Since opening a box of pasta and pouring it into boiling water is so easy, why go to all the trouble of actually making fresh pasta? It’s the flavor! Anyone who has eaten fresh pasta knows how much better it tastes than the dried variety from the grocery store. There’s simply no comparison.
With high-tech blenders and food processors common in many kitchens today, there’s no reason not to make fresh pasta in your own kitchen. The only tricky part is storing the fresh pasta when you’ve finished making a batch ‒ it makes no sense to make only one serving of noodles or linguine. Depending on how soon you want to use your pasta, you can dry it, refrigerate it or store it in the freezer for a later date.
Homemade Pasta Simplified
Homemade pasta is the most basic of recipes, but there’s such mythology surrounding it that many people are leery of even trying a recipe. At its core, pasta dough is simply flour, eggs and water. Some people prefer to add a dash of salt in their dough, but that’s about as elaborate as it gets. The problem, as most people see it, is all that mixing, kneading and rolling.
Step away from the panic button and embrace the fun of making homemade pasta in the 21st century. With small modern appliances, you can enjoy the delicious flavor of your own artisan pasta dishes with almost no effort at all. If you’ve got a stand mixer or a food processor, it will do your kneading for you. As for rolling out the dough, the most basic pasta roller runs under $50, and it will last for years.
Basic Homemade Pasta Recipe
Old-fashioned cooks have been using the same basic pasta recipe for hundreds of years, proving that sometimes simpler is better. The only difference is in how you put the ingredients together. The standard recipe for pasta calls for one large egg to one cup of flour, plus a spoonful or two of water. If you want to add a touch of salt, go ahead. It’s as simple as that.
Use all-purpose flour, semolina, whole wheat or any other type you like. Avoid cake flour and pastry flour because they’re too soft to make a good dough. Italian-style flour is the best flour for pasta, especially if you want to make thin sheets for lasagna or other recipes, but most other flours will make a flavorful dough that works just fine.
Place as many cups of flour as you like in the bowl of your mixing machine. If you want to add salt, put it in and stir it around a bit. Add as many eggs as you did cups of flour, and mix the ingredients until they form a rough ball that basically cleans the side of the bowl. If the dough won’t come together and looks like tiny bits, add water 1 teaspoon at a time. If the dough is too sticky, do the same with flour.
Turning Dough Into Pasta
Once the dough forms a ball, knead it for a few minutes. If you have a dough hook on your stand mixer, let the machine do the work. Otherwise, knead the dough for 3–4 minutes until the dough is smooth. When it’s finished, sprinkle a little bit of flour on the dough ball, put it in a bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it sit on the counter for about a half-hour.
Roll out the dough until it’s in thin sheets, and place the sheets on a floured surface. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to slice the dough into strands as wide as you like. Some pasta rollers even come with cutters that eliminate the need for this last step.
Whether you’re going to use the pasta right away or keep it for later, you need to dry it to a greater or lesser extent. Toss the strands with a little bit of flour to keep them from sticking together; then hang them on a pasta rack or spread them in a single layer on baking sheets. If you plan to use the pasta that same day, dry the noodles for about 30 minutes. This allows the flour to absorb more of the moisture from the eggs.
To make dried noodles for storage takes a bit longer than those you plan to eat right away; therefore, they should be treated differently. If you want to keep your pasta for days or even weeks, you’ll need to dry it completely. This generally takes 12–24 hours, although you can speed up the process by aiming a fan toward the noodles to create a gentle breeze.
Check the noodles every couple of hours to see when they’re ready for storage. The noodle should snap in half when twisted, with no bend or give. Once the pasta is completely dry, pack it in zip-top bags, glass jars or other airtight containers and store it at room temperature.
Storing Homemade Pasta in the Refrigerator
If pasta’s not on the menu tonight or if you’ve made an extra-big batch, you can store your fresh noodles in the refrigerator for up to two days. After dusting them with flour, let them dry for just a few minutes on a baking sheet or another flat surface. Once the noodles are dry to the touch, loosely fold them or create nests with them and let them dry for another half-hour. Wrap the dried pasta or put it in an airtight container to keep it from drying out and cracking, and place it in the refrigerator for a day or two.
Creating Pasta Nests
One of the most attractive ways to store pasta, either fresh or dried, is to create imitation bird’s nests with it. This technique works best with very thin pasta like spaghetti, but it can be successful with any long noodle. The result is a compact circle that’s ideal for single-serving storage.
Grab a handful of pasta strands and dip them in flour to coat them. Shake the strands to remove any excess flour. Allow the past to dry for about 5 minutes on a flat surface. Hold a small bundle of pasta noodles at one end between your thumb and forefinger; then wrap the strands loosely around your hand. Slip the circle of pasta off your hand onto a baking sheet, keeping it in the same round shape. Allow the pasta to dry a bit longer in the round to help it maintain its nested shape.
Freezing Fresh Pasta Dough
If you’ve got the urge to make fresh pasta but no plans to eat it soon, freeze your noodles or even the dough ball and save it all for later. If you want to premake the pasta dough and not cut or roll it, simply wrap it in a double layer of heavy-duty plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for up to four weeks. When you’re ready to make fresh pasta, thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight; then cut and cook the noodles.
Extra-large batches of cut noodles store well in the freezer before you use them. Toss the strands in flour to coat; then shake them to remove any excess flour. Lay the noodles out on a baking sheet and place both noodles and baking sheet in the freezer until the noodles are frozen solid. Freezing them this way prevents their sticking together in the freezer. Remove the pan and package the frozen noodles in individual servings in freezer bags. Mark the “use-by” date on the bag to avoid any loss in quality.