Homemade Pasta: a step-by-step guide

Fettuccini with Artichoke Pesto Sauce and Crumbled Tempeh

I love this time of year for one reason: food projects! Whether it is making lefse, cookies, or candies, the cold, dark weather makes our kitchens so inviting - especially when we have friends and family visiting.

I love making homemade pasta. While I've had some successes (who could forget the 1,000 Layer Lasagne!), I haven't always been successful... (remember the butternut ravioli or the gluten-free pasta?). I finally took a pasta making class and learned the tips and tricks for fantastic homemade pasta - every time! I'm so excited to share them with you!

The Ingredients

When you are first learning how to make pasta, use all purpose flour. I know. The nutritional profile of all purpose flour is less than stellar, but all purpose flour is by far the easiest flour to work with. Use it until you master the recipe, then start playing around with other flours. Semolina is very popular and delicious - getting the moisture right is just a little trickier. I've also had success with adding some whole wheat flour (1:3 ratio), but don't try other flours until you've made pasta with all purpose flour successfully several times.

Yes, I use eggs in my pasta. I was reticent to do so, but they contribute so significantly to the texture (not to mention added protein) that I am now reticent to not include them.

The Equipment

Using a pasta maker is extremely helpful in making pasta. You can use a rolling pin and a pizza cutter to do the same thing, but getting the pasta thin enough without a pasta maker will be difficult.

I have the Kitchenaid mixer pasta maker attachment. I love it. It is easy to use with just one person since the mixer turns the roller and cutter for you. Other pasta makers require you to feed the pasta with one hand and turn a handle with the other. The attachment is not cheep, but I've never regretted the investment (nor is this an affiliated post).

The technique

Keeping the right amount of moisture in the dough is most critical to the success of homemade pasta. Too little moisture and the pasta crumbles. Too much moisture and the pasta bunches into a blob. The dough should be not nearly as soft as bread dough nor as firm as pie crust. When in doubt, hold back on the water. As the dough sits, it becomes more moist. 

I've outlined the process of making pasta in the recipe below, but watch this video first. You'll be able to see what the dough looks like when it has the right texture and the flow of rolling it out.

If you liked the video, let me know! I'm thinking about including more videos on this blog. (Heads up Martin! Your video skills may be needed in the future!)

As an added bonus, I've included two delicious sauce recipes to use with your pasta. The simple tomato sauce is my go-to recipe on a busy week night. The artichoke pesto sauce with tempeh is a slightly more involved, but makes the pasta a complete meal.

Homemade Fettuccini
4 servings, 60 minutes

8 oz all purpose flour (about 1.5 cups)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water, or more
  1. Make the dough: Add the flour and salt to the food processor. Pulse briefly to evenly distribute the salt among the flour. Add room temperature eggs to the food processor and turn the machine on low. With the machine running, add 1 tablespoon of water. Slowly add the remaining tablespoon or so of water, stopping when the dough forms a ball. You may not need all of the water. Only add enough to make the dough the right texture. To check for moisture, stop the machine and touch the dough. It should be moist enough to stick together and yet fairly stiff when pressed into a ball. Err on the dry side since as the dough develops, the moisture will penetrate the flour more and increase the moisture. This dough should be a little softer than pie crust dough and much more firm than bread dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest on the counter for at least 20 minutes or up to 2 hours. 
  2. Roll out the dough: Divide the dough into four balls, working with one ball at a time and leaving the remaining dough covered in plastic. Clear off as much counter space as you can and dust generously with flour. Don’t skimp on the flour. You will need more than you initially think you do. Press one ball of dough flat using your hands until it is a disc about 1/4 inch thick. The dough should not be sticky or even tacky - coat with flour if it does. Feed the dough through the pasta maker roller at its thickest setting. Fold the dough in half, coating in more flour if necessary and feed through the pasta roller again at the same thick setting. Repeat 5-15 times until the dough is ready to be rolled thinner. The dough will be smooth and not sticky at all. It will be uniform in texture and color. Coat in flour. Adjust the thickness to one step thinner on the pasta maker. Feed the dough through the rollers making it thinner (do not fold the dough in half like you did on the widest setting). Continue to reduce the thickness setting until the dough is as thin as you desire. For fettuccini, I stop after setting 5 on my Kitchenaid pasta roller. Lay the long strip of dough on a floured surface.
  3. Cut the dough: Switch from the roller to the fettuccini cutter on your pasta maker. Feed the dough through the cutter, catching the cut pasta on your arm. Toss in plenty of flour. The pasta is now ready to be cooked. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough. Once you get the hang of this, it takes about 5 minutes to roll out one ball of dough.
  4. Cook the pasta: Bring a big pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until the pasta is tender to your liking. Try not to make the pasta mushy by overcooking it - a little bite in the pasta is a good thing. Drain, toss with sauce and eat!
Room Temperature Eggs: To quickly eggs to room temperature, leave them on the counter for a few hours or soak them in hot water for a few minutes.

Freezing Fresh Pasta: If you don’t want to cook all the pasta right away, you can freeze it. Pile the pasta into small mounds on a baking sheet (I like to make one serving size piles) and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Transfer to a ziplock bag and store in the freezer for up to a month. To cook, take out of the freezer at the same time you start to bring a pot of water to boil. By the time the water boils, the pasta will be mostly thawed and will take an extra minute or so to cook. It still tastes fantastic. 

Print recipe.

Artichoke Pesto Sauce with Crumbled Tempeh
4 servings, 10 minutes

8 oz tempeh (I prefer the whole grain)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other neutral tasting oil)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (or a mixture of dried sage and thyme)
6 oz Artichoke and Lemon Pesto
1/4 cup pureed tomatoes (either fresh or canned)
1/4 cup reserved pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese - for dusting  
  1. Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Crumble the tempeh with your hands to create bite-sized chunks. Add to the skillet and saute for about 5-7 minutes or until the tempeh is lightly browned. Sprinkle the poultry seasoning over the tempeh and stir to distribute evenly. Set aside.
  2. Mix the pesto, tomatoes, and water together in a small bowl. Pour over drained cooked pasta. Add the cooked tempeh and toss to combine. Taste. Add salt and pepper.
  3. To serve, top each serving with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Print recipe.

Simple Tomato Sauce
10 minutes

1 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar or agave nectar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Puree the tomatoes until smooth. Stir in the vinegar and sugar. Taste. Add more of either vinegar or sugar until you love the flavor of the sauce. Every can of tomatoes is different, so it is essential that you season to taste. I like a less sweet sauce, so I hold back on the sugar more than some people. Stir in the salt and oil. Place over medium heat and let simmer until ready to serve. 
Print recipe.

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