The Art of Pasta-Making: Top Tips for Making Fresh Pasta
We’ve been clear about our mission from the start - make fresh pasta more accessible to the public. To us, this doesn’t just mean making fresh pasta available for sale (although buying from Fasta Pasta Co is always encouraged!). Making fresh pasta more available means helping you to make your own fresh pasta, and demonstrating just how fun and rewarding it can be. That’s why we’ve put together some of our top tips for making fresh pasta, so you can give it a go and find out for yourself why we love what we do so much.
Tip #1 - Get Your Ingredients Right
We’ve put this tip at the top deliberately because it is so important. The quality of the ingredients you use to make your pasta can make such a difference. Always go organic. Organic means purer, less tampered with. The grain that is milled to produce the flour will be pesticide free, and it will have been grown in ground that was not artificially fertilised. This is really important as it means the grain will be healthier and full of nutrients, which will result in more active gluten and therefore a smoother pasta dough when you knead it.
You also want to buy good quality eggs. Free-range only, and with golden yolks if possible. As well as improving the quality of your dough, this will also give your pasta that desired gold, almost orange, colour.
You will see some recipes for pasta dough that include other ingredients like olive oil or salt. These can be useful in giving your pasta a different taste or texture, but we believe in just flour and egg for our regular
Tip #2 - Don’t Be Rigid On Your Quantities
To this day, we are still regularly tweaking our pasta dough recipe by marginal amounts. Sometimes we’ll find that our dough is a bit dry on a particular day when rolling it out, and likewise sometimes it will hold a bit more moisture and is sticking to itself slightly. In these scenarios, we will tweak our recipe to adapt to how the dough is reacting that day. A generally accepted starting place is 100g of flour and 1 large egg for one person.
There’s a number of reasons why your dough might feel different on a given day. The temperature of your kitchen or wherever you are cooking can have an impact - one day we tried to make the most of the roasting sunshine by rolling pasta outside and it was drying out quicker than our hands could work! Even the ratio of white-to-yolk in the egg can have an impact, with the white adding more moisture to the dough than the yolk. Basically, don’t be alarmed if your usual recipe lets you down one day - it’s probably not your fault!
Tip #3 - Work Your Dough Right
While some people (*cough* Jamie Oliver *cough cough*) will tell you to just stick your flour and egg in a food processor and blitz it to form a dough, we prefer to create our dough the traditional way by creating a well in the middle of the flour, beating the eggs in that well and then slowly introducing the flour. This process of slowly adding the flour into the mix contributes to developing a really smooth dough, so don’t underestimate it. As you’re about halfway through incorporating the flour, the egg-flour mix in the well should start to look almost like a cake batter, or a thick custard (no lumps, of course).
Once you’ve incorporated all of the flour and you have your dough, the kneading process begins. This is where you really bring the dough to life. There’s no strict method to kneading, just press it, tear it, roll it, beat it, bop it until all of the flour is incorporated and it starts to become a smooth ball. If it first seems a bit sticky, try to resist instantly adding more flour. By adding too much more flour, you will be adjusting the ratios and potentially making your dough too dry. Just bear with it and it’ll likely come good. At most you could add a small dusting just to stop it sticking to your hands as you knead.
Our general tip for how long to knead is: knead it until you think it is nice and smooth, and then knead it for another minute. We find it’s that last bit of kneading that brings the gluten really to life. Once your dough has rested for 30 minutes, you should be able to cut into it and see lots of air bubbles where the gluten is working its magic.
Tip #4 - Laminate Before You Roll
Now by this point we know you just want to get rolling that pasta so you can cook up some delicious pappardelle. We get it. But there’s one more tip before you start working through the numbers on your pasta roller. Take a piece of your dough, press it down with your hands or use a rolling pin to flatten it enough to go through the roller - try and make it as square as possible at this point so it becomes a wide pasta sheet once it goes through the roller. You then want to roll it through on the ‘0’ setting of your roller, fold it in half, and repeat. Do this 4 or 5 times before you then begin rolling through the number settings. By doing this you are laminating the dough, which helps to give it a nice smooth texture and prevent it from being sticky. It can also help you square it off before you roll it thinner.
Tip #5 - Pick A Number That Works For You
Everyone will have a preference on how thick their pasta is. Some people like a thicker pasta that has a bit of bite, whereas others will like it silkily thin. The great thing about rolling your own pasta is that you can control that. On a standard pasta roller with numbers ‘0-9’, we roll most of our pastas (pappardelle, fettuccine, spaghetti) to ‘6’, and our stuffed pastas to ‘7’.
Tip #6 - Keep It Covered
Our final tip is to work in manageable amounts when rolling out your pasta, keeping any dough you aren’t using well covered to stop it drying out. Cling film is an effective tool for keeping your dry covered as you can wrap it airtight, however there are plastic-free methods of doing this that can also do the trick, like simply putting a bowl upside down over the dough or wrapping it in a clean damp tea towel. This method ensures that the last chunk of dough you roll out is as malleable as the first so that you can still create the shapes you want.
So, there we have it. Some of our top tips for creating delicious fresh pasta. When it comes to cooking it, just remember to make that water nice and salty like the sea. Before you know it, you’ll be creating pasta as scrumptious as ours! Good luck!