Have you ever wondered how to make traditional Italian pasta by hand? Here we will answer all of your pasta questions and be your guide as you become a sfoglina! In this article, we outline everything you need to know, including the key tips, tricks, and recipes to get your skills up to scratch. To do so, we’ll be using a little help from our skilled Sfoglina Livia and Michaelangelo, whom you will also be able to find at our exciting concession in Harrods’ food hall. Check it out for an incredible array of freshly made pasta to inspire your homemade creations!
Pasta, despite its many shapes and sizes, actually requires very few ingredients. Only flour, eggs, and, if desired, a dash of salt are used to make this incredible and versatile product. This means no additives and no preservatives for true homemade pasta.
Learning how to make pasta is also a great skill to have. As well as allowing you to surprise your friends and family with delicious food, the process of making pasta is rewarding, romantic, and fun! What are you waiting for?
Setting Up for Success:
Making pasta by hand only requires a few tools: a rolling pin, a dough cutter, and a shaping tool for certain types of pasta. If you don’t have a shaping tool on hand, do not worry! Most pasta can be made using just a knife and some patience. If you fancy yourself becoming a true sfoglina, head to our pasta making kits page to get fully equipped for the role. You also may have seen past rolling machines. While these do speed up the process, we prefer a more ‘hands-on’ approach, just like nonna does in Italy.
Italian cuisine varies widely across its regions, and as a result, so does the ingredients within its pasta. While your traditional dough includes whole eggs, other pasta uses just egg white or even no eggs at all. The ingredients have a considerable impact on the result. Why not give a selection of recipes a go and let us know how your favourite! If your dish is scrumptious, be sure to let us know by tagging #pastaevangelists on Instagram. You may just inspire us to create a new dish for our menu.
Which Flour is Best for Making Pasta?
Venturing into the baking aisle to select a flour at a grocery store can be overwhelming. The following list should help, especially when approaching your pasta recipe!
- ‘00’ flour: This is the traditional Italian pasta flour. Whilst it is more expensive, the quality of this flour will certainly do your pasta (and effort) justice. Most ‘00’ flour is ground from durum wheat and will have a mid-range protein content of about 11-12%, similar to all-purpose white flour. ‘00’ flour should be available at most major grocery stores, online, or at speciality Italian grocery shops.
- All-purpose flour: This flour can be used to create fresh pasta but the result is not as soft as '00' flour.
- Semolina flour is made from the wheat middlings of durum wheat and therefore has a high protein content making it ideal for commercial pasta. It is also used in some traditional pasta, such as spaghetti alla chitarra.
- Don’t forget! Do not use self-raising flour for making pasta.
Chef Michelangelo’s Tip: Semolina flour pasta is usually made of ⅔ of semolina and ⅓ of ‘00’ flour. Normally it is used in pasta preparations in the south, such as orecchiette, strozzapreti, etc. It has less flavour but it goes well with really stronger sauces like pesto alla siciliana or cime di rapa with anchovies.
Eggs or Water? Egg Yolks or Egg Whites?
Traditional Egg Pasta: This is the pasta type we will be making below, using both the egg white and yolk. For starting, we recommend trying a traditional egg pasta, as it is versatile and approachable. This pasta can be the base for a filled pasta but can also be spectacular as a pappardelle or tagliatelle and simply paired with a sauce of your choosing.
White Pasta (Pasta Without Egg): Water replaces the egg in this style of pasta. Eliminating the eggs in the dough means there is less protein in the dough, changing the texture and binding properties. White pasta is used to make certain types of pasta, such as orecchiette. Using a white pasta to make a filled pasta or noodle pasta can be difficult, as the pasta will fall apart.
Yellow-er Pasta (Pasta With Only Egg Yolks): Using only the egg yolks creates a very rich, golden dough with the strongest flavour. As the yolk is 48% water, 17% protein, and about 33% fat (compared to an egg white which is 90% water), the dough is stronger and produces silkier noodles. However, this dough is not encouraged for creating filled pasta as the dough is less elastic which increases your chances of the pasta falling apart.
Our recipe for fresh pasta
Chef’s Tip: Don’t think about it too much, give it a go and experience learning how to make pasta; controlling the texture comes with practice. Together we will get there.
Serves: 3-4 people
- 200g ‘00’ Flour (plus more for work surface)
- 2 large eggs
Chef’s Tip: Pasta is always 1 egg : 100g flour, with this amount serving 1-2 people.
- Rolling pin
- Wooden board
- Pasta cutter or knife
Step 1: Making the Dough
- On a clean marble or wooden work surface, pile the flour into a mound.
- Make a well in the centre of the mound large enough for the 2 eggs.
- Crack the eggs into the well.
- Beat the egg mixture with the fork, slowly pulling the flour from the sides of the well until the egg has all been absorbed by the flour. As the mixture thickens, start using your hands with a scrapper to continue incorporating the flour.
- If needed, drizzle a small amount of warm water and continue mixing until you have a ball of dough.
Step 2: Kneading the Dough
- Clean the work surface of any excess flour or dough bits that never incorporated. Then lightly flour your clean work surface.
- Knead the dough by pressing the heel of one hand into the ball, keeping your fingers high.
- Press down on the dough while pushing it firmly away from you. The dough should stretch and roll under your hand to create a shell-like shape.
- Turn the dough over, then press into the dough with your knuckles, one hand at a time. This process should be carried out around 10 times.
- Make back into a ball and repeat the stretching and knuckling process, using more flour if needed to prevent any stickiness.
- Repeat the process for about 10-20 minutes until the dough is smooth and silky.
- Roll the dough into a smooth ball.
Step 3: Letting the Dough Rest
- Place the dough in a small bowl and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap.
- Let the dough rest for at least 1 hour at room temperature, or up to 1 day in the refrigerator.
- If the dough has been refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour before rolling and shaping.
Step 4: Rolling the Pasta
- Lightly flour your surface.
- Shape the dough into a rough circle.
- With a rolling pin, begin rolling the dough as you would with a pastry crust, starting in the centre and rolling away from you to the outer edge.
- Turn the dough a quarter-turn, and repeat, working your way around, until the sheet of dough is 1/8 inch thin or less. Scatter a small amount of flour on the dough whenever it starts to stick to the surface or the rolling pin. You now have your sheet of dough, or sfoglia.
- According to Italian tradition, the sheet of dough should be transparent enough to read the text beneath. But don’t try too hard to achieve this as you may ruin it.
- Now you need to decide on a shape for your pasta. Below are a selection of different shapes, including filled pasta, that you can easily make from your sfoglia of pasta!
For a flat pasta noodle, you can choose from a variety of options, including pappardelle, tagliatelle, linguine, tagliolini, or maltagliati. These vary in their width and have different sauces that are traditionally paired with each. However, feel free to mix it up and pick your favourite shape and sauce!
For filled pasta, there are similarly many options. Ravioli, tortelloni, and tortellini are common filled pasta that you can easily make at home.
Step 5: Cutting the Pasta
- Place a dough, now called a sfoglia, onto a clean and lightly floured work surface.
- If you have decided on a noodle shape, follow the instructions below.
- Using a rolling pin cutter designed for your width of pasta, cut the dough into strips. Alternatively, if using a knife, roll the dough carefully, ensuring there is enough flour so it does not stick to itself. Trim the end edges to be even, then cut into strips with the correct width. Here’s a guideline for the pasta of your choosing.
- Pappardelle: 10mm wide
- Tagliatelle: 6mm wide
- Linguine: 4mm wide
- Tagliolini: 3mm wide
- Maltagliati: As this directly translates to ‘badly cut’, feel free to chop up the sfoglia at random, creating small to medium-sized pieces.
- Gently lift the pasta strips in the air and place them carefully onto a dishtowel, make sure they are separated.
- Repeat with the remaining sheets of dough.
- If you have decided on a filled pasta, follow the instructions below. Make sure you have your filling ready!
- Ravioli: For square ravioli, have two sheets of dough of around the same size ready to go. On one sheet, place evenly spaced spoonfuls of filling, leaving 2-3cm between each dollop. Then moisten with egg or water the dough between the filling. Gently lower the second sheet of dough and seal around each spoonful of filling. Now, cut out each ravioli in a square. Alternatively, use a ravioli cutter of your choosing – circles, squares, and hearts are all quite popular.
- Tortelloni: Cut the dough into squares that are approximately 8cm x 8cm. Place a teaspoon of filling at the centre of the square. Take one square in the palm of your hand. Fold one corner to the opposite corner, encasing the filling and forming a triangle. Seal the edges together, carefully pressing and trying to minimize the air being sealed in with the filling. Then, with the point of the triangle facing you, wrap the remaining two edges of the triangle to around your finger, sealing the edges together to form the classic tortelloni shape.
- Tortellini: Follow the same process as for tortelloni, but with a smaller starting square (around 5cm x 5cm) and a smaller spoonful of filling (around ¼-½ tsp). Otherwise, the folding process is the same!
- At this point, you are ready to cook your pasta. If you made too much, you can keep your pasta in the fridge for up to 18 hours or freeze the pasta for up to a month. Lay the pasta flat without touching on a tray lined with parchment. Once frozen, transfer the pasta to a container or bag and enjoy it at a later date.
Step 6: Cooking the Pasta
Chef’s Tip: Save ¼-cup of the pasta water to add to your sauce. The starch and salt in the pasta water adds flavour and helps thicken the sauce.
- Now that you have fresh pasta, get your sauce of choice ready and your meal is 5 minutes away!
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a generous amount of salt.
- Add pasta and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until al dente. Remember to always taste a piece first to ensure your pasta is cooked to perfection!
- Strain the pasta and mix with sauce. Shave some Parmigiano Reggiano on top and enjoy!
Don't forget to share your creation with us, tagging #pastaevangelists on Instagram. Want to compare your creation with our homemade tagliatelle? Try Pasta Evangelists for 50% off with code BLOG50 at checkout.