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Is there anything better than fresh, homemade pasta?
The fact that it stays soft for days in the refrigerator and makes great leftovers.
I love fresh pasta.
But you know what I don’t love?
Bulky, single-purpose appliances like pasta machines that are miserable to use and clean. I don’t have one. I don’t want one. And thanks to this ridiculously easy pasta cutting technique, you and I don’t need one.
Making homemade pasta is much easier than people realize. Yes it takes more time and effort than dumping a box of spaghetti into a pot of water (which I regularly enjoy too) but there’s something special about fresh rolled pasta that makes it a worthy time investment.
If you’ve had fresh pasta then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t then you’re in for a real treat.
For the record, your friends and family will love this homemade from scratch pasta and they’ll want you to make it for them all the time for the rest of forever. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Simple Ingredients and the Best Recipes
At a minimum, fresh pasta recipes call for flour and eggs. Salt and olive oil are other popular ingredients and some of the more exotic recipes call for fresh herbs. If you cook or bake regularly then chances are you already have everything you need in your pantry.
My favorite fresh pasta recipe is Mark Bittman’s Fresh Egg Pasta from his How to Cook Everything cookbook which may just be the best home cookbook ever written.
Seriously, you’ll be amazed at how delicious the end product is given such simple ingredients.
And with all due respect to Mr. Bittman, whose recipe I adore, I’ve developed a better way to roll and cut fresh pasta at home.
Without a giant, space wasting pasta machine.
The Only Tools I Ever Use to Make a Batch of Fresh Pasta
When making pasta dough I use three tools – a food processor, a rolling pin, and a pizza cutter. Gosh that sounds like the start to a bad joke, doesn’t it? Well no kidding, I regularly use all of these items to cook and bake a variety of foods so I’m happy to make space for them in my little kitchen.
I highly recommend investing in a food processor. They’re more versatile than stand mixers, they take up half the space, and they’re only a fraction of the cost. I’ve had this Cuisinart 8-Cup Food Processor for years and use it to make everything from fresh pasta and bread dough to pesto and strawberry sorbet.
Rolling pins come in many styles, sizes, and materials. After I broke my second traditional rolling pin (don’t ask, I don’t know how I do these things) I switched to a wooden French rolling pin. Really any rolling pin style will do so use what you have. In a pinch you could even use a wine or olive oil bottle.
As for pizza cutters – a pizza cutter is a pizza cutter. Or so I thought until I stumbled across this little doohickey. Still not sure how I feel about it but I’m curious enough to give it a try whenever my current pizza cutter calls it quits.
Making, Rolling, and Cutting the Pasta Dough
A food processor makes quick work of the pasta dough, sufficiently combining all of the ingredients in less than a minute. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, shape it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it on the counter. Don’t bother cleaning your floured surface – you’re going to need it again shortly.
After letting the dough rest for about half an hour it’s time to roll and cut. Working again on your well floured surface (I prefer to work on a large wooden cutting board or silicon baking mat), it’s easy to roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Tear off a golf ball size of dough and roll it, alternating directions, until it’s about 1/16 inch thick. You may notice that the dough is easier to roll in one direction vs another. That’s fine, roll it in that direction!
(Is that where the saying “roll with it” comes from?)
The real trick is to use plenty of flour – too little and the dough will stick to the rolling pin or the rolling surface and make a clumpy, torn mess. If your dough does clump or tear, scrunch it back together in a ball, sprinkle it with flour, and roll it again.
Next comes the fun part.
Using the pizza cutter, cut 1/2 in thick strips. It takes a little bit of practice to get similarly sized pieces at speed but I promise if I can do it, you can do it. Just make sure your pizza cutter blade doesn’t wobble or else you’ll alternate between really thin and really thick pasta strips (ask me how I know).
For anyone who’s made fresh pasta before without a pasta machine using the traditional “fold and slice” method, you’ll fully appreciate how much faster the pizza cutter method is. Not to mention you completely eliminate the risk of ruining your rolling job by squishing the folded pasta down too hard.
Speaking of which, after you cut each batch of pasta be sure to hang it up on the edge of a large bowl or lay it out in a single layer on a baking sheet. It’s not because the pasta has to dry or anything but because if it’s left in a big pile, the weight will squish the bottom most layer of pasta and undo all of your rolling and cutting. It’s not the end of the world if that happens, you can re-roll and re-cut it, but do you really want to?
Just hang it up or lay it out to avoid the problem altogether.
And don’t forget to give the pasta a good sniff while you’re at it. Fresh pasta dough smells WONDERFUL. So good you’ll be wondering what’s actually in the pasta boxes you’ve been buying all these years.
Time to Eat – Gently Boil and Enjoy!
Fresh pasta is a lot more delicate than boxed pasta and requires a far shorter boiling time – just 3 to 5 minutes. Dried pasta requires more time because it’s hard and needs to soften whereas fresh pasta is soft to begin with. You want to boil the fresh pasta just long enough to cook the egg. When you consider how long you poach an egg (4 minutes), a 3 to 5 minute boiling time makes sense.
And trust me, 4 minutes will feel like a long time when you’re excited to eat your homemade pasta.
Once the pasta’s boiled, strain out the water, add some butter and enjoy! I’m a big sucker for Pecorino Romano and pesto too…
What’s your favorite thing to put on pasta? Red meat sauce? Pesto? Parmesan? I’m always curious to hear how other people prefer their food and why. Let me know what your perfect pasta topping is in the comments!
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