Fresh, homemade pasta definitely beats the dried stuff from the store. However, most of us aren't usually in the mood to knead dough for 10 minutes... or to clean up a sticky, doughy, floury mess afterward.
Lucky for us, there's an easier and cleaner way to make pasta in a quarter of the time with no mess! All you need is one magical tool: a food processor.
Fresh, homemade pasta is glorified for its tender, silky texture and rich, eggy flavor. It also requires less cooking time, due to the tenderness of the dough. Additionally, homemade pasta is great in light, olive oil, or butter-based sauces—thinner consistencies that showcase the fresh pasta itself.
On the other hand, store-bought pasta is usually made of semolina flour (a coarse wheat flour) and water. This kind of pasta is dense and firm-textured, and doesn't pair as well with the lighter sauces mentioned above. However, they do carry heavier sauces, such as Alfredo or cream-based carbonara, quite well.
In the end, however, fresh pasta can't be beat—the flavor alone runs circles around the dried store offerings. So I highly encourage you to give it a try, especially because I'm about to show you why making it at home is easier than you think.
A tough dough is not a fun dough. However, you won't have to struggle with this issue: Cook's Illustrated has revealed that olive oil is the secret to an elastic, easy to work with dough.
Adding a splash of olive oil to your pasta dough will coat the proteins in the flour and limit gluten development. To translate: this means your dough will be incredibly soft and easy to roll out. One less reason to be intimidated by making your own dough!
And now, the process made easy:
First, add all of the ingredients in your pasta recipe to the food processor.
According to the master, Mario Batali, typical Italian-style pasta recipe is made using an even ratio of cups of flour to number of large eggs, and a pinch of salt. Don't forget that splash of olive oil to help keep the dough workable.
Turn the food processor on and watch the magic happen. In the beginning, the mixture will be very crumbly.
After a minute of consistent chopping, the crumbs will start to stick together to form a dough.
Depending on the quality and strength of your food processor, a literal ball of dough may not form. No worries; the dough will easily stick together once you take it out of the food processor.
I know that I promised you a dough with no intense kneading. This is still true. All you need to do is knead the dough 2-3 times against a flat countertop until the large cracks are gone.
When finished, the dough should be smooth and round.
Place the pasta dough in a bowl sprinkled with a little flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Resting the dough will allow the gluten to relax. This will result in a soft, malleable dough.
Feeling Peckish has a video with step-by-step instructions on how to make easy pasta noodles by hand using a convenient folding method.
Sprinkle a bit of flour onto your work surface. Then, roll out the dough until it becomes a thin sheet; the dough, when draped over your hands, should easily curve around the contour of your hand and be transparent to light.
Then, fold the dough. First, fold the top down to the halfway point of the dough sheet. Next, fold the bottom of the dough sheet up to the halfway point to meet the top edge in the center.
Cut the dough into thin strips. This folding makes the resulting noodles even and straight.
Carefully unfold the noodles. If you'd like to keep them from tangling (or would like to separate them into servings), just take a handful of unfolded noodles and roll them around your finger to form a nest. This is also handy for storage—fresh pasta is best stored frozen, and storing it in "pasta nests" takes up much less space in the freezer.
If you want to make more complex shapes like rigatoni and macaroni noodles, you may want to invest in a pasta extruder. (And if you want to really think outside of the box, try a paper shredder.) But if you're making noodles, the hand-rolled, hand-cut kind has a rustic, homemade charm.
After you've made the pasta itself, cooking it is very much like cooking store-bought pasta (drop into a pot or pan of boiling, salted water) with one big exception—the cooking time.
Homemade pasta cooks very quickly; Serious Eats recommends cooking the pasta for no more than 2 minutes or it will become mushy. If you are working with dough you've made before and is frozen, add a minute to your cook time.
Once your noodles are cooked, simply drain and add to whatever sauce you choose to serve it with; we recommend that you mix the pasta in the same pot as the sauce for more flavor.
Dried pasta can be made in minutes, thanks to the convenience of today's grocery store. However, putting in just a little more effort to make homemade dough tastes so much better, I promise!
With the help of your food processor, you don't even have to spend time or effort kneading dough! Just process, rest, shape, and cook—and you'll have a hard time going back to the store-bought stuff.
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