How to Make Basic Pasta

To make pasta, you can use virtually any combination of flours that equals 2 cups. The best choice may be durum wheat flour. The best of the durum is called semolina. Start with no more than half durum semolina flour in your dough—it’s very coarse and difficult to knead.

Here are a few likely flour combinations: 1 cup durum semolina flour and 1 cup white or whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup semolina flour and 1-1/2 cups white flour. 1 cup whole-­wheat flour and I cup white flour, 2 cups white flour, or 2 cups cake flour.

Use any combination of liquid to equal 1/2 to 3/4 cups of liquid. This may include eggs, egg substitute, or even baby food. The exact amount of liquid will vary with the type of flour used and the humidity of the kitchen.

You may also use any number of optional ingredients in the dough, such as 1/4 tsp salt; 1/4 tsp black or cayenne pepper; 1/4 tsp saffron threads dissolved in 1 tsp hot water; or 2 tsp finely chopped herbs, such as parsley, marjoram, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, or fennel. These ingredients do not alter the nutritional content or the exchange values of the pasta.

Mixing the Dough By Hand

  • On a clean dry surface or in a large bowl, mound the flour and make a deep well in the center. Put the liquid (including eggs) into the well and beat the liquids lightly inside the well.
  • Add any other ingredients to the well, and—using a cir­cular motion—draw the flour into the center of the well from around the sides. Continue mixing in this fashion until the dough is too stiff for you to go on. Lightly dust a clean, dry table or board with flour.
  • Pat the dough into a ball and knead it, adding flour to the dough as it becomes sticky. To knead, dig the palm of your hand into the dough and push outward. Keep turn­ing the dough around so you are kneading different sides, and continue kneading until the dough is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes.
  • Continue lightly dusting the table with flour if the dough sticks to it. If the ball of dough is crumbly, add a few drops of water and knead it to mix the water and flour together well. You are now ready to roll out the dough.
  • Using a Food Processor
  • Combine the flour and egg in the food processor and process until the mixture looks like cornmeal, about 5 to 7 seconds.
  • With the motor running, add the liquid and any other ingredients. Run the processor briefly, until the dough forms a ball that is well blended but not sticky. If the ball is sticky, add flour.  If it is crumbly, add another drop or two of liquid.
  • Turn the dough out onto a dry, floured surface and knead it a few times until it is smooth
  • Using a Bread-Baking Machine
  • Set the machine on dough cycle and put all ingredients into the machine.
  • Once the machine has begun mixing and blending, peek in. If the dough looks very dry, add 1/2 tsp water. If it looks very wet, add flour, beginning with 1 Tbsp. You want the dough to collect in a shiny ball that resembles bread dough.
  • This method takes about l hour, but makes an excellent dough and leaves the kitchen clean.

Rolling the Dough

  • Divide the prepared dough into fourths. Keep the unrolled portions covered so they won’t dry out. If you plan to use a manual or electric pasta machine, you can roll the dough out immediately. However, if you are using a rolling pin, let the dough rest for 20 minutes first.
  • On a floured surface, roll out 1/4 of the dough into a 5 x 7-inch rectangle, about l/l6th inch thick. The dough will be elastic enough not to tear. If the dough becomes sticky at any point, add a little flour. (It’s extremely difficult to cut strips from soft, sticky dough.)
  • Allow the rolled-out dough to rest, uncovered, while you roll out the rest of the dough. Let each portion dry until it begins to feel leathery, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Cutting the Pasta into Strips

  • Sprinkle a clean, dry surface with a light coating of flour. Start to roll up the dough at the narrow end of the rec­tangle, and roll it as you would a jelly roll. The dough should not be easy to roll, but rather elastic and a little resistant.
  • Once you have the dough rolled up, take a serrated knife and cut it crosswise into strips (that is noodles). Cut the strips as wide or narrow as you wish. You can shape the pasta any way you want. For example, wrap the strips around a chopstick and slide them off to make curlicues. It takes practice, but it’s fun!
  • To get the best taste from your homemade pasta, cook and serve it immediately. Or let the newly made pasta dry for an hour. Then place it in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator for 2 days, or freeze it for up to 2 months. When you are ready to use frozen pasta, do not thaw it before plunging it into boiling water.

Filed Under: Food & Cooking


About the Author: Leona Kesler is a head-chef at a very popular food restaurant in New York. Also she is a blogger who shares her experiences, tips, and other informative details about food and cooking. Her recipes are featured on many magazines.

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