100 Techniques

Technique #77: Make Fresh Pasta without a Machine

If you think you can’t make fresh pasta because you don’t have a pasta maker, think again.

Published Aug. 16, 2023.

This is Technique #77 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

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Despite what you might think, it's easy to make tender, fresh pasta from scratch with nothing more than the dough, a rolling pin, a sharp knife, and some elbow grease.

If you’ve ever attempted fresh pasta from scratch, you know that pasta dough has a tendency to spring back, and if it isn’t rolled out gossamer-thin, the pasta will never achieve the right al dente texture when cooked.

This makes it challenging to make fresh pasta without mechanical rollers.

And the traditional Italian by-hand method requires an extra-long, thin rolling pin and exhaustive practice.

For a dough that rolls out with ease on the first try with a standard rolling pin and cooks up to that incomparably tender, silky yet slightly firm texture that makes fresh pasta so worth making, we made some key changes to tradition.

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First, Make the Dough Malleable

Adding olive oil and extra egg yolks to your pasta dough helps keep it soft and malleable. Olive oil increases the pliability of the dough, and egg yolks are loaded with fat and emulsifiers, both of which help minimize gluten development.

Also, adding extra yolks produces a supple, easy-to-work dough that boils up tender.

Then Let It Rest

We like to give the dough a long rest after kneading (at least an hour) because this provides time for the gluten to relax, thus making rolling out the dough much easier.

Finally, Roll It Out Carefully

Once the dough is ready to roll out, we lift the dough frequently to help prevent sticking. Be careful not to use too much flour when rolling out the dough. You don’t want it to be too sticky, but a little cling is a good thing, as it prevents the dough from springing back too easily.

If there’s excess flour, it won’t get incorporated into the dough, but rather will turn the surface of your pasta coarse and gummy. 

With dough that’s this easy to roll out and that cooks up into such wonderfully springy, delicate noodles, even if you own a pasta machine you might be tempted to leave it in the cabinet.

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Step by Step: How to Make Fresh Pasta By Hand

If you follow these simple steps, you'll finish with perfectly eggy, bouncy, and soft, homemade fresh pasta.

Step 1: Knead, Shape, and Rest

Knead dough until smooth. Shape into 6-inch cylinder, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature.

Step 2: Cut the Dough and Shape Smaller Pieces

Cut cylinder crosswise into 6 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, press into 3-inch square with fingers, then roll into 6-inch square with rolling pin.

Step 3: Create Sheets

Roll dough from center, one way at a time, into thin sheet 20 inches long and 6 inches wide, dusting dough with flour only as needed and lifting sheet from counter frequently to prevent sticking.

Step 4: Roll 'Em

Let pasta sheet air-dry on dish towel, then fold sheet at 2-inch intervals into flat, rectangular roll.

Step 5: Cut Noodles

Using sharp chef’s knife, slice folded sheet crosswise into 3/16-inch-thick noodles.

Step 6: Transfer Noodles to Baking Sheet

Unfurl noodles and transfer to baking sheet. Repeat folding and cutting with remaining sheetsof dough.

Watch Dan Souza cook through our full fresh pasta by hand recipe.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Ready to make fresh pasta at home by hand? Give one of these recipes a try.


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