I made too much pasta last year. You see I started a side business during the pandemic making pasta dinners in pre-order, turning my small studio kitchen into a once-a-week take-out restaurant. The top of my fridge was piled with to go out boxes, plastic ramekins and deli containers. A pasta maker or cavatelli hand crank has been hanging on my kitchen shelf at all times. Surfaces covered with flour. Counters sprayed with red sauce. Scramble to check my phone every 10 mins because all the side hustle worked successfully via Instagram DMs. It wasn’t ideal, but it gave me the extra money I needed to keep my head above water during tough times. And I had Well with pasta.
I made pasta dough several times a week for over a year. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the exact ratio for my eggless pasta dough (6.8 ounces 00 flour, 6 ounces semolina, ¾ cup warm water, and a pinch of salt). I know that a carton of eggs will get me 5 orders of pappardelle. I will always know when the dough is too sticky or too dry before things are past the point of no return. Once you’ve seen all the ways a ball of dough can go wrong, you become fearless in the face of disaster. There’s no more panic that the dough won’t come together.
Do anything long enough and you develop a psychic connection to the process. Recently, I tried to describe my relationship with making pasta in a conversation with someone, and they politely asked me, “Have you been addicted?” People can feel it. I make pasta like I’m running from something.
I made my last pasta service last Sunday. No more clandestine dinners served from my apartment. No more running a brown grocery bag full of gravy noodles to someone double parked on my street. Ghost kitchens, pop-ups and makeshift entrepreneurship were crucial for many of us during the pandemic. But, finally, I found a job. A personal writing job, and so I can leave the pasta business behind me.
It’s also my last To go out article, hopefully not ever, but in the foreseeable future. So I think we should talk about the thing I have the most experience with: pasta. I’m self-taught and have a bit of knowledge, so let’s talk about sticky dough. Here’s what I’ve learned from making hundreds of fresh pasta orders this year.
Pasta Dough Thrives Without Eggs
In fact, out of preference, I would say eggless dough is my favorite dough. My favorite pasta shape is orecchiette, or little ears, which serve as the perfect cup-shaped container to hold hearty, thick sauces like bolognese.
Orecchiette is traditionally made with semolina flour; semolina, which is coarsely ground durum wheat, has a higher gluten content and therefore produces chewier pasta. As mentioned before, I use 00 semolina/flour mix and lukewarm water to create my eggless pasta dough (answered with water)))) [with what additional ingredients, if any?], and the result is a soft, fluffy, silky pastry that, for a second, will make you think it’s actually made with ricotta. Remember, the egg was introduced much later in the pasta-making canon. If you are interested in orecchiette, watch this video here:
Short pasta freezes much better than long pasta
Cavatelli, orrechiette, rigatoni and others freeze very well. I stuff them in freezer bags and they keep for quite a long time, about a month or so, before I notice a drop in quality. Short pasta does not lose much by being frozen. They are small fortified reservoirs capable of withstanding the freezing process.
Longer pastas, to me, tend to lose their silky, fresh nature when you put them in the freezer. Spaghetti breaks too easily when nested and stored in cold temperatures. To obtain the best attributes of pappardelle, it must be cut and immediately thrown into the water. I don’t even like to store long pasta in the fridge unless I have to. Tip: If you store fresh long pasta in the fridge, be sure to dry it out a bit. I do Grandma’s classic “hang spaghetti on the back of a chair” method.
Get a bench scraper
Yeah, you need a bench scraper—This thing. A bench scraper does such a good job of chopping up the dough and helping form your initial shaggy ball. And when it comes time to clean up and remove the little bits of flour stuck on the cutting board, nothing works better for scraping those bits. I’ve seen line cooks use scrapers to easily clean stainless steel countertops; you can use it to scrape the paint, it’s so helpful.
00 flour is worth it, actually
Look, if you’re taking on the daunting task of making fresh pasta at home, you might as well go further. Spring for “00” (double zero) flour, which is a finely ground Italian flour that results in silkier noodles. It’s not even that expensive if you get it on the cheap Italian market. The name of the game for fresh pasta is texture, and flour is the one thing you shouldn’t try to shorten. hell my favorite pierogis pop-up in the city of Los Angeles uses 00 flour to make its dough. This flour is widely used by pasta and dumpling makers for a reason: texture, texture, texture. Go Caputo mark and don’t look back.
Kneading is a free style, so find what works for you
I’ve watched a lot of videos of people kneading dough, and the truth is no one can tell you that. exactly how to do. But one thing I heard someone say once that stuck with me was that kneading pasta dough is “folding the dough over itself” and that unlocked something in my brain.
When I knead, I continually try to fold the dough back on itself with the heels of my hands. Every once in a while I grab it with my fingers, being careful not to tear it, so I can get a feel for the softness and elasticity of the dough. It’s about feeling with your hands.
As far as time goes, 10 minutes is how long it takes to form a strong gluten bond with your pasta. I regularly stop at 7-8 minutes, adding a little flour or water as I go. Knead with your hands. This is the only way to ensure that you can adjust and fix your ball as you go.
Take-out pasta must be accompanied by cooking water
My customers have assured me that their pasta is a delicious reheat, but I’ve always been skeptical. Pasta is simply not one of those things that trips Good. A cacio and pepe that sits in an aluminum container for 40 minutes simply won’t be of the same quality as a cacio delivered straight to your table. Plus, how do you even reheat pasta? An oven can dry the noodles instantly. The microwave works well, but it’s hard to get that nice, saturated, crispy texture you get with freshly made pasta. My solution? Send people home with pasta water.
Starchy pasta water is the only thing that can really bring pasta back to life. It is the magic substance that is absolutely paramount to producing classic Roman pasta dishes, an ingredient by its very nature. My tip for reheating pasta: add a little pasta water to a stale pasta dish that’s been too long on the stovetop and revive it over medium heat.
A few clients took my advice on this, and it worked. I sent them home with a small plastic ramekin of cloudy pasta water and had them pour, microwave, stir, then microwave again. It went like clockwork. More restaurants should send you home with some pasta water. It is the best possible solution.
Say yes to a pasta machine
Evan Funke, one of the world’s most talented pasta chefs and author of American Sfoglino, has repeatedly said “fuck you with your pasta machine”. And I would like to say publicly that it’s crap.
There’s no one way to homemade pasta. There’s one that Funke has mastered, yes, which is rooted in centuries of practice, honor, culture and tradition. The type of pasta making where the person wields a mattarello (a long, narrow wooden rolling pin) as an old family heirloom of a sword. Funke has a deep understanding and respect for the practice of pasta making, but the truth is that many Italians use pasta machines to flatten their dough.
Many people have small kitchens or may not be ready to dedicate a decade to becoming one. sfoglino. So something like a Imperia The pasta maker serves a great purpose: it’s a quick and easy way to flatten dough so you can then manipulate it. With a pasta machine, long sheets are produced in seconds and can be cut to create lasagne sheets, ravioli or cappelletti. Take your pasta sheets, flour them, fold them a few times, and cut tagliatelle or pappardelle. The Italians love, I repeat, to like to make people feel bad about their attempts at making pasta. Do not listen to them. And don’t feel bad about using a pasta maker.
I believe there is immense and irreplaceable joy in making your own pasta shapes by hand. A pasta maker, however, is just a convenient way to flatten your dough.
If you’re using eggs to make batter, opt for the yolks
The more yolks you use, the richer the batter will be. There’s nothing quite like a rich, yellow, yellow-laden, wavy pappardelle. Consider the following recipe for The French laundry cookbookPasta dough:
- 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon of milk
Never mind the weird addition of milk, but six egg yolks to 1¾ cups of flour is a staggering ratio of yolk to flour. My own recipe is 2 cups flour 00 for 2 whole eggs and 4 yolks. Egg white make your dough more flexible, but the egg yellow increase the wealth factor. That might seem like a lot of eggs for a batch of dough, but there’s no substitute for the wavy, sleek, buttery noodles that result from a dough that uses lots of yolks. Pasta is often synonymous with simplistic elegance and richness, and egg yolks are central to this concept.