The Art Of Homemade Pasta

pasta
Homemade pasta stores well in a jar. Photo by Mara Ripani

Once you have made your own pasta at home, you will realise that homemade pasta is on a whole other level when it comes to quality and flavour. Not to mention you avoid the plastic and food miles associated with pasta in a packet.

Making pasta at home might seem like a lot of work but it is actually much easier than it appears. It’s also heaps of fun and a really great way to spend time with friends. You don’t have to make it every time you need it either, it is possible to make large quantities of pasta in a day’s session and store it in a jar for use over several months.

Ingredients

The basic recipe for pasta involves two ingredients: water and flour. Although you can make pasta with different types of flour, the best to use is durum semolina, triticum durum, because it produces a dough with adequate elasticity. Durum is ideal for making pasta shapes that use fillings – ravioli, cappelletti, tortellini – because it holds its shape extremely well when filled.

Unfortunately, durum is not always readily available as Australian-grown or is often imported with lots of food miles. Bellata Gold Milling, in Tamworth, NSW, is one of the few millers that sells it, with five and 20 kilogram bags of durum flour available.

Quantities And Ratios

The basic recipe calls for a 2:1 ratio of flour to water: to 400 g of flour, add 200 ml of water. The aim is to create a dough that is cohesive, stretchy, not sticky but also not dry. Allow 100 g of flour per person for a main meal.

The quantity of water will vary slightly for wholemeal flour. Add an extra 30 ml per 400 g if using wholemeal flour. If combining 200 g stone milled unbleached sifted white with 200 g of wholemeal, the liquid will be around 210 ml.

Note that rye and emmer are only suitable in very small proportions for making pasta. If the total flour is 400 g, then use 350 g of sifted stoneground unbleached white and only 50 g of rye or emmer.

To make an enriched dough, substitute water with eggs. Use a measuring jug to measure 200 ml of eggs.

Clockwise from above left: When the dough is smooth and glossy it is ready to rest; Passing the lasagna sheets through the cutters to make capelli d’angelo; Placing edible flowers in the pasta dough. Photos by Mara Ripani

Basic Pasta Dough Recipe

Ingredients:

400 g of flour

200–230 ml water or eggs

Method:

  1. Place flour in a bowl and make a well in its centre. Add eggs or water and begin mixing until a dough is formed. Take dough out of the bowl for kneading. Don’t add any flour to the work surface at this stage.
  2. Knead by using the palm of the hand and stretching the dough along the work surface then dragging it back. It is important to knead for a full 10 minutes. Once dough has become smooth and glossy, rest it for 30 minutes. Place the bowl you previously used over the dough so it doesn’t dry.
  3. This is an important stage because as soon as the kneading is done, the gluten in the dough will start moving and reorganising itself. It is hard to work with unrested dough because it will spring back when it’s being rolled out.
  4. At the end of the 30 minutes rest, the dough can be shaped to create a variety of pastas. The easiest to form are lasagna sheets, which is great because the sheets are also the foundation for most pasta shapes.

Lasagna Sheets

How to make lasagna sheets with a rolling pin

Using a rolling pin, aim for about 2 mm thickness. Start by flattening the dough with the weight of your hands and then press the rolling pin into it and roll away from you. Then turn the dough 90 degrees and roll again away from you. Repeat until the desired thickness is achieved. Then use a butter knife or pasta cutter to cut long lengths about 10 cm wide. Then cut across the length at 15 cm intervals, aiming for similar lengths of pasta.

How to make lasagna sheets with a pasta machine

Cut a handful of dough with a butter knife. (Leave the rest of the dough under the bowl so it doesn’t dry.) Flatten the handful of dough with the palm of your hand and lightly flour both sides of the dough.

Put the dough through the machine according to the instructions. Start with the widest setting (the lowest number), feeding it through the rollers. Fold the extended dough into three, dust both sides of the dough lightly and pass through rollers again on the same setting. Repeat five times.

Dust both sides lightly with flour, dial to the next setting and feed the dough through the rollers. Repeat, gradually making the dough thinner, by adjusting the dial.

If during this extension process the length becomes unmanageable, cut it in half and work with each half individually.

Cut the long pasta lengths to 10 cm lengths, dust well with flour on one side and place on a tea towel with the dusted side down. Continue working through all of the dough and then place a cake rack as a weight on top of the sheets to stop them curling as they dry.

For something really special, use edible flowers in the pasta dough itself either by adding lots of petals at the very beginning of the dough making process or by adding flower petals during the extension stage. If adding during the extension stage, extend the dough up to setting number three on the roller. Add flower petals randomly or neatly scattered to one half of the stretched/lengthened dough. Then fold the length on itself. Then pass through the pasta machine back at number 1 (the larger gap between the rollers), to allow for the doubling in thickness of the folded pasta sheet.

Sheets can be used immediately to make lasagna or they can be air-dried at room temperature (unless the ambient temperature is below 18 and humid). If used straight away, don’t precook and ensure the sauce used for the lasagna is not too dry. This will allow the sheets to cook well. If the lasagne sheets are to be stored, wait until they are crispy dry before packing in an airtight container.

pasta
Passing the dough through the pasta machine. Photo by Mara Ripani

Tagliatelle E Capelli D’Angelo (Angels Hair)

Tagliatelle and capelli d’angelo are some of the easiest pasta shapes to make. Instead of placing the first lasagna sheet on the tea towel, dust both sides of the sheet with flour and pass it through the tagliatelle cutter or the capelli d’angelo cutter.

Then place on a chopping board or table to dry. Don’t hang because the strands will crack and fall as they dry. Instead, place the strands randomly on the chosen surface, dust heavily and fluff up about every 15 minutes while you continue making the rest of the tagliatelle or capelli d’angelo. Leave the pasta on the board and continue to lightly fluff and heavily dust with flour until crispy dry; then store in an airtight container.

Mezza Luna (Half Moon), Ravioli Rotondi, Tortelli E Cappelletti

These pasta shapes use fillings and are best made in the company of friends, as making enough for a meal for four can take the better part of the day. Cook straight away unless storing them in the freezer.

Mezza luna pasta is really easy to make. Cut circles from each lasagne sheet as it is made. Don’t wait until all the sheets are made or they will dry. Use a round pasta cutter or any other kitchen tool that is readily available. Be careful using glass.

Fill the centre of the circular pasta shape with filling. Fold in two to create a half moon shape. Press the edges with a fork to seal and rest on a floured surface until ready to cook.

Or, after folding the pasta circle in two, take the ends of the mezza luna and stick the ends to each other to create tortelli!

To make ravioli rotondi, use a round pasta cutter. Work with the length of the original pasta sheet prior to cutting it to smaller lengths suitable for making lasagna. Place numerous fillings along the length of the pasta sheet in the middle and then fold the top half of the sheet onto the bottom half. Press down and around each filling with your fingers a little and then cut with the pasta cutter. Place on a flour-dusted surface.

To make cappelletti, cut square shapes into the pasta sheet, using a ruler or square cutter. Place filling in the centre. Fold each cut square into a triangle and then bring the tips of the triangle together and stick them to each other.

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Clockwise from above left: Press the edges with a fork to seal; Cappelletti with an edible flower filling; Making ravioli rotondi with an edible flower filling; Mezza luna pasta (half moon pasta); Take the two ends of the mezza luna and stick together to create tortelli. Photos by Mara Ripani

Fillings

Make sure the filling is not a wet filling or it will be impossible to stop it from sticking to your fingers and from wetting the pasta, making it unworkable.

Edible flower filling

In spring, there are often lots of edible flowers in kitchen gardens – blue cornflowers, pansies, calendula, borage flowers; and herbs – thyme, dill, fennel leaves. Mix different flower petals and herb leaves together and group in the centre of the mezza luna circles. Or take a whole nettle leaf and press it into each mezza luna circle so that it appears on the outside in a decorative fashion.

Pumpkin

Slice pumpkin thinly, coat in oil and salt and bake until very caramelised. Mash and add crumbed well-drained fetta and enough almond meal to create a very thick paste.

Broad beans

Use very young broad beans, so the bean inside is still soft and its outer skin still supple. Place a handful in a food processor with a dash of lemon, salt and shiro miso. Add almond meal to thicken into a pliable but thick paste that can be easily moulded into tiny balls of filling.

Cutting pasta
Cutting pasta. Photo by Mara Ripani

Cooking Pasta

Once the chosen pasta shape is made, place in boiling, salted water with a dash of oil and cook for just a few minutes, or until the pasta floats, then enjoy it in the company of friends and your favourite pasta sauce.

Making homemade pasta with others (like other hands-on projects involving togetherness) also fosters an intimate microclimate for important conversations to happen.

Buon appetito cari amici!

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