Why make pasta when you can just buy it?
Good question. It takes more time than picking up a box of it at the grocery store, doesn't it? My reasons include:
1. Fresh pasta tastes better.
2. We like thick noodles. Thick and chewy, slathered in a sauce of some kind.
3. We can use healthier flours (whole grain, sprouted, freshly ground) and avoid unhealthy additives (synthetic vitamins, like niacin, iron, and folic acid).
4. We just like making our own stuff.
Whatever your reasons are, I'm sure that you will find pasta easy enough to make. If you've never made pasta before, it may seem difficult at first. My first experience making pasta was rolling it out by hand, and cutting it into noodles with a pizza cutter. I got frustrated because I couldn't get the dough as thin as I would have liked, and the noodles weren't cut straight and uniform. As it turns out, pasta ends up getting chewed up into an indistinguishable mass of mush, so it doesn't matter what your pasta looks like. The fact is, it was delicious! And my family found that we prefer thicker noodles to the thinner, grocery store version.
If you'd like a thinner noodle though, you can take the extra time to roll it out more thinly, or you can always go the route of a pasta machine. You can get a fancy electric pasta machine or a simple hand cranked one. I have never used an electric machine, so I cannot vouch for the quality of pasta it produces, and it is not worth the money to me, so I'll likely never own one.
We do however, have a hand-cranked pasta machine. This one is an Al Dente brand:
I'm not sure how much this one was, since it was a gift from my husband, but after searching, I found some to be around $50 new, and many used being sold for $20 to $30. If you plan on making pasta regularly, you may want to invest in one--it does save time since it does the rolling for you.
So, basically the process is like this:
1. Mix the ingredients together, and knead them.
2. Allow the dough to rest.
3. Roll the dough out and cut into noodles.
4. Optionally, hang the noodles to dry.
5. Cook them.
My #1 piece of advice for pasta makers is don't be afraid to use flour.
This is especially true if you will be using a pasta machine. To get the dough to roll out smoothly, and then cut cleanly, it helps if it is well floured. Before I roll it through the rollers, I flour it, and before I put the dough through to be cut, I flour it again. I just sprinkle some flour over the dough, and lightly stroke my hand across to distribute it.
Once you have your dough rolled and cut, you will need somewhere to put the noodles until you are ready to cook them. My husband made these wonderful hangers for us:
It was a wire hanger he cut most of the bottom off of, and replaced with a wooden dowel. We hang them from our cabinet handles, and put the noodles on them as we cut them. You could also buy a pasta rack, or just find anything clean to hang them on, like the back of a chair. If none of those options are appealing to you, the noodles can also be either laid flat on a counter or cookie sheet, or just rolled up into little pasta nests until ready to be cooked.
Homemade Pasta (Print)Makes 1 lb.
2 1/3 cups All-Purpose or Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon Olive Oil or Melted Butter
1/3 cup Water
Place 2 cups of the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt and mix together with a fork.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add the eggs and oil. Mix together slightly with your fingers, and then begin adding the water a bit at a time, continuing to mix with your fingers.
Keep adding water and mixing until the dough comes together in a ball. You may need less or more water, depending on the moisture content of your flour.
Sprinkle a kneading surface with flour, and turn the dough ball out onto it. Knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Allow the dough to rest, covered, for at least a half hour. The dough can be kept longer, in the refrigerator, for up to three days; it can also be frozen for later use.
Turn the dough back out onto a lightly floured surface, and cut it into eight pieces. Work with one piece at a time, and keep the remaining pieces covered with a towel.
Roll each piece out with a rolling pin or pasta machine to desired thickness (about 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch work well). Aim to roll the dough into a rectangular shape, but it doesn't need to be perfect. Continue dusting the pasta with flour as needed to prevent sticking and to allow for easier cutting.
Cut the pasta into desired shapes using a knife, pizza cutter, or pasta machine. Hang long noodles as they are cut; smaller noodles can be laid flat on a cookie sheet until you are ready to cook them.
To cook pasta, bring a large pot of water to boil. If desired, add a bit of oil and salt. When the water is boiling vigorously, add the pasta, and stir immediately. Cook fresh pasta about 2 minutes, dried about 4 minutes. Drain and serve.