If you’re looking for a way to add instant authenticity to your meals or to acquire an old-school skill that’s deceptively easy but still impressive, making your own fresh pasta is a good place to start. It’s easier than you might think and surprisingly satisfying. It does take a bit of time, though, so you might want to make extra and store it for later use.
Making Homemade Pasta Isn’t Hard
You don’t need a complicated list of ingredients to make your own fresh pasta at home; in fact, you only need flour and eggs. Some recipes call for a pinch of salt or a splash of olive oil, and others cut down on both eggs and calories by adding a spoonful or two of water to help moisten the dough.
The traditional technique is to hollow out a well in the middle of your flour; then crack your eggs into it. Stir the flour into the eggs with a circular motion, until the dough has incorporated as much flour as it needs. If you’re using a food processor or stand mixer to mix the dough, you’ll need to be more precise. A good basic pasta dough recipe is 3 eggs for every 2 cups of flour, or, alternatively, 1 egg per cup of flour, and water as needed to make the dough come together.
Storing Fresh Pasta
Ideally, you’d cook your fresh pasta as soon as it’s made. Make the dough first; then prep and start your sauce and other ingredients. Next, roll out the pasta while everything else cooks. Fresh pasta cooks almost instantly – in just a few minutes – so it’s actually best if the rest of the meal is ready to go before you drop those noodles into the boiling water.
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If you can’t make the timing work for you or if you want to make enough for multiple meals, you’ll have to store what’s left. Your three basic options are to refrigerate your fresh-made noodles, freeze them or dry them for room-temperature storage.
Refrigerating Homemade Pasta
Refrigerating your newly made noodles is the shortest-term option. It’s best to only refrigerate the pasta until dinnertime the next day. After that, it’ll start to discolor and become unappealing as it oxidizes. To refrigerate your noodles, toss them with a dusting of extra flour. Then transfer the pasta to an airtight container or portion it into individual bags and find a spot for it in the fridge where it won’t be squashed by other foods. The noodles aren’t fragile, as such, but any weight will make them stick and clump together.
Freezing Pasta Dough
You can freeze fresh pasta noodles just as easily as refrigerate them. Start the same way ‒ tossing the noodles with a light dusting of additional flour, then transferring them in separate portions to one or more parchment-lined sheet pans. You can divide them roughly into separate small mounds of noodles, but for a nicer appearance, gently twist each portion of noodles into the traditional nest shape.
Once the noodles are portioned, place the sheet pans in your freezer for 30 to 60 minutes until they’re firmly frozen. Then bag them in individual or family portions, whichever makes more sense for you. Squeeze as much air from the bags as possible; then label and date them for future reference.
You can also freeze the pasta dough, which lets you have fresh-made noodles any time without the mess of starting from scratch. To freeze unrolled, uncut dough, divide it into meal-sized portions and pat each one into a flat disk. Dust the sides lightly with flour; then bag or seal them tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them. To freeze sheets of rolled dough, cut them into lengths of 10 to 12 inches and dust them lightly with flour. Layer them with sheets of parchment or wax paper, either fresh or after first freezing them separately, and seal them in an airtight bag.
Drying Your Pasta
Your third option is to dry the noodles. You can hang them in any number of ways. Freshly cleaned coat hangers work just fine, or you can place a clean wooden dowel across the space between two chairs and drape the noodles over it. For short shapes or noodles shaped into nests, arrange them in a single layer on flour-dusted sheet pans and turn them regularly.
It can take several hours for the pasta to dry completely, depending on your climate and the time of year. Having a fan to circulate air through the room helps a lot, whether it’s a ceiling fan or a portable fan you’ve set up nearby. Once the noodles are dry and brittle, transfer them to sealer jars or airtight storage containers – they’ll break in a bag – and store in a cool, dry place.
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.