This basic pasta dough recipe will help you quickly and easily make homemade pasta at the last minute, almost as quickly as boiling store-bought.
Making a basic pasta dough is one of those simple things that most people don’t even consider. People find the idea of making pasta intimidating for some reason.
To be honest, I understand completely. I was one of them.
I owned my pasta machine, bought on sale on a whim, for a long time before actually using it. I even almost saved it for crafting rather than for making pasta. Yes, really! (It would come in handy for making these garden markers with polymer clay.)
Why Make Pasta from Scratch?
Homemade pasta is delicious! There’s just something about it that beats out the flavor of store-bought dried pasta. That isn’t the only reason to try making it from scratch, though.
Control the ingredients
When I first started making my own pasta, years ago, it wasn’t very easy to find organic pasta. It wasn’t easy to find pasta made with spelt or einkorn or any of the other ancient kinds of wheat either.
I enjoyed being able to experiment with making pasta using different types of wheat. I also loved being able to use fresh eggs from our hens.
When making your own pasta, you can also play with adding in different vegetables or other fun additives. Make green pasta with spinach or spirulina. Make orange pasta with carrots or yellow pasta with turmeric. Black pasta is normally made with squid ink in Italy (but you could also use activated charcoal like I did to color my homemade black boba).
You can even make fun dessert recipes, like my chocolate ravioli with chocolate mascarpone filling, by adding cocoa powder to it.
Chocolate Pasta Dough
Fast cooking time
In actuality, not only is it easy, but it probably doesn’t take more time to make your own than it does to boil dried store-bought pasta.
How can that be true?
Dried pasta takes a lot longer to cook than fresh homemade pasta which cooks almost instantly. Of course, if you make it yourself, you will have more clean-up work, and during your preparation time you will have to work on making pasta rather than just watching the pasta boil, but the result is so much better. It’s definitely worth it.
If you don’t have a food processor or a pasta maker, I’m not going to lie; the process will take longer. If you do have access to both, though, you’ll eventually get so quick at making pasta, that it really only takes a few minutes.
If you’re ready to make pasta, the quickest way is by combining and processing all of the ingredients in a food processor. The food processor does all of the heavy mixing for you which is greatly appreciated because pasta dough tends to be quite hard and thick.
Mixing up the dough
I usually use 2 eggs with around a cup of flour. Add to that a dash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.
While I have tried making pasta with all sorts of specialty flours, and they do work well (for the most part), durum wheat makes the best pasta. It’s even called “pasta flour” sometimes.
I was lucky to find organic durum wheat to use in my homemade pasta.
Process together all of the ingredients. Ideally, you want to end up with a thick crumb-like texture. It should hold together well if you press it together in your hand, but shouldn’t feel too sticky.
If it’s too sticky, add a bit of flour and process it again. If it’s too dry, add around a teaspoon of water. Continue adjusting until you have achieved the correct texture.
Once you’ve achieved it, pour the dough out onto a counter sprinkled with flour. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes, and press the dough as flat as you can. (You want it to be able to fit through the rollers of a pasta machine.)
Using a pasta machine
The pasta machine will help us work the dough and eventually make thin sheets of pasta with it.
Set your pasta machine to the widest setting. (I’ve found that one some machines, it’s the lowest number. On others, it’s the highest number.)
Make a flattened oval of dough that is narrow enough to fit between the rollers of the pasta machine. You can cut the dough in half and work in 2 parts to make the process easier.
Begin cranking the handle of the pasta machine, and help guide the pasta through the rollers. The pasta should begin to come out from the bottom of the rollers.
Once it’s out, fold the pasta in half and run it through the same setting again.
Now, reduce the opening of the pasta machine by one number and run the dough through again. You can fold it in half and repeat at that number setting, or reduce the size again.
Continue to run the pasta through the machine, working your way down in size until you are happy with the thickness of your pasta. Don’t be tempted to skip numbers. It sounds tedious to go through each of the settings, but it’s really a very quick process.
Cutting the pasta
Once you have your thin sheet of pasta ready, you can cut it into the desired shape. You can also leave the sheets, as is, for making homemade lasagna.
Many pasta makers, like mine, have an attachment for cutting spaghetti or fettuccini. They also often have optional attachments for making ravioli.
If you don’t have any attachments, you can cut the pasta with a pizza cutter.
Ideally, cook the pasta soon after you make it. When fresh, homemade pasta cooks very quickly. To keep spaghetti, fettuccine, and other noodles from sticking together, sprinkle flour over them to cover them with the flour.
Before storing the pasta, allow it to dry slightly after sprinkling the flour on it.
Fresh pasta can then be stored in a well-sealed container in the fridge for a day or two. While it will keep longer than that, the texture can change and make it less appealing. For longer-term storage, freeze or dry the pasta.
For freezing, it’s best to freeze the dough and wait to roll it out and cut it until it thaws and you’re ready to use it.
Noodles can be dried either in “nests” or by hanging them to dry. When fully dry, they will be brittle. So, protect them in hard storage containers (rather than plastic bags) to keep them from being smashed and broken. Make sure they are fully dried before sealing the container or mold could form.
Cooking the pasta
Boil water with a touch of salt in a pan in preparation for cooking the pasta.
When the water has reached the boiling point, add the pasta. Immediately stir the pasta to separate it. That prevents the pasta from sticking together while cooking.
If you are cooking the pasta immediately after making it, it only needs to boil for a minute or two. It is really that quick!
If you decide to store it for later use, it will take a couple of minutes more, depending on how long you’ve dried it. It still normally cooks more quickly than store-bought dried pasta.
Once the pasta has reached the desired consistency (be it al dente or a bit softer if cooked longer), remove it from the boiling water.
I like to immediately pour some olive oil over the pasta and toss it to cover the strands of pasta fully. This keeps the pasta from sticking. Next, I coat it in another sauce.
Pasta with homemade pesto sauce, made with fresh basil from my garden, is one of my son’s favorite foods. To make sure I always have pesto on hand, I make it in big batches in the summer and freeze it in my favorite cube trays. It freezes really well.
Pesto Sauce Recipe
Basic Pasta Dough Recipe
- Add all of the ingredients to a food processor.
- Process at low to medium speed, until it all starts to come together.
- Ideally, we want the consistency of large crumbs. If it all comes together into a sticky ball or mass, add more flour. (To better understand what I mean, watch the video.)
- If it's not coming together at all, and you only have tiny crumbs that don't stick together, you will need to add some liquid. You can add a small amount of water, and mix it up again.
- Once you have achieved the right consistency, use your hands to form it into a ball. Knead it for a minute or two on a clean counter sprinkled with flour. For easier handling, divide it into smaller balls of dough.
- Beginning with one of the balls, flatten it out as best you can. The width of the disk of pasta should fit the width of the pasta machine.
- Run the dough through the pasta machine at its widest setting. (On my machine, it's marked as 9.) To run the pasta through the rollers of the machine, place the disk of dough near the rollers and turn the crank until the dough is pulled through the rollers.
- Fold the dough in half and run it through the machine again, keeping the same width setting. If the dough falls apart, fold the dough over on itself and put it through the machine a few more times. This helps the dough become more elastic.
- Close the space between the rollers of the pasta machine slightly by turning it down one setting (on my machine from a 9 to an 8). Run the dough through the machine again on this new setting. Turn down the number setting again (from 8 to 7), and run the pasta through again. Continue the process, not skipping any numbers, until you get the thickness you want.
- Set that dough aside to dry slightly while working on the rest of the dough. Sprinkle it with a bit of flour to keep the pasta from sticking to itself.
- Use the pasta as-is for making lasagna or cut it into shapes or noodles with cookie cutters or a pizza cutter. If you have a cutting attachment for making spaghetti and fettucini, you can use it to very quickly finish forming your pasta. It easily cuts the pasta into noodles with one run through the machine.
This post was originally written on February 13, 2014. It was rewritten, adding new photos, clearer instructions, video, and more tips and tricks in February 2020.