I know many of you are rolling your eyes at me this week. Don't worry, I get you and I don't hold it against you. I know that I seem like a crazy person suggesting you make homemade pasta in the midst of all the holiday chaos. Trust me, I am well aware of the reality of how crazy the holiday season is making us, but just hear me out. What I am actually suggesting is an activity that is 1.) way cheaper and 2.) way more fun than seeing a movie with your family. (And it tastes FAR better than over-salted movie theatre popcorn!)
When I set out to make homemade pasta I was sure it'd turn into a chore. Thinking I'd need special flour, super expensive machinery, and I would fail the first 5-10 times I tried. I was so wrong. Not only is making your own pasta really simple, it's also much easier and more fun to do with helping hands. Thus, being the perfect holiday activity. (See, not so crazy after all!)
The first place to start is to buy a pasta machine. (Actually you could roll your own pasta by hand but I highly suggest buying the machine to save on time and effort!) Mine is from Amazon and I bought it because it was rated highly and under $50. (This would also make a cool Christmas gift to your foodie friends & family!) The next step is easy — mixing, kneading, and making the dough. All in all the process takes about and hour, and 30 minutes of that is spent waiting for your dough to rest.
I mentioned above that having helpers for this process is ideal, but that doesn't mean you can't do it on your own. If you're using a hand cranking machine it takes a bit of time to get a system down of feeding your pasta through the machine while cranking but it's not at all impossible.
There are a lot of ways to create the dough. I chose to photograph the "Italian Grandmother style" aka on the countertop with a fork. I'll admit this is mostly because it felt more nostalgic to photograph it that way but it's just as easy to mix your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, create a well, and then pour your eggs in the center. (More detailed instructions on this method are below!) Doing it that way makes cleanup much easier. You can also make the dough in the food processor, which cuts down on the knead-time. I made my pasta dough this way the first time and it worked perfectly. Just combine all the ingredients in the food processor, pulse to combine then run it continuously until a dough ball forms. Afterward knead the dough for a few minutes before letting it rest and continuing with the process.
- Whisk together the flour and salt with a fork in a medium mixing bowl.
- Create a deep well in the middle of the flour and add your eggs. Whisk with the fork to combine, careful not to let too much of the flour fall into the center too quickly.
- As you whisk the eggs, begin gradually pulling flour from the bottom and sides of the bowl. Don't rush this step! Once enough flour has been added, it will start forming a soft dough.
- Turn the dough and any excess flour out onto a clean counter and begin gently folding the dough on itself. You may need to add more flour if the dough becomes sticky. Keep kneading for about 5-10 minutes.
- Wrap the dough in plastic and set it aside to rest for at least 30 minutes. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Let it come back to room temperature before rolling.)
- Divide the pasta dough into 6 equal sections. Sprinkle a baking sheet generously with flour and store your dough there with a clean dishtowel covering the dough while you work with one piece at a time. (NOTE: at this point it's most important to keep everything well floured so the pasta doesn't stick to itself or your roller as you work!)
- To begin rolling, set your pasta machine to the thickest setting (on mine it's 6, but sometimes the thickets begins at 1). Flatten one piece of dough using your hands into a thick disk and feed it though the pasta roller. Repeat this once or twice
- Next, fold the left side halfway toward the right, and the right side halfway toward the left (like a letter) With the pasta machine still on the thickest setting, feed the pasta between the rollers twice.
- To thin the pasta, begin changing the setting on your roller to roll the pasta thinner and thinner. For example, I begin at 6 and feed my pasta through the roller twice on each number 6-1. It is important not to skip settings and to make sure you feed the pasta through at least twice. (If the pasta gets too long to work with just cut it in half.)
- To cut the dough, you could do this by hand, or if your pasta machine has a cutting attachment like mine does, you simply feed your pasta through the cutting attachment and crank. Toss the noodles with flour to keep them from sticking and gather them into a loose bundle and cover with a dishtowel while you work through all of your dough.
- Cooking, drying, or freezing your pasta: To cook the pasta immediately, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for about 4 minutes. The dry, lay the pasta over a drying rack (like this one!) and let air dry until completely brittle. Store in an airtight container for several weeks. To freeze, place the bundles of floured pasta on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for an hour. Gather into an airtight container and freeze for up to three months. Dried and frozen noodles will need an extra minute or two to cook.