Homemade Pasta 101: No Pasta Machine Required
Learn how to make classic fettuccine, plus a fun shaped pasta, and two from-scratch pasta sauces with our new recipes and how-to guide
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Article, recipes, and photos by Ashley Strickland Freeman
Have you ever wanted to make fresh pasta but didn’t want to add yet another appliance or piece of equipment to your kitchen? Or maybe you’re ready for a fun project in the kitchen that doesn’t involve pulling out the pasta attachment for your stand mixer, a pasta machine, or a food processor from the cupboard. I’ve got good news for you! You can make homemade pasta with things you already have in your kitchen: a rolling pin, a chef’s knife, and a little time.
In fact, my Basic Homemade Egg Pasta Dough recipe has only two ingredients and is the ideal dough for both cut and shaped pasta — perfect if this is your first time. We’ll be making fettuccine and cavatelli with the recipe, but you can also use the dough to make lasagna sheets, ravioli, pappardelle, farfalle, and more.
Fettuccine (and other long pasta) is a great vessel for rich ragu sauces like the Stovetop Beef Ragu recipe I've included below. Cavatelli is a shaped pasta that’s not only fun to make, but also has the ideal nooks and crannies to catch delicious sauces like the one I've included here for Roasted Summer Vegetable Pasta.
Fair warning though — making pasta from scratch is not a speedy process, but it is satisfying and can even be therapeutic. So set aside some time on the weekend or a day off, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get cooking.
Jump ahead to:
How to make homemade pasta dough from scratch
This homemade pasta recipe has a beautiful yellow hue from the eggs and is great for both cut and shaped pasta. It's made with large eggs and all-purpose flour (no need to hunt down semolina flour or Italian 000 flour) — that's it!
When you get into the recipe you'll see that there's a range for the amount of flour, and you’ll want to start with the lowest amount first. Things like humidity, the size of the eggs, and how you measure flour are all factors that can affect how much flour you need. When measuring the flour, be sure you fluff it up with a spoon and then gently spoon it into a dry measuring cup, leveling the top with a knife. Make sure not to pack the flour or scoop it directly with the measuring cup.
Homemade pasta dough: the basics
1. Make a well of flour. Place flour in a mound on a clean work surface and make a large well in the center. Carefully crack the eggs into the center of the well.
2. Whisk in the eggs. Using a fork, whisk together the eggs in the well. Gradually mix the flour into the eggs, adding a little flour at a time and mixing well before adding more (the dough should be slightly sticky).
3. Knead the dough. Once the flour is incorporated, shape the dough into a ball and knead until small blisters form and the dough is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky. As you're kneading, keep the work surface dusted with a little flour to prevent sticking.
4. Let it rest. Cover the ball of dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rest at least 30 minutes at room temperature before cutting or shaping. (This lets the gluten relax so the dough will be easier to roll out.)
Now choose one of the following ways to shape your dough. You don't need a pasta maker, just a rolling pin or your fingers.
How to make fettuccine
1. Roll into thin sheets. Cut the rested dough into 4 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll 1 piece as thinly as possible but still thick enough to be lifted off the counter without breaking.
2. Fold and cut the dough. Lightly dust the sheet of dough with flour. Fold and dust with flour three times to create a stack. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into ¼-inch strips. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
3. Let it dry. Separate noodles into “nests” and let the cut pasta dry uncovered on a baking sheet until no longer sticky, about 15 minutes.
How to make cavatelli
1. Roll ropes. Cut the rested dough into 8 equal portions. Roll a piece of dough with your fingers into a ¼-inch-thick rope, dampening your hands with water if needed to help with rolling. Repeat to shape remaining dough portions into ropes.
2. Cut into pieces. Slice each rope into 1-inch pieces, again keeping them covered when not being used.
3. Press and curl. Working with 1 piece at a time, firmly press your index and middle fingers into the dough piece, flattening the dough as much as possible. While pressing down, move your two fingers towards your body, allowing the dough to flatten and curl up over your fingertips to create cavatelli (short pieces of pasta that are shaped like mini hot dog buns). Repeat with all of the dough pieces.
4. Let it dry. Dust the cavatelli with flour and let it dry uncovered on a baking sheet until no longer sticky, about 15 minutes.
5. Boil it up. To cook your creation, boil in salted water until al dente, 1 to 3 minutes for fettuccine or 10 to 15 minutes for cavatelli. Start testing a few pieces early, as fresh pasta overcooks to mush more easily than dried.
Ready to give the recipe a try?
While your fresh pasta recipe will be amazing with only extra-virgin olive oil and salt, you may want to set it off with a homemade sauce, and we have two to choose from.
Stovetop ragu for your homemade fettuccine
This hearty meat sauce is comfort food in a bowl, with rich flavor from red wine and tomatoes that tastes like it came straight from Italy. Don’t be alarmed by the cooking time. It’s a recipe you can get going and let simmer away on the stove while you do other things, making it perfect for a weekend dinner. Of course if you don't have time to make fettuccine from scratch, this sauce is also delicious with dried pasta.
Late-summer vegetable sauce for your homemade cavatelli
Is your end-of-the-season garden or farmers’ market overflowing with squash, tomatoes, and basil? Well, you’re in luck! This recipe celebrates the season’s bounty with roasted vegetables and deliciously chewy homemade cavatelli pasta.
For the love of pasta
Versatile and family-friendly, pasta is one of everybody's favorite meals. If you're looking for even more ways to make it delicious, we have plenty of ideas to explore.