Pasta Tips FAQs

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Our readers have had a wide variety of experience in making pasta. Here are their tips and suggestions. Happy pasta making!

1. Tips on forming the dough:

– I find it helps if I wet my palms with cold water and form the dough mixture into balls.

– You may need to adjust the liquid to get the right consistency of the dough. It should be firm and not sticky.

– When adding liquids, start with half of the listed measure. Add additional water, one tablespoonful at a time until dough is at a workable consistency. You may have to do a trial run with your pasta machine to see if it is OK. Err on the too dry side – too wet will be sticky-icky!!!!! You can always add a drop or two more to get the dough “just right”. Amount of water depends on the relative humidity and temperature in your kitchen.

2. Tips on cooking the noodles:

– Cook in wide pot, thus allowing lots of room to expand.

– Use boiling water – a good rolling boil! You want the noodles to cook quickly.

– Keep in mind that fresh pasta cooks very quickly. You drop it in boiling water, wait for it to re-boil, and set a timer for no longer than 3 minutes. Then test for doneness.

– The pasta that I will save for later I allow to dry pretty thoroughly on the rack after cutting. After a few hours drying time you can place it in a zipper freezer bag and throw into the freezer. Do not thaw before cooking, just throw frozen pasta into boiling water. Again, check for doneness after about 3 minutes.

3. Tips on drying the noodles:

– If you don’t have a pasta drying rack, use a clean folding laundry one. The little pasta racks aren’t big enough anyway!

– Once you have pressed out your noodles, gently transfer them to a drying rack. Separate them without stretching them or they will get “tough”.

– I lay a clean towel on the dining room table and place the long sheets of pasta over them as I roll out the whole batch, then I go back and start cutting the ones that I laid down first, (they are slightly drier now) and then place the cut noodles in mounds back on those towels on the dining room table until I’m ready to either cook or bag for freezing. I don’t like the spindle drying rack either, it holds about 1 serving of pasta and I make BATCHES 🙂 I have used the backs of chairs, and I have used the wooden laundry racks, and I MUCH prefer the towels on the dining room table. I have had too many beautiful long sheets and soft fresh made pasta ended up on the floor because they stretched and broke on the rack or chair…so now I play it safe!

4. Tips on storage:

– I let the noodles air dry slightly before placing them in a zipper baggie and in the freezer. At our house, we eat pasta so often, it doesn’t last more than 1 week!! Usually, recipes say to refrigerate the fresh pasta and use within 3 days or freeze and use within 3 months.

– I usually make 2-4 batches of pasta when I make it since we eat so much of it. I set the rolled or extruded pasta out to air dry a bit, until just dry but not brittle, then I place it in a clean gallon zipper baggie and pop it in the freezer. To use frozen pasta…do not thaw…just drop the frozen pasta into boiling water or stock…stir a minute to break up any clumps and cook as usual. It takes a minute or two longer when it’s frozen. TEST FREQUENTLY!

5. “Is it time-consuming? Is it worth doing yourself?”

– It takes me about 10 minutes to mix and knead my pasta dough in the Bosch. Then I wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes (I skip this step if I’m in a hurry) to help the dough roll out better. Sometimes I’ll make pasta dough in the morning and refrigerate it until the afternoon when I’m ready to roll it out. The rolling and cutting goes very quickly with the Atlas, the rest of the time depends on whether I let the pasta dry some. Drying is optional, but if your noodles are sticking together it will help them not to stick to each other while cooking. The actual cooking takes only about 3 minutes for fresh pasta. I like to make a double or triple batch of pasta, let the extra dry a bit, then bag and freeze it for a quick, healthy meal on another day. The frozen pasta can be plopped straight into boiling water. Easy!

– When I made pasta, I remember it being somewhat time-consuming, and definitely not an activity I wanted to try with little ones under foot. Now that my kids are older, I let them help me. They can make the balls of dough to drop in the extruder. They can also take the extruded noodles and spread them to dry. (NOTE: LOTS of “sampling” happens!” I like to make them and serve sautéed fresh veggies over them in the summer, a great no-heat kitchen recipe for those hot, hot summers.

– Pasta is a time-consuming process, and sometimes it seems like you’ll never get done with the dough – BUT – if you make it, it is cheaper. It has healthier ingredients. You can use whole eggs, egg whites only or egg substitutes. There are no preservatives or “dough stabilizers” in it.

– I like the texture of fresh ground Kamut but we like the Durum too. Remember also, whole grain flours are not like refined flours and you’ll need to work the dough a bit to get a satiny feel. More liquid might make it softer and easier to roll. I can’t roll my dough think enough with just my strength, that’s why I got the Atlas roller and it rolls them beautifully. It really does get faster the more you do it. What I do is divide up the parts like this: Early in the morning or the night before I want pasta, I make up the dough in the Bosch, kneading it until smooth. I dust it with flour and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in fridge.

Later I take it out, let come to room temp, divide in 4ths, dust again with flour and roll out into wide, long sheets. I lay these on the dining room table on a clean towel until all are rolled out. Then I start w/ the first I rolled and place the long sheets in the cutter. This is really the time consuming part, but only takes me about 20-30 minutes per batch. I then leave the cut noodles on my kitchen table, dust w/ flour to keep from sticking and don’t bother with it again until later when I boil the water and throw them in!!!

6. “EGGS!!!! YIKES!!!! What about cholesterol???”

– If you have a “cholesterol-conscious” family member, you can use egg whites or the powdered egg whites you can find in the grocery store. However, since two whole eggs makes a LOT of noodles, it isn’t really that much cholesterol per serving when you come down to it, (unless of course you eat the whole recipe yourself )

– You can control whether or not you use whole eggs or egg whites.

– I tried making them with the flax seed egg substitute and they turned out pretty well (a little grainy, though.) I would rather just leave the eggs out than use flax seed again. I have made very good pasta just using water and/or oil instead of eggs. Also, you can use egg whites instead of whole eggs.

7. “What kind of machine do you have?”

– I have an attachment that goes on my Kitchen Aid large stand mixer. The pasta attachment is a separate purchase. It actually came with the grinder attachment in a Kitchen Aid accessories kit. I think if was purchased from one of those kitchen stores like you see in the malls. If you get on the right mailing lists you may see it in catalogues, too.

– My daughter saw Mr. Rogers (on TV) make noodles using an Atlas when she was 3 1/2 (she’s now almost 10). She decided right then she had to have one! To her, it was like play-dough fun factory, with a product you’re supposed to eat! 🙂 For her fourth birthday grandma came through with her pasta roller (only it is a Pasta Queen, not an Atlas). She loved it – and so do I!

– We tried something new the last time we made noodles – we dried them in our food dehydrator. They dried very quickly dust free, toddler-free, without taking up a lot of space. We made noodles in the evening, went to bed, and they were ready to put in the jar in the morning. Eggs noodles will be fresh for
about a month that way.

– Pasta machines: I like my Atlas hand crank and for the price of about $35.00, you can’t beat it. It does *only* roll out flat noodles, but it is sturdy and I have had mine for more than 12 years. I have trouble with my joints and muscles so I cannot crank it very often, but my children can do this for me. You also can do flat spaghetti, ravioli and lasagna with it.

– As far as a pasta extruder, I have an electric one made by Simac, a very good name. It makes
spaghetti (round not flat) small tube macaroni, larger tube ribbed ziti, breadsticks, gnocchi, shells and some more. It does NOT make the rotini (twists) I wish it did. The reason I bought it is because as I was researching extruders, I found that even though some other machines’ ads said they could handle semolina or whole grain pasta, when I spoke to customers who used those machines, and in some cases the companies themselves, I was told that those machines would not hold up and each had high repair rates especially with dies, and housing. The dies were all plastic, except the Simac which has brass reinforcing the plastic. If the reason you want to make pasta is for whole grains, I’d use the Atlas or the Simac. For the money, I found them to be the best buys for what I wanted.

– The Simac is a good machine. The capacity is 1 1/2 pounds. It’s fine for my small family (only 5.) Keep in mind 1 1/2 pounds means all-purpose flour for the dough, if you use 100% Kamut, it will be 3/4 pounds per batch. It has a rotelle die (something I REALLY wanted!)

8. “Please, please!!! Just a few recipes!!”

Directions for mixing all recipes by hand:
1) Mix dry ingredients together and make a “well” in the middle.
2) Add beaten eggs, oil and any other ingredients EXCEPT water to the “well”; mix with fork until well blended.
3) Add water, starting with half of the listed measure. Add additional water, one tablespoonful at a time until dough is at a workable consistency.
4) Knead until smooth and satiny, adding more flour if necessary.
5) Let rest at least 30 minutes before rolling.
6) Roll out into noodles or extrude using whatever method you choose.

Directions for mixing all recipes by mixer:
1) Place flour in the mixing bowl. (I use a Bosch)
2) Turn mixer on while machine is running, add eggs, oil and other ingredients.
3) With machine still running, drizzle water slowly until dough becomes a ball and holds together. Let machine knead until dough is elastic. Add more flour if necessary.
4) Let rest at least 30 minutes.
5) Divide into fourths.
6) Roll out into noodles or extrude using whatever method you choose.

Remember to let the sheets of fresh pasta air dry before running through the rollers to avoid sticking together and do not allow the sheets to dry too long or become brittle.

Cook immediately in boiling water for 3-5 minutes or until cooked through. Remember, fresh pasta
cooks very quickly…do not overcook!! Serve immediately with your favorite topping ready and waiting. Enjoy!!!

BASIC KAMUT NOODLE DOUGH

Yield: about 4 cups Preparation Time: Divided
4 servings

  • 2 cups Kamut flour, freshly ground
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Water or extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • options: 1-2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic

Per cup: 160 Calories; 2g Fat (12.8% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 71mg Cholesterol; 25mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Fat.

BLACK PEPPER PASTA

Yield: About 4 cups Preparation Time: Divided
4 servings

  • 2 cups whole grain flour (I prefer Kamut)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons water
  • 1 heaping teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Per cup: 272 Calories; 7g Fat (22.1% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 106mg Cholesterol; 305mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Fat.

HERB PASTA

Yield: about 6 cups Preparation Time: Divided
6 servings

  • 2 1/2 cups whole grain flour (I prefer Kamut)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon warm water
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

(NOTE: if using fresh spices, use 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh spice instead of 1 tsp dried.)

Per Serving: 229 Calories; 6g Fat (21.3% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 106mg Cholesterol; 38mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 1/2 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1 Fat.

© 1995-2013 Vickilynn Haycraft and Real Food Living. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this review may be copied, stored or transmitted in any medium, for any reason without prior written permission of the author.

About Vickilynn Haycraft

A student of health and nutrition for 30 years, Vickilynn Haycraft has over 25 years of actual hands-on experience reviewing and personally using different tools of the homemaking vocation, focusing on the areas of health and nutrition. Vickilynn is a magazine columnist, product reviewer, cookbook author and now radio talk show host, as well as being full-time wife and mom to 5 children. Read Vickilynn's Product Reviews and Family Preparedness Articles at Examiner.com. She blogs at the Real Food Living Blog.