don't feel like buying one, all you really need is a rolling pin and a chef's knife. Here, I use tips and tricks from Summer Miller, pasta-making pro, food journalist, and author of the cookbook New Prairie Kitchen, to prove that the old-school process totally works in a pinch.
Whether you're using a machine or not, your pasta dough recipe should always be the same.
"The basic pasta dough making technique remains the same with or without a machine," Miller explains. All you need is flour and eggs, though she likes to use a bit of salt and olive oil as well. There are a lot of slightly different pasta dough recipes out there but they all follow the same basic measurements. I used 2 cups of flour, 4 egg yolks, 2 whole eggs, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and a generous pinch of salt.
Start on a flat surface (like a wood table or a cutting board). You can use a bowl, but it'll be easier to work with the dough this way. Sure, it'll be a bit messy but that's part of the fun. Then, Miller says you should put the flour on the countertop and make a well in the center that's wide enough to hold the eggs, salt, and oil. Make the well larger than you think it should be so that the eggs don't accidentally flow over the flour. It should look like the photo below.
Then, using a fork, whisk the eggs and the oil in the well, and begin gradually incorporating the mixture into the surrounding flour. Once the dough comes together, Miller says you should knead it until it's smooth and elastic. Kneading the dough is what forms the gluten and gives your pasta the al dente texture you know and love. You shouldn't knead it for too long, because it might become tough and chewy. But if you don't knead it long enough, it will be too mush. So, set a timer and knead it for 8 to 10 minutes. If you aren't sure what kneading looks like, watch the video below.
You'll know your dough is ready when it's smooth and it bounces back quickly when you poke it. Let it rest covered for 30 minutes to an hour before you roll it out.
Once your pasta dough is ready, it's time to start rolling.
Before you get rolling, though, cut the dough into triangular sections as pictured above. You're only going to work with one piece at a time. So, take one triangle and stretch it out into something resembling a rectangle, then quickly roll over it two to three times with a rolling pin. Then, fold it in like a letter on both sides, flip it over, and continue to roll (this will help the dough keep a more uniform shape).
You'll know the dough is ready to cut when you can see your fingers through it.
Roll the dough until it's so thin that you're able to see your fingers through it, which will take anywhere from five to 10 minutes. If you find that the dough sticks to your rolling pin, sprinkle it with a bit of flour to prevent that from continuing to happen.
You can cut your dough into all kinds of different shapes, but the easiest is a simple linguine.
There are obviously tons of different pasta shapes out there, but if this is your first time making homemade pasta, a linguine or spaghetti shape is your easiest option.
To make the noodles, first trim the edges of the dough so that it's more uniform. Then, fold the dough in so the edges meet in the middle. Do it a second time, and then using a chef's knife cut the dough into thin strips.
Hang the noodles so that they don't clump together.
Separate the noodles you cut and hang them from something so that they don't all stick together before you're ready to get cooking. I used a cookie cooling rack, but you could also turn a cutting board on its end so that it's standing vertically and hang the noodles from that.
Then cook the noodles for a few minutes in a salted pot of boiling water.
Unlike dried pasta, your fresh pasta will only need 2 to 3 minutes in boiling water until it's ready to eat. Add it directly to whatever sauce you're using so that all the noodles don't accidentally stick together and form one giant noodle.
To be honest, this was the first time I've ever made homemade pasta dough and I did not have high expectations. But much to my surprise, it turned out really great, which proves that even beginners shouldn't have a hard time with this fun project. Never wonder how to make homemade pasta again!
Try making these recipes with your homemade pasta.
Bucatini With Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce
This sauce is my all-time favorite tomato sauce because all you have to do is dump your ingredients in a baking dish and stick it in the oven. No need to stand over a bubbling skillet when you could just make this instead. Get the recipe here.
Butternut Squash Linguine With Fried Sage
Take advantage of winter squash while it's still in season and make this pasta sauce. Get the recipe here.
With eggs and bacon, this pasta is basically breakfast for dinner. Get the recipe here.