Saturday, January 19, 2013

Making Homemade Pasta

As I've got more comfortable working with various dough recipes, I began to think it might be fun to make my own pasta. I could just imagine strands of spaghetti and fettuccine, along with sheets of lasagna noodles draped over wooden racks, drying just so, tracks from Andrea Bocelli's Romanza CD playing in the background, and me, covered oh-so-slightly with a dusting of flour and a satisfied grin on my face.

I then gave myself a Gibbs-Smack and snapped out of it. For starters, I knew pasta dough requires only two basic ingredients: flour and eggs. With my propensity to screw up simple recipes, I knew the risk level was high and the chance of success slim. Second, would the time and effort that I presumed it would take to make pasta be worth it? And last, but not least, I couldn’t justify buying a pasta maker if it turned out that it would become a one-and-done endeavor. Heaven knows I had enough other gadgets that seemed like a good idea at time of purchase, then were shoved to the back of a cupboard, never to be seen again. I shelved the pasta making idea to the back recesses of my brain and tried my hand at other recipes.

Fast forward to about three weeks ago. We were out to dinner with a bunch of friends, when the topic somehow turned to cooking and kitchen gadgets. I mentioned my pasta making desire and the justification issue about buying the equipment. Well, it just so happened that Bruce and Colleen brought their pasta maker to Belize. They hadn’t used it since coming here and offered to lend it to me. Eccellente! (Don’t you just love my command of a foreign language?)

The bright and shiny CucinaPro pasta maker, courtesy of Colleen and Bruce

Anyway, before diving into any pasta making efforts, I thought it might be a good idea to do some research. With it being my first attempt, I didn’t want to use a recipe that would generate tons of pasta, just enough to get the hang of the process. I also wanted to get a consensus for drying methods and times. I ended up going with the info found at the Coquinaria website.
I actually ended up making two batches of pasta on two different days. The following is a mash-up of those experiences.
On the first go-round, I used the flour/egg proportions found in the Coquinaria recipe and used my KitchenAid to blend them together. Because I was aiming for a silky texture, I opted to use Bebe Agua flour, which is finer than regular all purpose. I found I needed to keep scraping down the flour for it to fully incorporate. While kneading it a bit, the dough still felt a bit sticky, so I added more flour before wrapping it up to rest for about 30 minutes.
When the dough was ready, I cut it into four somewhat equal portions and we started the pasta making process. With this type of pasta maker, I suppose you could do it by yourself, if you have three hands. As I don’t, I enlisted David to help.
We feed the dough through the pasta maker a few times, set on its widest setting. Then, we stepped the settings down, one notch at a time, and passed the dough through again. Once it was at the thickness we thought it should be, we passed it through the spaghetti cutter.
The dough was still kinda’ sticky, so it didn’t pass through the blades as smoothly as we would like. But it did look like spaghetti, so we knew we were on the right track. It also went faster than I thought to go through all the settings. Following the recipe, I decided to put the pasta in a bird’s nest:
While it looks cute, it turned out that it wasn’t the best way to dry this pasta…mostly because it was too sticky. The result was that the strands clumped up a bit in spots. On the high side, when I cooked it later that day, we found that, in spite of an occasional clump, the spaghetti tasted good!
The next day, I figured out what adjustments needed to be made to the flour/egg mixture and set to work. This time, I used 1 ½ cups of Bebe Agua flour to two eggs. Also, I went old-school and mixed them by hand.
The result was way, way better with regards to texture…no stickiness! After the dough had rested, we started the pasta making process again.
First pass through the pasta maker at its widest setting

Dough after a couple of more passes
Dough at desired thickness

This time, we made spaghetti and fettucine.
Yea! Fresh made spaghetti!

Instead of putting them into bird nests, I laid them out straight on a lightly floured dishtowel. This worked out great and resulted in none of the strands clumping together.
Spaghetti on the left, fettucine on the right

I wanted to test how the pasta would behave if it wasn’t used right away. So, I put the pasta into zip-lock bags and threw them in the fridge for a few days.
On the night I decided to make the pasta, the strands were still flexible…rather like the texture of store-bought fresh pasta. I opted to cook both pastas, putting the fettucine in the salted water first, then a minute later, adding the spaghetti. All told, it took about five minutes for it to reach the desired doneness.
Earlier in the week, I had made a batch of Bolognese sauce and had that warming on the burner. Everything got plated up and we were ready to dive in.
You guys, the pasta tasted awesome! It tasted fresh and had just enough chew, without being underdone or gummy in any way. It’s what pasta is supposed to taste like.
But then the big question was: is it something we would do again? In short, you bet. It really takes no time at all to make the dough and the process for cutting it through the pasta maker is a breeze. With a tiny bit of planning, it would be easy to do a small batch for dinner any night of the week. That being said, I was so pleased with how the pasta tasted after being refrigerated that I plan to set aside a day to make a big batch of both types of pasta which I can then freeze. In the meantime, I want to figure out some fillings for making ravolinis and tortellinis, then whip up batches of those.
At this rate, I may never go back to using boxed pasta again! Colleen and Bruce: I owe you dinner.


  1. Awesome! I was curious about making my own pasta (if and when I ever get there) and you have answered my question. Thanks Elizabeth, enjoy the blogs so much.

    The Cruisin Camper

  2. We bought a pasta maker just to bring down here with us. It, along with most of our other kitchen things, is still in the US. Hope to have them here in the spring. Will follow your advice on the 1 1/2 c Bebe Aqua to 2 eggs. Can't wait to try it!

  3. there are some great recipes on for sundried (or a semblence of) tomatoes. I have been dying to try it out down there, as tomatoes are cheap! (and I love sundried tomatoes with seafood on pasta!)

  4. oops, sundried comment was from liz and craig

  5. U are quite welcome and we cant wait for dinner....;-}