How to make Pasta Dough
Something as simple as pasta can have an almost endless variety of combinations and ingredients.
In this post we will focus on what we consider to be the two main pasta categories that are easy to make in home and professional kitchens alike. In doing this we hope to simplify the shopping list to a handful of readily available ingredients.
You'll need to start by selecting quality ingredients that are ideal for the style of pasta you'd like to make. We will make it easy by identifying the basic ingredients and some of our recommend producers. Here is our quick list of ingredients for pasta dough:
- All-Purpose Flour // King Arthur unbleached & unbromated, this hard wheat flour produces a pasta with a firm texture.
- Semolina // Bob's Red Mill produces a tasty semolina with a good semi-coarse consistency.
- Eggs // The fresher the better, pasture raised from a local farmers market is the absolute best.
- Olive Oil // We enjoy using California Olive Ranch. They have an everyday version that works great in pasta dough.
- Type "00" // This is a very finely ground soft wheat flour. Use this in place of AP if you're looking for a pasta that is tender and delicate.
Fatto a Mano (made by hand)
This style includes (but isn't limited to) popular kinds of pasta like Gnocchi, Gnudi, Orecchiette, Cavatelli. The main idea of this category is that any of these shapes can be made completely by hand with only a fork or pasta knife to assist.
- Gnocchi // Russet Potatoes, All-Purpose Flour and Whole Egg.
- We like to use the oldest russet potatoes available (not spouting or squishy though, those are too old). Russet potatoes become dry and fluffy when cooked, which makes the perfect base ingredient.
- Gnudi // Ricotta, All-Purpose Flour and Whole Egg.
- Medium to Large size curds of ricotta are perfect for this ricotta based pasta. Try to find the producer "Calabro" if you can, their ricotta has a rich flavor and is tender.
- Cavatelli // Semolina, All-Purpose Flour and sometimes Whole Egg.
- This is a blend of the two flours. We suggest equal parts or use more semolina and less AP for a chewier-denser pasta. Add eggs for richness, but they aren't necessary. Use lukewarm water.
This style includes anything that involves rollers; whether by hand with a rolling pin, a hand cranked or electric pasta machine. The dough for this style will usually consist of All-Purpose Flour, Eggs and Water. Shapes can be almost anything you can imagine; Tortellini, Ravioli, Tagliatelle, Farfalle, Pappardelle, and the list goes on and on! There are so many variations of dough recipes that it is easy to get lost in it, so we have boiled it down to the two most versatile versions.
- Whole Egg Dough // All-Purpose Flour, Whole Eggs, and a splash or so of lukewarm water only as needed.
- Use this type of dough for ravioli filled with braised meats & mushrooms, pear & cacio or other hearty & robust fillings. It also is great for flat noodle types of pasta such as pappardelle, lasagna or a unique creation.
- Egg Yolk Dough // All-Purpose Flour, Egg Yolks and a drop of lukewarm water as needed.
- This dough gets used for Tortellini, Tagliatelle, Tajarin or Ravioli with lighter fillings such as ricotta & mint, sweet peas or roasted butternut & clove.
A Simple Recipe
While we do use recipes, for pasta they are more like guidelines than an exact measurement that is unchanging. We use ratios and make adjustments as the flour changes with the seasons. Temperature, humidity, and weather are all considered in our planning because of how they impact the dough on any given day. Below is a recipe that allows for adjustments and provides a glimpse into the ratios of ingredients.
The trick with this recipe is it's simplicity.. the water isn't exactly measured but intended to be added as needed. In the winter, you'll need a little more and during the summer a little less if any at all. Your looking for a dough that's pliable with no trace of stickiness. After kneading the dough should be mostly smooth and have a nice bounce if poked. Yes, it does take a little practice, but practice makes perfect, right? This recipe is ideal for one portion. Want more? Just increase the recipe up to 4 times.
- 100 grams All-Purpose Flour (3.5 ounces)
- 1 large egg, appx 57grams (2 ounces)
- 3-4 drops of olive oil
- 4 grams (1 tsp) or so of water, lukewarm- if needed and not all at once
The "Make the Pasta Dough on the Table Method"
- Form a well with the flour on a cutting board or table.
- Place the egg in the center of the well along with the olive oil and water.
- Using a fork begin to mix the egg and slowly incorporate the flour into the center.
- When the egg is mostly mixed with flour, use your hands to mix the dough together to form a ball.
- If the dough isn't quite coming together and is still dry and crumbling.
- Add the extra drops of water and mix it in. Repeat if necessary.
- If you find that the dough is tacky to the touch and kind of sticky.
- Sprinkle a fine layer of flour on the dough and board. Knead the dough over the flour to incorporate it into the dough.
- Repeat until the dough is pliable but not tacky.
- It is perfectly coming together. Great! Move on to the next step.
- Knead for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Cover and rest the dough for 15 minutes before turning it into pasta.
The "Easier to make more than one Portion of Pasta Dough Method"
- Use a Kitchen Aid Mixer with the paddle attachment.
- Add all the ingredients to the bowl and mix on low.
- When the dough begins to come together, follow the instructions from step 5 (troubleshooting).
- When the dough has come together it is ready to knead. Switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook.
- Mix about 10 minutes on low. (the trick here is to listen to the mixer.. if it is struggling to mix the dough, or the bowl is bouncing around, you may want to knead by hand for a couple minutes. Not all mixers have the same power, so use your best judgment)
- Cover and rest the dough for about 15 minutes before turning the dough into pasta.