Well, Harold McGee said, ‘pasta is nothing more than wheat flour and water (or eggs) combined to make a clay-like mass, formed into small pieces, and boiled in water until cooked through.’ Of course, the same applies to fresh homemade pasta.
I think even though his words are true, he’s wrong with making it so boring. Pasta is not like that, at least not the fresh homemade pasta. Yes, the technique is very simple, but if we look at how many pasta types, sauces, preparation methods there are, believe me, nothing is boring about it.
So let’s start with making fresh homemade pasta dough.
You may ask, ‘why should I make homemade pasta instead of buying one?’
There is a huge advantage to make your own pasta. You see, mass-produced fresh pasta is a poor imitation of what it actually should be because, more and more often, it has a gluey texture which is gross… And, by the way, your own pasta is much more delicious and richer in flavor.
How to make fresh homemade pasta dough by hand?
As I mentioned above, it is made by combining wheat flour with eggs to get a stiff dough. Then the dough is kneaded until smooth, allowed to rest and relax, rolled out, and cut into desired shapes. So simple, isn’t it?
But let’s talk more about the technique and why we have to do certain things.
You can find a full printable recipe with measurements and directions on the page down below.
1. Combine all ingredients and knead the dough firmly by hand for 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.
So, here are a few things I want to explain.
We use olive oil to make a smoother and easier to handle dough. There is basically no other reason. It’s even better if you can make the dough without oil.
Kneading the dough for 10 minutes or more is important because using your effort during that time, you build gluten networks and create a strong, elastic dough. You’ll be surprised how nice it looks!
However, kneading for too long can be harmful and can cause tough and rubbery dough.
2. Wrap in cling film and rest the dough in the fridge for 1 hour.
While resting, gluten fibers spring back, and starch granules absorb the moisture. It means the dough is getting ready, and it’s gonna be easier to handle when rolling and shaping.
3. Flour the working surface, unwrap the dough (leave half of it wrapped aside), roll till about 2mm thickness, then cut into the desired shapes.
Even though we roll the dough to shape the pasta, rolling also helps for further gluten development. So, if you have a pasta machine, I recommend folding the dough into thirds, pass it through the thickest setting, and repeat 5-6 times.
4. Cook until al dente in boiling water.
Which flour to use?
When making pasta, it’s important to develop enough gluten for flexibility. Still, not too much, so it’s not hard to handle.
We can regulate that by choosing the right flour.
Most recipes often suggest using ’00’ Italian flour, which is great because they are most finely milled and powdery. ’00’ flour is what makes your pasta extremely silky and smooth.
But it is not essential.
To make good fresh egg pasta, you need flour with a 7-11% protein level (low in protein) because eggs also provide the required protein.
Flour with 7-11% protein provides medium-strength gluten and gives us that pasta bite feeling we are searching for. However, using high-protein flour would cause dense and rubbery dough.
Thus, don’t stress too much about it and simply use all-purpose white flour or cake flour, and you’re gonna be just fine.
You may ask, ‘what flour uses mass-produced dried pasta?’
Mass-produced dried pasta is made without eggs, using only water. Therefore, they use Durum wheat flour that has high protein content.
What functions do the eggs perform?
First of all, as I said above, eggs provide the protein needed because we have to use low protein flour. This combination is why we can create cohesive, slightly elastic, silky, and light-colored dough.
Some cooks use only yolks which make richer, yellower, but more fragile pasta. Either way (whole eggs or only yolks), fat content from the yolks is very important cause it causes more delicate dough and tender homemade pasta.
You may wonder what the egg white purpose is and do we need to use it at all. Well, actually, we need to because it’s why we have a cohesive and firm dough. Also, egg whites reduce the gelation and leaking of starch granules while cooking. So, if you don’t stir pasta while cooking, it might be helpful.
How to store the fresh pasta?
As you can see, to make fresh pasta, we use eggs which makes the pasta highly perishable, and it may carry salmonella contamination. So, therefore, use or dry fresh pasta immediately, or refrigerate or freeze it. Long drying at room temperature may also allow microbes to multiply to hazardous levels.
Pasta recipes you’re gonna love:
Fresh homemade pasta dough recipe from scratch
- 170g all-purpose flour
- 2 whole medium eggs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- a splash of olive oil
- In a bowl or on a clean, dry surface, pour flour, make a well in the center, and add eggs, salt, and oil. Beat the eggs with a fork and gradually bind the flour with the eggs. Knead the dough firmly by hand for 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.
- Wrap in cling film and rest the dough in the fridge for 1 hour.
- Flour the working surface, unwrap the dough (leave half of it wrapped aside), roll till about 2mm thickness, then cut into the desired shapes.
- Cook until al dente in boiling water.