Sunday, August 29, 2010

Home-made Pasta

This is my home-made whole-wheat pasta!  I just realized that it looks a lot like ramen noodles.  Probably because of the "earthy hue" the whole wheat flour lends to the finished product.

I first made home-made pasta with my friend, Judy.  She is a gourmet cook and loves to experiment with food.  She wanted to learn how to make pasta and invited a group of friends over to her house for a pasta-making party.  It was indeed a party!  We made about four pounds of pasta--which Judy subsequently transformed into a delicious Lemon Pepper Alfredo.  We ate like kings that evening!

I enjoyed the process so much that I borrowed a pasta-making machine from one of my friends and proceeded to make some at home.  There are some tricks to making pasta at home, by yourself.  One of those tricks is something I borrowed from Alton Brown: Clamp the pasta machine to an ironing-board covered with a plastic tablecloth.  Brilliant!  The plastic tablecloth allows you to slide the pasta sheet along the surface as you roll it through the machine. 

So, aside from the purchase of an actual pasta-maker (new models range from $25-$100's of dollars on, making pasta at home is DIRT CHEAP.  The basic ingredients are flour, an egg, and water.  That's it.  Want to make flavored pasta?  How's about lemon pepper?  Easy--lemon zest and freshly grated pepper.  Delicious and still cheap.  Pasta is so forgiving that it will accept most fresh or dried herbs, or really, almost any flavoring that doesn't add a lot of moisture to the dough.  And even then, if you plan far enough ahead, it will work well with a wet flavoring.

It is time-consuming, if you do it all by hand.  About 1 1/2 hours from start to finish, including a 30-minute resting period in the fridge.  I use a food processor for the initial mixing--this cuts down the prep time by a good 10-15 minutes.  Because of the time involved, I generally make a couple of batches at a time and then freeze the fresh pasta (but not yet cooked).  Fresh pasta cooks very quickly--about 4 minutes.  It takes longer for the pot of water to come to a boil!

And now, the recipe for home-made pasta...

Home-Made Whole-Wheat Pasta

Yield: 1 lb of fresh pasta

1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 egg
enough water to form a dough ball, about 1/4 cup
additional all-purpose flour for kneading and rolling

1) Add the two flours to the bowl of the food processor.  Pulse a few times to mix the two flours together.
2) Add the egg.  Pulse a few more times to thoroughly mix the egg into the flour mixture.  The resulting mixture will look a bit crumbly, see the picture below.

3) Set the food processor to run, and drizzle water a little bit at a time through the feed tube, until the dough forms a dough ball.  You want the dough ball to be as dry as possibly but still stick together.  It should feel a little tacky but not wet.  Here's what my dough ball looks like:

4) Dump the dough ball and any extra bits onto a floured counter top.

Knead it by hand for five minutes.  Doing so develops the gluten in the dough and produces an elastic dough that will be easier to run through the pasta machine.

5) Divide the dough ball into quarters:

Doing so makes it easier to handle once you start rolling the dough through the pasta machine.  Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for 30 minutes.  This lets the dough relax.

6) Cover your ironing board with a vinyl tablecloth (a clean, large, garbage bag will do in a pinch).  Clamp the pasta-machine to the wide end of the board, about 6 inches from the end.  This gives you enough room to pick up the finish pasta from the cutters.  Dust the work surface with all-purpose flour, replenishing it as needed.  Run the dough ball through the pasta maker as directed (this Youtube video  by Mike Iem offers a great little tutorial).

7) You can then immediately cook the pasta or you can immediately freeze the fresh pasta in Ziploc bags.  Date the bags...the pasta is good for a couple of months in the freezer.  You can also completely dry the fresh pasta (here are some gadgets to dry can also probably use a clean clothes dryer).  I prefer to freeze the pasta; it takes much less work on my part!

To cook freshly made pasta:
1) Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add 1/2 tsp of salt.  Taste the should taste a little salty.  If it doesn't add another 1/4-1/2 tsp of salt until it tastes a little salty.  I've learned from experience that my fresh, home-made pasta tastes horribly bland unless I salt the water.
2) Add the pasta and set a timer for 2 minutes.  Check the pasta.  It should be al dente.  If not, keep checking in about 30-second increments until it is al dente. Fresh pasta cooks up very quickly--and once it's past it's prime, it tastes pretty gummy and yucky.

To cook fresh pasta that has been frozen: Follow step 1 of the above directions.  Take the frozen pasta from the freezer and add it directly to the boiling water.  There is no need to defrost.  Set a timer for 3-4 minutes (start with 3 minutes).  Then follow the remaining directions of step 2 above.

To cook fresh pasta that has been completely dried: Follow step 1 of the above directions.  Then cook the dried pasta as you would any other dried pasta.




  1. I must try this. I like all your realistic photos - of a real kitchen in a real person's house. Makes me think I can do it too.

  2. Hi Fran,
    Thanks for the comment! I'm so glad that my post has inspired you! I'm working on a new post about home-made pasta--the new one has video! It should go up on the blog this week.