How To Make Your Own Pasta

The best pasta takes the right ingredients and a little skill.
The best pasta takes the right ingredients and a little skill.

Each year, the U.S. produces about 1.9 million tons of pasta, according to ILovePasta.com. That’s a lot of cappelletti, fettuccine, manicotti and penne. While you individually can’t hope to produce that amount yourself, preparing pasta individually is one way to ensure a healthy and nutritious meal. As it turns out, you just need some flour, a few eggs, a little elbow grease and a bit of time.

It’s all about the dough
Worthwhile pasta begins with the best dough possible. You always want to make sure that you’re working with smooth dough, and that means using the right amount of kneading and moisture. The dough should always be kneaded thoroughly, which means anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Kneading helps to reduce air pockets, and these imperfections can keep the dough from maintaining the proper consistency. You also need to make sure the dough does not dry out, which impacts both taste and quality. Your best bet is to separate the dough into smaller pieces and try to keep each ball covered in enough flower as to protect the internal moisture.

Don’t skimp on the ingredients 
Most recipes for pasta dough call for a set number of ingredients. That means two to three eggs, depending upon the amount of pasta, and a couple cups of flour. There’s a few different flour options, but the best kind is usually high in protein and finely milled. As America’s Test Kitchen pointed out, there are a few adjustments to the recipe that can yield a dough of much higher quality. ATK uses a total of eight eggs in their recipe. All that added yolk means more fat and emulsifiers, which help give the dough a much more sturdy structure. They also add olive oil into the mix. This helps prevent the formation of certain gluten strands and makes the dough more malleable and elastic. No matter what, you want dough that is easy to handle and shape.

Cutting and shaping pasta
As ILovePasta.com explained, there’s nearly 600 shapes of different pasta produced. Though many of these often taste fairly similar, their varying shapes and lengths make each one better suited for certain dishes. Here is a primer on just a few popular shapes:

  • Tagliatte and fettucine: To begin, fold the pasta into three-inch strips. Then, using a sharp knife, cut a flattened roll. Tagliatte should be about a quarter inch, while fettuccine should be about a fifth of an inch.
  • Lasagna: Having flattened the dough as much as possible, use a knife to cut out a sheet. For standard size lasagna strips – 3×13 inches – the sheet should be about 9×13 inches. When making the strips themselves, opt for a fluted pastry wheel, which can help create the wavy edge.
  • Farfalle: Once again, the fluted pastry wheel will come in handy, as you need to cut a sheet into two-inch wavy strips. From there, cut the stripes into two-inch squares. Using your thumb and forefinger, pinch the squares into bowtie shapes; this works best if your hands are properly moisturized. Always let the bowties dry before cooking them as to ensure stability.

No matter the shape of the pasta, keep some flour on hand to use throughout the cutting process.

Further practice your pasta making skills by enrolling in online cooking school.

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