Many months ago, when I posted this recipe for beef ragu, I threatened to teach you how to make handmade pasta from scratch. I am finally making good on that promise.
Making pasta from scratch is not that difficult if you’ve got a pasta machine and an entry-level understanding of how gluten works. You can also make it with a rolling pin, but the noodles will be chunkier and chewier — which is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on the sauce you’re pairing it with.
This recipe is very image-intensive because, while the ingredients and the instructions are simple, you do need to know what you’re looking for. Don't be alarmed. Try being curious instead.
Let’s roll our sleeves up then, shall we?
What you’ll need to make handmade pasta from scratch:
Fearlessness in the face of gluten
A willingness to embrace chaos and get your hands dirty
Flour (I've tried both regular cake flour and typo 00 flour to equally satisfactory effect)
A dough scraper (not critical, but certainly very helpful)
A bakkie of extra flour readily available for sprinkling
How to make handmade pasta from scratch
Step One: Prep your kak
Here's how I measure pasta dough out: one egg and one heaping handful of flour per person. This is just to start the dough; you can always add more flour later.
Remember to keep a bakkie of spare flour to the side so that you can easily add more flour and sprinkle your worktop as you go.
Start by measuring out your beginner flour and making a well in the middle. Ready your fork and your dough scraper, because things are about to get frighteningly messy.
Step Two: Crack in your eggs and begin mixing
Crack your eggs into the well you've made. Toss in a pinch of salt.
Begin by whisking the egg with a fork. It will probably break and spill all over your counter. Prepare to curse, get raw egg all over your hands, and consider giving up. Trust the process.
When the flour and egg are mostly incorporated, you can use a dough scraper to chop up the dough and scrape it back together. This takes care of the sticky bits more effectively than hands alone. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add a sprinkle of flour.
Keep going and knead with your hands. It helps to keep the worktop lightly dusted with flour to evenly incorporate more flour into the mix and prevent sticking.
Eventually, the dough will become a semblance of a ball.
Step Three: Knead the dough until it's springy
At this point, it's prudent to start timing yourself. I kneaded this dough for a further five minutes before I got my desired consistency. Knead the dough by pushing down with the heel of your hand, then rolling it back on itself with the lower half of your fingers. Alternate with left and right hands.
By the time five minutes have passed, you should be left with a relatively smooth, pliant ball of dough with a similar consistency to Play-Doh. You can test the gluten activity in the dough by pressing down with your fingertip. If the indentation springs back, that's good. Note: the indentation will not spring back to being completely smooth; it will just rise slightly.
Step Four: Give her a break
Okay, we've worked the dough out and she needs a nap. Cover the ball in clingfilm or pop it in a bowl covered with a damp dish cloth. Put her in the fridge for at least half an hour to rest.
Step Five: Roll her out
Once the dough is rested, take her out and put her on a worktop dusted with flour.
Now, divide the dough in two with a dough scraper or a knife.
Now, roll one half the dough into a spherical shape and roll her out slightly with a rolling pin. You just need to get the dough flat enough to feed into the pasta machine, which will press it really flat.
Step Six: Ready the pasta machine
Set your pasta machine to level one.
The pasta machine works a bit like a torture rack from the Middle Ages. Feed the edge of the flattened dough disk between the rollers and then turn the crank, laughing maniacally (optional).
You'll get a much longer, flatter, and more oblong shape like this:
Now, you're going to fold each of the long outer edges inwards to meet halfway, like closing the shutters on a window.
Give it a roll with the rolling to make sure it sticks, then put it through the pasta machine on level one once more. You'll land up with this:
Now, with the window shutters facing you as above, fold the dough sheet in half so that the short edges meet each other.
This is a lot of faffing around, I know, but folding the dough like this gives you even edges to cut into uniform strips later on. It also works the gluten a little more to give you an al dente pasta when all is said and done. Anyway, put this guy through the pasta machine on level one one last time.
Step Seven: Roll through the numbers
Okay, this part is pretty intuitive. Repeat the rolling mechanism with the pasta machine from level one to level nine, which is usually as far as it goes on a pasta machine. Regularly dust the pasta sheet with flour so that it doesn't stick to the machine or to itself when it gets thin to pile on itself when you're rolling it out through the torture rack.
At the end of this process, you'll land up with a sheet of pasta that is approximately this thin:
Step Eight: Trim the edges
Your work station should look something like this: note the bakkie of spare flour, and plenty of room to lay out the flat dough.
Now, simply slice the uneven ends of the dough sheet off with a knife so that you're left with a more straight-edged rectangle.
Step Nine: Fold and cut into strips
This step is optional — if you have a pasta machine, you probably have the attachment that cuts the dough into spaghetti or linguine for you. I prefer the more rustic, generous ribbons produced by hand cutting. If you want to use the attachment, simply roll the dough sheet through the cutter.
So, gently fold the rectangle in half once. Then fold in thirds until the ends match up, like this:
It's just like folding laundry with the KonMari method!
Next, cut strips of about 1.5cm each. Make sure that you're slicing downwards.
When you unroll your pasta origami, you should get a lovely ribbon like this:
Well done, queen. You just made pasta.
Step Ten: Casually drop into conversation that you make your own pasta from scratch
Is there anything better than handmade pasta? Yes. It's the smug satisfaction of telling people that you make your own pasta. With this recipe, you can enjoy both.
How to store fresh handmade pasta:
Sprinkle the pasta noodles with flour to prevent them from sticking to each other. The uncooked pasta will last a day or two in the fridge, but I would strongly recommend freezing immediately. It only takes three minutes to cook from frozen.
How to cook handmade pasta:
When you're ready to eat, bring a pot of salted water to the boil and immerse the fresh noodles. Let them cook for two minutes before draining.
Wondering what to pair your handmade pasta with? Try this beef ragu, or stay tuned until next week's recipe.