I Learned During Quarantine That It's Not That Hard to Make Your Own Pasta

Jennifer Geer

If I can do it, so can you. Here's how.

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Baking was all the rage in 2020. Many of us, with more time on our hands than ever before, turned to baking as a way to pass the hours. In addition to having more time, we were stressed.

Stressed people tend to crave high carbohydrate type foods. Flour became a hot commodity at the grocery store. There were times my local grocery store was sold out of every type of flour.

The first baking trend to make the rounds was sourdough bread. A neighbor gave me a starter, and I carefully fed it every week. At least until I forgot about it sometime around Thanksgiving, and it sat at the back of my fridge and died.

But while it lasted, it made delicious bread. I experimented and found I could also make amazing overnight biscuits. They were flaky and buttery and reminded me of the type of biscuits you can only find in the south. There is no question southerners know how to make biscuits.

Sourdough pancakes, however, I'm not recommending you try those. My attempt at sourdough pancakes turned out to be a flop. Nobody in my family would eat them. Sadly, all that hard-to-find flour was wasted. In the end, the sourdough starter was never going to last for me. I was always worried I'd let it sit too long. And while starters are sturdier than you'd think, still, it's one more thing to worry about. And who needs that?

Fresh pasta for the win

But my all-time favorite recipe I learned to make in quarantine is homemade pasta. It is completely different from the store-bought, dried variety. If you haven't given it a try, you should. It's not that hard. Although it does require some equipment if you want to keep the workload to a minimum.

It's not that fresh pasta is better than dried, but it is different. The tender texture of fresh pasta is well suited to cream sauces, butter, and ravioli. Whereas dried pasta is delicious with oil-based and tomato sauces.

Do you need a pasta maker?

No, but it does make it easier. I don't usually like kitchen tools that are only good for one use (I'm talking to you, egg separator), but I break the rules for this. I use a hand crank one that you can get for around $30 on Amazon. They make electric ones that are more expensive. Or you can buy an attachment for your KitchenAid.

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Do you need a pasta drying rack?

No, but they're relatively inexpensive, and they make drying your pasta faster and easier. You can also hang your pasta on a coat hanger or lie it out to dry on baking sheets covered in parchment paper. I bought this one because I like how it folds up and stores when I'm not using it.

Fresh pasta recipe

I started with this basic pasta dough recipe from Bon Appetit but found I needed more flour. I added too much flour, and it needed another egg. Then, I had to up the salt and olive oil measurements. Below is what I found out worked best for my dough.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions using a stand mixer

  1. Add all ingredients (starting with 2-1/2 cups flour) to the mixing bowl.
  2. Using the hook attachment, knead the dough at low speed until it comes together. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes. You want your dough to be pliable and smooth.
  3. If the dough is sticky, add in more flour as needed. I usually end up with around 3 cups in total. You want the dough to be fairly dry. Keep adding flour until it is no longer sticky or tacky.
  4. Continue to knead the dough with the hook until it is smooth and elastic.
  5. Take the dough out of the bowl and form it into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling out. Or you can refrigerate it for up to two days.

Directions without a stand mixer

  1. Place 2 1/2 cups flour on your clean counter or a cutting board. Using your fingers or a spoon, make a well in the center of the flour.
  2. Add the eggs to the well. Pour the oil and sprinkle the salt on the eggs.
  3. Stir the eggs with a fork, gradually adding surrounding flour into the egg mixture as you go. Keep stirring with your fork until you have a dough that you can work with your hands.
  4. If the dough is sticky, add in more flour as needed. I usually end up with around 3 cups in total. You want the dough to be fairly dry. Keep adding flour until it is no longer sticky or tacky.
  5. Knead the dough with your hands until it is smooth and elastic.
  6. Form the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling out. Or you can refrigerate it for up to two days.

How to roll out your dough using a pasta maker

  1. After your dough has rested, transfer it to a clean surface. Cut it with a knife into four equal parts.
  2. Rewrap the dough you aren't using. Take one part and shape it with your hands into a flat oval.
  3. Sprinkle it with flour on both sides so it won't stick, and run it through the machine on the widest setting (number 1).
  4. Fold your sheet into thirds (like a letter) and put it through again.
  5. Repeat two or three more times on the widest setting.
  6. Sprinkle flour on the dough in between rolling if it begins to stick. (I use a lot of flour.)
  7. Now start working it through the more narrow settings. Your pasta maker should come with a guide based on what type of noodle you want. I like to use number 4 for spaghetti and fettucini.
  8. At this point, it's nice to have a helper. They can either crank, or they can catch the dough as it is rolled, being careful not to let it stretch or tear.
  9. Once your dough is the right thickness it's time to cut your noodles. Move your hand crank to the upper section, based on your manual's instructions, and choose your noodle width.
  10. Hang your noodles to dry on your drying rack. Or lay them out on a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you lay them out, be sure to separate them and sprinkle them with flour or cornmeal to avoid your noodles turning into a clumpy ball of dough. (Trust me on this. I learned it the hard way.)
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How to roll out your dough by hand

You have to roll out your dough to whatever thickness you desire based on what type of noodle you are making. Then you cut ribbons out of it for your noodles.

I'll admit, I've always used a pasta maker. But, if you don't have one, don't let that stop you. There are some great tutorials for rolling out pasta dough by hand on the internet.

I recommend watching how to do it if you are rolling it out by hand, it's much easier to view than to try to explain it.

Once your noodles are ready, follow step 10 above.

How to cook

Cook fresh pasta in boiling water for two to three minutes. It is done when the color has lightened, and it is still firm, yet tender (otherwise known as al dente.)

How to store

You can cook your noodles immediately. Or, let them air dry for at least 30 minutes to two hours. They can be stored in airtight bags in the refrigerator for two to three days or frozen for two to three months. If cooking from frozen, you will need to add a few minutes to the boiling time.

Alternatively, you can let the noodles completely dry out (this will take one to two days.) They will last a few months in airtight containers at room temperature. Add a few minutes of cooking time to fully dried pasta.

What to do with your fresh pasta?

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Choose your favorite sauce to put over your freshly cooked noodles. Or, for an easy dish, toss noodles with butter, salt, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on some fresh parsley if desired.

Add a green salad to go with it, and you've got dinner fit for an Italian restaurant, straight from your kitchen.

#nbholidaycheer

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area. New articles published each weekday.

Chicago, IL
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