Homemade Pasta: six tips for success

The last time homemade pasta was in vogue, I purchased both a hand-cranked machine, and an extruder attachment for my stand mixer. I played, I rolled, I boiled, and we ate. It was fun, but fairly labor intensive. And between work and family, my pasta-making days were sadly short-lived.

Once again, though, fresh homemade pasta is appearing on the food scene. And thankfully, making and storing your own supply of pasta is easier than ever.

Pull up a chair and join us as we share some basic homemade pasta tips.

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1. Our favorite basic homemade pasta formula

Let’s begin with a basic pasta recipe:

1 large egg per cup of flour used, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons of water as needed.

That’s it, really. Egg, flour, and maybe water.

The flour could be all-purpose, whole wheat, semolina, or a combination of these. Italian-style flour is best if you’re making delicate sheet pasta, like for lasagna. Pastry and cake flours are too soft for homemade pasta.

Some recipes call for added salt, or for adding oil; but they aren’t really necessary for basic pasta dough. You’ll get plenty of saltiness when you cook the pasta in salted water, and the oil is best left as a topping rather than an ingredient.

 

2. Sheets vs. shapes: choose your pasta type

The consistency of the dough will change, depending on the final shape desired. So decide ahead of time what type of pasta you’ll be serving.

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Tubes of some kind – ziti, penne, the macaroni used for this Fresh Macaroni Salad – need a dough that’s fairly dry, in order to pass through an extruder without sticking.

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Make a softer pasta dough, one with added water, for pasta that’ll be rolled into sheets. Once it’s rolled, it can be left whole, to use for lasagna, manicotti, or ravioli; or cut into fettuccine. linguine, or other flat shapes. This Butternut Squash Spinach Lasagna is a good example of pasta that begins life as a softer dough.

 

3. Achieving the best dough consistency

Mix your dough by hand, with a mixer, or in a food processor. The key is to keep an eye on the consistency of the dough more than a clock or timer. When using a mixer, use the dough hook instead of the beater. There’s less surface for the egg to cling to, incorporating it into the flour instead.

Homemade Pasta via @kingarthurflour

Pasta dough for use with extruders – think macaroni, ziti, and other hollow shapes – is a bit different than dough for pasta sheets. It’s drier and doesn’t form a ball as easily. Instead, it looks like pie dough or really lumpy grits. It’ll readily hold together in a clump when squeezed, yet it’s dry enough to cut cleanly.

Homemade Pasta

Pasta dough that’ll be rolled out needs to be softer. It should easily form a ball when squeezed; and just as easily go through the rollers of a pasta machine, yielding soft, smooth, silky sheets of dough, like this spinach pasta for lasagna.

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4. Drying homemade pasta

Once you’ve made your pasta, toss it with some flour to prevent it sticking together. If you’re cooking the pasta right away, it can go directly from the bowl into a pot of boiling water.

If you want to dry your homemade pasta for future use, spread it in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Leave the pasta uncovered in a dry area for 12 to 24 hours, gently stirring and turning it a few times. Flour is fickle, so humidity, temperature, size of the noodles, etc. will all play a part in the total time. A fan can be a big help ensuring your homemade pasta dries quickly and evenly.

When the pasta is completely dry (it should snap when you twist it, not bend), store it airtight at room temperature.

Avoid very humid days for making and drying homemade pasta. If you do decide to make pasta when it’s humid out and drying conditions aren’t optimum, either cook it fresh, or freeze it.

How to Make Pasta via kingarthurflour

5. Freezing homemade pasta

To freeze homemade pasta, place the baking sheet of cut pasta in the freezer for about 15 minutes, or until the individual pieces aren’t sticking to each other or the pan.

Transfer the semi-frozen pasta to airtight bags. Label, date, and place in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Here you see two bags from my freezer. The darker pasta on the left is black pepper pasta made with dough that was a touch too dry. As it sat out and I moved it around to help it dry, the pasta started to break. Again, I’m not going to call it a loss per se. This pasta will go into soup or stew, where it doesn’t play a starring role.

Homemade pasta via @kingarthurflour

6. Don’t overcook your homemade pasta!

Look at these poor noodles! When they crowd the surface of the pot like this, all fat and flabby, they’re probably overcooked.

Homemade pasta cooks much faster than commercially dried pasta. Here’s a little breakdown on approximate times for cooking pasta in boiling, lightly salted water:

Fresh pasta, no drying or freezing: 2 to 3 minutes
Fresh pasta, frozen: 3 to 5 minutes, depending on size
Fresh pasta, air dried: 4 to 7 minutes, depending on size
Commercially dried pasta: 6 to 10 minutes, depending on size

Be sure to have your sauce, toppings, salads, and sides ready at the table  before you drop the pasta into the water. It’ll cook up before you can say “Dinner time!” And cooked pasta waits for no one.

We hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Please share your favorite pasta tips and tricks in our comments below.

For more pasta recipes and tips, check out our additional pasta blog posts.

For the recipe, grab a pen and notecard and jot this down:

1 large egg per cup of flour used, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons of water as needed.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Fil

    Hello

    Would it be possible if someone could answer a few important safety questions regarding how to store fresh egg pasta. Alternatively, if you have an email contact for me to write to in answering the questions below?

    I want to learn more and need help and good advice how I can store fresh egg pasta at home, that’ll be making soon. I’ve heard it can be air dried or frozen, but never sure how either is done safely or timings?

    If I “air-dry”:
    – how long should this take?
    – how is it best stored?
    – should it be kept away from any light?
    – how long can this method be stored?

    If it can be frozen:
    – does pasta have to rest in or out of a fridge before freezing?
    – what is best to freeze it in?
    – how long can it be frozen?

    Many thanks in advance!
    Filippo

    Reply
  2. carolyn 0 Scaturro

    what secret ingredientdo Ronzonii or other pasta makers use to prevent breakage of Rigatoni when you are looking to dry and use at another time.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We wouldn’t know what other companies use, Carolyn, but one unique ingredient worth trying out is Easy Roll Dough Improver. A tablespoon or two added in with your flour helps the dough roll easily and hold its shape beautifully. We hope you’ll give it a go! Annabelle@KAF

  3. Mindy

    I made this pasta, no water and an extra egg yolk, shaped it by hand and left it to dry. It is not almost 24 hours later and it’s not completely dry. It also has turned a grayish color…. did I do something wrong?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like it’s oxidized, which isn’t bad, it’s still OK, just an off color. To prevent this you can always add about 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to your dough. We’re surprised to hear it hasn’t dried yet. It’s possible that there’s just a lot more moisture in the air than we had in our test kitchen, so it just may need more time. Annabelle@KAF

    2. andrea Pattalis

      Hi Mindy,

      This is because the quality of your eggs and flour are supermarket quality. When you start adventuring with italian flour and organic free range eggs, the dough doesn’t turn grey and can last a lot longer

  4. Sandy

    I use a drying rack for my pasta and when removing to store it seems so very brittle and breaks apart easily. Is there a secret to preventing breakage? Perhaps just freezing and skip the drying step?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like it might be getting a little too dry, Sandy. Next time, try doing it just until they’ve set up. This could be just a few hours, rather than the 12-24, depending on how dry the air in your kitchen is. Annabelle@KAF

  5. Martin Lasich

    Whats the best way to make pasta similar to the good store bought dried version? They almost never use eggs! Should I use only flour and water, and dry it out completely?
    Is there a correct water PH for the water added to the dough?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hmm, we don’t have any recipes for pasta that don’t use the traditional combo of flour, eggs, and salt, but it looks like there’s a simple one from Iron Chef Mario Batali that may be of interest to you. The mixing and rolling process would be the same, it’s just using different ingredients.
      As far as we know, the PH isn’t going to make or break a pasta. Annabelle@KAF

  6. Jennifer

    I would like to make different pasta shapes, besides sheet pasta. Is there a machine that you recommend?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Jennifer, the typical pasta machine (like our Atlas) will cut lasagna noodles, fettuccine, or tagliolini (which is like spaghetti). For ravioli, you might want to purchase a ravioli plaque, which takes lasagna-size noodles and allows you to easily fill and seal them into individual circles or squares. If you have a KitchenAid mixer, you can get pasta attachments to make other more involved shapes; I’d suggest you Google “KitchenAid pasta attachment” for details. Good luck! PJH@KAF

    2. Gloria Aiello

      Hi Jennifer: I have a KitchenAid stand mixer and for Christmas my husband gave me the Gourmet Pasta Press attachment, This attachment allows you to make extruded pastas like rigatoni, elbow macaroni, fusilli, bucatini, spaghetti and large macaroni. It is super easy to use. From start to finish (including measuring the ingredients for the pasta dough and cleaning up), I can make a pound of pasta in about an hour. I make fresh pasta a lot more often now because I can make my own shapes. You will need a pasta recipe that is a little stiffer than pasta that you roll flat. I searched on YouTube and google for pasta recipes suited for the gourmet press attachment. Good luck!

  7. Steve M

    As a number of commenters have noted, you can use bread flour to make pasta. If you do, you can substitute water for some or even all of the eggs. You’ll have to kneed it a little longer and let it rest a couple of times while rolling it out.

    The result is a firmer, chewier pasta. Some in my family like it, others think it’s “tough.” I prefer it when making sheet pasta for lasagna and ravioli but usually go with AP flour when making spaghetti or fettuccine.

    Reply
  8. Lacy

    I am hoping to make fresh pasta with my 4 year old daughter. Is it possible to use pasturized liquid eggs to make it safer for her?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Fran. Farina and Semolina are different flours, as semolina is made from durum wheat which is what most pastas are made from, and farina (also known as cream of wheat) is made from hard red wheat. All of our flours are triple sifted before they’re packaged so it isn’t necessary to sift them further. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

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