Nine Tools to Help You Make Fresh Pasta by Hand
It's easy to make pasta without a fancy machine, especially once you've equipped your kitchen with the right tools. Do as the nonna's do: Roll up your sleeves and get kneading!
Making fresh pasta is a fun and rewarding project you can complete in an afternoon, and contrary to popular belief, it doesn't require a ton of startup capital. That's right: With the right recipe and a few affordable tools on hand, you can make pro-level pasta without a fancy machine.
One popular way to make fresh pasta is by using a stand mixer with the hook attachment to knead the dough for you (a food processor works, too). Once the dough is rested, it is then fed through a crank-operated pasta rolling machine. Sure, all of this equipment will save you some elbow grease, but it's by no means the only way to make pasta. After all, what do you think the Italian grandma's have been doing for eons? They've rolled up their sleeves and got to work, achieving silky strands of tender pasta with little more than a rolling pin and some muscle.
With certain doughs, like that for biscuits, it's important not to overmix so the texture isn't tough. With pasta dough however, you actually want to toughen up the dough by kneading it for as long as your biceps can handle it. To pass the time, you can treat the experience of kneading the pasta dough as meditative, or perhaps you can use it to unleash some stress in the form of rage baking. Bonus: Since it's impossible to over-knead pasta dough, it's a great task to give eager young kitchen helpers.
To get started, choose a pasta dough that's been designed with hand-rolled pasta in mind. For a finished noodle that has a tender bite and a little chew, go with a recipe like this fresh egg pasta dough. Enriched with extra egg yolks and a little olive oil, it makes the dough more pliable, ergo easier to roll by hand. It's perfect for beginners and for pasta shapes like ravioli and fettuccine. For a firmer, more toothsome pasta built for twirling around a fork, follow this recipe for eggless dough that uses a blend of flours to make the process of rolling by hand just about as easy as an enriched dough.
Obviously, one of the draws to making pasta by hand is that it doesn't require any expensive equipment. That said, it does help to have a few basic tools handy for the final steps of shaping. While a rolling pin will be essential for all types of pasta, a few of the tools on this slideshow are tailored to certain styles of noodles. The fluted cutter, for instance, is a great gadget to have for creating frilly edges to farfalle. And while a chef's knife will work fine for cutting thick strands of pasta like pappardelle, a specialized rolling pin built for cutting thinner strands like spaghetti will make the work feel a lot less tedious.
So, if making pasta from scratch turns into a hobby for you, consider investing in the following tools that will help make the process more efficient, and the final product more polished looking.
Unless you are making a pasta that doesn't need to be rolled flat, such as trofie, a rolling pin is essential for making fresh pasta without a machine. This clever pin from modern kitchenware brand Joseph Joseph comes with adjustable rings on each end that will help to create uniform sheets of pasta as thin as 1/16 inch.
Shop Now: Joseph Joseph Adjustable Rolling Pin with Removable Rings, $19.99, amazon.com.
A bench scraper will be useful in making fresh pasta from start to finish: You'll use it when cleaning up excess flour after kneading, dividing the dough into smaller pieces for rolling, and cutting the freshly rolled sheets into squares for giant ravioli.
Shop Now: KitchenAid All-Purpose Scraper, $9.99, target.com.
For pasta shapes that will need to be cut to specific dimensions, you'll be glad to have a ruler within arm's reach. Ensure it will stick around (and not end up lost in the junk drawer) by getting one with a magnetic backing so it can attach easily to the fridge door.
Shop Now: Fox Run Magnetic Kitchen Ruler, $9.50, amazon.com.
Double-Sided Pastry Cutter
Pasta Drying Rack
If using an eggless pasta dough, you can safely dry and store your strands in the pantry for later. The quickest route is to string them up on a drying rack, which also helps to preserve their shape. You can DIY this by setting a wire cooling rack over a deep pot. Once you've gone from novice to enthusiast, consider investing in the real deal, like this collapsible wood version.
Shop Now: Williams Sonoma Pasta Dryer, $19.95, williams-sonoma.com.
Gnocchi and Pasta Paddle
The deep ridges found on pasta shapes like gnocchi are created by rolling the dough over a special paddle. Ridges help the sauce cling better to the pasta, and it makes the presentation look downright professional. This paddle made in Italy comes as part of a set that includes a dowel for shaping tubular pasta like penne and garganelli.
Shop Now: Fante's Cousin Allora's Garganelli Pasta Maker, $7.99, bedbathandbeyond.com.
Spaghetti Cutter Rolling Pin
A specialized rolling pin like this spaghetti cutter will make quick work out of cutting super thin strands of pasta.
Shop Now: Eppicotispai Beechwood Spaghetti Cutter Rolling Pin, $11.87, amazon.com.
Making stuffed pastas like ravioli is a fun project for all skills levels (not to mention a great way to use up leftover cheeses, roasted vegetables, and meats in the fridge). Streamline the process with a ravioli mold that lets you stuff and seal in a lot less time.
Shop Now: Williams Sonoma Ravioli Mold with Roller, $26.95, williams-sonoma.com.
Once your pasta is rolled and cut, all that's left to do is to get it cooking! Fresh pasta won't take as long to cook as dried, so keep an eye on it and check it after just a few minutes. This pasta fork is perfect for scooping up long strands of fettuccine from the pot of boiling water and plopping it right into a skillet of just made Bolognese Sauce.
Shop Now: Martha Stewart Collection Stainless Steel Pasta Fork, $25, macys.com.