I’ve been making pasta from scratch for about eight years now, often with a child standing at each hip, and all without using a pasta maker.
Sometimes gadgets can be barriers to experimentation in the kitchen, but a small kitchen or a lack of funding shouldn’t prevent anyone from making delicious homemade food. I find that most meals can be made with a few simple tools that serve multiple purposes.
In the case of my homemade pasta, my rolling pin doubles as my pasta roller.
HOMEMADE PASTA BY HAND
Making pasta by hand, you use a rolling pin to mimic the action of a pasta maker: roll out a small piece of dough until it’s paper thin, then use a knife to cut it into individual noodles.
It takes a little more muscle and patience, but you can absolutely get the pasta as thin as you would using a machine.
HOMEMADE PASTA, ON YOUR SCHEDULE
Making pasta from scratch does take some time, but don’t let this dissuade you from making pasta at home. The dough can be made one day, and either refrigerated overnight or frozen so you can cut and shape your pasta on another day.
Don’t refrigerate pasta dough for more than a day, however, otherwise the dough will discolor. If you don’t plan to make your pasta within a day, then freeze it.
- To freeze a ball of pasta dough, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap then set it inside a zip-top bag with the air squeezed out of it (no need for oil). The morning you plan to make the pasta, just transfer it from the freezer to your. It will be ready for you to roll out and cut later that afternoon.
- You can also freeze the cut noodles. Whenever I make homemade pasta, I always make a big batch and freeze the extra noodles for those moments when life demands more carbohydrates. Even straight from the freezer, homemade noodles cook faster than dried pasta from the store, so this makes for quick weeknight meals.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
- If the eggs break through your flour while mixing, don’t panic. Simply push some additional flour up against the break-through with your hand, and continue mixing. A bench scraper is also really useful here because it allows you to scoop up a lot of mess quickly. If you have one, keep it handy.
- It’s important to rest the dough before rolling it out: This gives the gluten in the dough a chance to relax, which makes it easier to roll out. It makes a big difference when you roll out pasta by hand, verses using a machine.
- If your pasta is sticky at any point, add more flour a teaspoon at a time. When you roll it out make sure you dust your countertop with flour at regular intervals. It’s also important to thoroughly dust the rolled-out pasta with flour before folding or rolling dough to cut into your desired shape.
- If the dough starts to “snap back” as you roll it out: Pause and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes (to give the gluten a chance to relax), then try rolling it again.
- Cooking frozen noodles: Use frozen noodles straight from the freezer without thawing. Don’t leave them to thaw on the counter while you are preparing the rest of your meal. Sometimes condensation or ice crystals form inside the bag. Those will dampen your noodles and cause them to stick together as they thaw.
WHAT TO MAKE WITH HOMEMADE PASTA
This same recipe and rolling technique can be used to make thin linguini noodles, lasagna noodles, ravioli, tortellini and any shape of pasta in between.
Pair this pasta with your favorite sauce for a quick and easy weeknight meal, or add them to your favorite homemade chicken noodle soup recipe.
HOMEMADE PASTA SAUCE RECIPES
How to Make Homemade Pasta (Without a Pasta Maker!)
Extra-Quick Pasta: If you’re pressed for time, roll out the pasta as described in Step 4, but then use a pizza cutter to cut strips. You can cut lengthwise, or across, or even on the diagonal, whichever you prefer. This makes a more rustic pasta dish – but just as delicious.
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour + more for dusting and rolling
- 4 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Rolling pin
- Bench scraper or sharp knife
1 Mix the dough: Heap the flour into a pile on the countertop. Create a large well or crater in the center, big enough to hold the eggs and olive oil like bowl. Place the eggs, yolk, olive oil and salt into the well. Use a fork to whisk together the eggs and oil.
Continue whisking the eggs, but begin pulling in bits of flour from inside the well. Use a stirring motion and go slowly to avoid any eggs breaking through the bowl of flour. (If the eggs break through your flour while mixing, don’t panic. Simply push some additional flour up against the break-through with your hand or with a bench scraper, and continue mixing).
Continue like this until the dough starts to come together and the eggs have been incorporated. The dough will be damp in and chunky in some parts and loose in others, and the mixture will still be quite floury. That’s ok. Use your hands or a bench scraper to continue bringing the dough together. I scoop the damp and crumbled dough up with my bench scraper and cut it into the rest of the dough.
2 Knead the dough: When the dough looks relatively cohesive, but still a bit scraggly, form it into a ball, and knead for 10 minutes against the counter. The dough will be rough at first, but it should begin to tighten up and smooth out as you continue kneading.
If the dough sticks to your hands, dust the countertop with a little more flour. In the end you should have a soft, elastic dough that feels smooth like a baby’s bottom, and isn’t sticky.
3 Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest on your counter to rest for an hour. After an hour, continue to the next step, refrigerate the dough for tomorrow (no more than 24 hours), or freeze the dough.
(To freeze a ball of pasta dough, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap then set it inside a zip-top bag with the air squeezed out of it. No need for oil.)
4 Roll out the pasta: When the dough has finished resting, shape it into a fat log and cut it into 5 or 6 equal sections. Leave one section out and rewrap the others. (If you are working on a small counter, you can cut each piece in half again so you are working with less dough.)
Flour your counter well, and use your rolling pin to roll out the dough into a long strip. With each pass as you roll, lift the dough up, re-dust the counter beneath, and flip it over. When you’re finished, you should have a long piece of dough that is 3 to 4 inches wide and about 2 1/2 to 3 feet long. It should be just about paper thin, but strong enough to be lifted off of the countertop.
5 Loosely fold the pasta strip like an accordion: Dust the strip of dough with more flour. Starting with the short end, loosely fold like an accordion. (An accordion fold like the one pictured here helps prevent the dough from sticking to itself better than rolling it up like a cigar.)
6 Cut the stack into strips: Use a very sharp knife to cut the stack across the folds into thin strips. You can cut the strips as thin or as a thick as you prefer (like thin linguini or like wide fettuccine), but try to stay consistent otherwise the noodles will cook at different rates.
7 Dry the noodles: Unroll the bundle of noodles and lay them across your dining room table, kitchen island or the back of a chair. Let them dry for about 15 minutes.
8 Continue rolling out and cutting the rest of the pasta.
9 Use or freeze the noodles: At this point, the noodles will still be pliable, but dry. They can be used immediately or frozen for later.
If freezing, gather the noodles into several small, loose bundles. Be careful of compressing the noodles too much; it’s fine to just gather them together. Place the noodle nests on a well-floured baking sheet, then freeze. Once frozen, transfer the nests to a large Ziploc bag, and use as needed. Frozen noodles will keep for 9 months.
10 Cook the noodles: Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the fresh or frozen pasta and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until chewy and al dente (taste one of the noodles to check). Serve with your favorite sauce.