Homemade pasta is one of those dishes that just goes above and beyond. Of course boxed pasta is still wonderfully delicious and I would never say no to a box of PC White Cheddar Mac and Cheese, but fresh pasta knows how hot she is and isn’t afraid to flaunt it. I’m here to tell you that making homemade delicious pasta is not an impossible task.
My roommate and I took a pasta-making class at The Cookery on Roncesvalles, all thanks to our best friend, Laura. Thanks Laura!
My usual disclaimer: definitely not a professional pasta chef, just a first-timer with some tips for fellow amateurs.
Let’s Start With The Dough
We made a cut pasta (fettuccine) and a filled pasta (ravioli) during our class, and actually used two types of dough. A standard pasta dough with flour, eggs, and a little oil should work fine, but our chef pointed out that a light and tender ravioli would benefit from a richer and softer dough.
Beginner Pasta Tip #1: For a softer (and more expensive) dough, go for 90% egg yolks and discard some of the whites.
For a little texture and hold, we added some semolina flour into the mix for our cut pasta. The grit doesn’t produce as much gluten so it does make the pasta a little harder to work with, but if you’re looking for that chewy texture? It’s worth it.
Beginner Pasta Tip #2: All-purpose flour might just serve your purpose just fine.
There’s a reason homemade pasta is so much work. The dough is quite tough and the hardest dough I’ve ever experienced, in comparison to breads and pie crust.
How to Knead
- Fold your dough into a ball.
- Press into the table and stretch the dough as far as you can.
- Fold back into a ball and repeat this “smearing” motion.
Beginner Pasta Tip #3: If your dough feels hard and barely workable, you’re probably doing it right.
We made a butternut squash ravioli with a brown butter balsamic sauce.
The filling is very easy, just baked squash with thyme and ricotta to taste.
Beginner Pasta Tip #4: Make sure there’s no air in each of your raviolis and seal each packet shut with some egg wash. Otherwise they’ll explode in the boiling water.
The brown butter sauce was another beast, because there’s only way to describe it: it looks kind of gross as you’re making it. Picture a sauce crumbling before your eyes and then stirring out clumps. It’s not a great look.
Tomato sauce-lovers, turn away. There’s a new kid in town, the perfect pairing for ravioli. This brown sugar balsamic sauce is rich with fatty flavor and sweet balsamic. It’s absolutely addictive and I wish it photographed better so you could understand how truly magical it is.
To start, heat butter in your pan until the milk solids turn brown and crumbly.
One of the most helpful things about cooking classes is seeing the stages of a recipe that are inexplicable. Or look completely wrong.
Keep stirring, and alternate between adding cream to liquefy the bits (I know, it sounds not the most aesthetic) and then skim milk powder for even more creamy flavour.
As with most sauces / foods in pots, the longer it simmers, the better. Start cooking your sauce while you’re rolling out your dough, which also needs time to rest!
Beginner Pasta Tip #5: Everything needs time to rest – the pasta dough & your arms.
Can you read fettuccine without using a terrible Italian accent?
To roll out our dough, we folded our dough over three times and ran it through the pasta machine on level 1 three times.
Beginner Pasta Tip #6: Keep tension in your dough as you crank it through. Don’t let it slide around.
After a few rounds on level 1, continue to crank the pasta dough through and increase the levels each time. When you reach level 7, it should be thin enough to cut.
Dust your pasta layers with flour and loosely roll them up like a cinnamon bun.
Beginner Pasta Tip #7: From there, use a slicing motion like you’re slicing salami, not chopping a cucumber.
Shake up your fresh pasta and drop it in some boiling water. You’re ready for delicious homemade pasta, only two hours later!
Honestly, just skip arms at the gym and get ready to carb load. All you need is to anchor a pasta machine to your counter and you’re ready to hand make a $30 plate of pasta.