I’ve shied away from writing a lot of pasta recipes and posts, apart from the What pasta tools do you really need parts one and two. Silly really. I thought when I started this website that I wanted to show that I had a breadth of food skills, not just the pasta and bread that I was most known for. I have been making pasta (and bread) by hand at home for over 30 years now, so I’m fairly experienced and perhaps I’m rather overdue writing more pasta posts and recipes!
I’ve adapted this post to give considerations and alternatives during this time of lockdown.
For me, pasta dough is less “recipe” and more “formula”. There are two basic formulas: one for egg dough and one for eggless (just flour and water). Both these then are adaptable for different flours, different amounts of egg/yolk, mixes of flours and other ingredients.
This post only focuses on an egg dough. This produces an elastic and high protein/gluten pasta. Use this as your basis to get used to making fresh egg pasta dough and then move on to create and experiment with variations. This dough can be stretched very thin while remaining strong, so it’s perfect for pasta ripiena (filled pasta such as like ravioli) or long ribbons and straw shapes (as they won’t tear or break under their own weight). In short, using an egg dough gives you a lot of options for making pasta at home.
An addition on 4th June: I’ve completed a YouTube video on making egg dough to accompany this recipe:
Notes on flour
You ideally* want to use an ultra-refined white (soft) wheat flour for this base egg dough recipe. You can go on to play around with different wheat species and gluten free flours later, but for the purposes of this ‘base formula’ we’re sticking to the fundamental recipe.
There are various methods of grading flour. Flours can be coarse grained (uses the wholegrain including bran from the wheat grain) to those that are very finely milled (only using the endosperm: the whitest, finest part of the grain). You need a finely milled flour for fine pasta – the finer the milling the smoother the pasta. I’ve planned a blog post on flour, which I hope to post soon.
In these times of lockdown and flour and egg shortages you can be adaptable. Yes, as mentioned *ideally you want to produce the best pasta which does call for finely milled flour, but you can make good pasta at home with plain flour or strong white bread flour. Plain flour will make slightly softer, limper pasta but cook it for a little less time. Bread flour is course and a bit chewy, but with a robust sauce you’ll barely notice.
It’s been relatively easy (up to the COVID-19 crisis when all flours now seem difficult to come by) to find flours labelled ‘Tipo 00’ in the UK. Even McDougall’s sells packets of 00 flour in high street supermarkets. See my resources page for links to online suppliers – Shipton Mill, Bakery Bits, Melbury and Appleton, Sous Chef and more all ship Italian flours.
It all depends on the size of eggs you have available but try to use large eggs. Roughly 100g of flour = one main course portion.
- 100g of flour + 1 large egg
Alternatively, if you have medium or small eggs:
- 90-92g of flour + 1 medium egg
- 100g of flour + 1 small egg + 1/2 egg yolk. This ratio makes sense when you are making for two or four people, such as 200g flour + 2 small eggs + 1 egg yolk
No eggs or few eggs? It’s been hard to get eggs hasn’t it? So a few tips on eggs in pasta for lockdown:
If you’ve got one or two eggs left and need to make more than two portions replace the missing eggs with 50g of water, that is for each 100g flour use 50g water instead of an egg. For example, you want to make 5 portions and have 2 eggs, use 500g of flour + 2 eggs + 150g water
I don’t really advise this but you ‘can’ make something with part white flour and part semolina flour with water but so note it’s best to let it air dry before using to stop it going gluey. It’s not that great and if you have some semolina flour its much better to make it wholly with that, which is semola dough (see below1). A way round using plain flour with no egg is to add gluten powder2. I’d advise you to not make just flour and water “pasta” (a famous chef has recently mooted this idea) as it’s really not good and has a tendency to dissolve. I did try making it to see – ugghhh. If you’re in that dire a food situation you’re contemplating plain flour + water dough, I’d say stop and make something else. You’re ruining the experience and taste of homemade pasta and you’ll put yourself off. Better to try and get hold of dried pasta, wait til you can get some eggs or make semola dough1. Or just leave off the pasta making and choose something else for a while.
1If you don’t have eggs the ideal things to do is make a semola/eggless pasta dough, typical of southern Italy and Liguria (I will write this up soon) as semola (fine durum wheat flour) has a high protein content which negates the need for eggs. This pasta is fabulous and is the basis of most dried pasta you can buy.
2Gluten powder can be purchased from online bakery suppliers, such as Bakery Bits (see my resource section).
Notes on amounts
I have to add here that 100g for a person is on the large side of what is a single serving – this is fine if the pasta is the majority part of a main meal or people are very hungry! It’s too much if there are a lot of other ingredients as well as the pasta, say for lasagne or spaghetti with meatballs. It’s certainly too much for a starter, so consider your total amounts. For me, about 90g per person is ideal for a main and about 65g for a starter.
Working the dough
It’s easiest to work with at least a 200g dough. Any less is really a lot of effort and time for a tiny amount of food – better to make more that you need and freeze half, see below3.
Pasta dough should be fairly hard work – you need your upper body strength when working by hand. If it’s too easy, there’s not enough flour in it. Likewise, if it’s really ridiculously tough then there’s not enough egg/liquid. To work the dough, transfer the whole force from your shoulder down through your arm to the heel of your hand into the dough. Be rough with it!
Unless you’ve mis-measured or your large egg is really extra-large, all the egg should mix with all the dough. Have you seen those pasta videos or instructions that say discard the extra flour?! There should be no extra flour: it should all mix in with enough force if you’ve weight and prepared properly.
Resting the dough
After kneading, cover the dough (linen cloth, cling film, beeswax wrap, bag etc) and put somewhere cool. It doesn’t have to be a fridge unless it’s a very hot, dry day. But do over all of it, if there are air gaps you’ll get a crust.
Rest for at least 30 minutes.
Making in advance
3 If you want to make egg pasta dough way in advance, then freeze your dough. This does deteriorate the dough a little (in comparison to using it just-made). I find it defrosts better if you cut up the dough into chunks, rather than freeze the large ball of dough. You can also make your pasta shapes and freeze them.
You can make it the day before and leave in the fridge (as it’s raw egg, then I don’t advice leaving it for longer than 24 hours).
Make by hand and you’ll need to knead for up to 10 minutes. Stick the ingredients in a STURDY food processor and it will take but a couple of minutes. Please note do check your food processor manual before making pasta dough in it – most cannot cope with the density of pasta dough and may break!
For me, I always hand mix apart from a couple of highly coloured vegetables doughs which may stain my table. As you get more used to pasta making and stronger arms it will take less time – I can knead dough in just a few minutes now.
- Measure out the right amount of Tip 00 flour and tip onto a table
- Make a well in the middle, so it looks like a volcano crater
- Tip the eggs into the middle (you can crack them straight in here – I usually do as eggs are reliable nowadays – or you can crack them into a bowl first if you’re worried about adding a gone-off egg)
- Use the tips of you fingers with your lead hand, in a circular motion to mix the eggs gradually into the flour, working slowly outwards through the ring of flour – go anti clockwise if you are right handed and clockwise if you are left handed
- Steady the ring/crater of flour with your other hand, so that it doesn’t collapse and your egg runs off across the table
- Slowly incorporate the flour into the egg by dragging a little in from the ‘crater’ with each hand rotation
- Once the flour and egg have been combined, start kneading the dough
- The dough will naturally take up the correct amount of flour for the eggs you have – it shouldn’t leave any ‘spare’ flour on your work surface (though don’t panic if you really can’t work it all in. The reason for this may be a small egg or just not being used to working the dough hard enough)
- Should the flour be taken up very quickly by the egg (maybe larger than average eggs or you’re in high humidity etc), then flick a little more flour onto the table to continue kneading it in
- The dough should be difficult but not be very dry: it should not crack or crumble when kneading. It is tricky, but not impossible to add more liquid to a dry dough. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to wet your hands (flick off the excess) and knead this in. Once tricky thing about this is if you are working on a slightly slippery surface it’s difficult to knead a dough with a wet exterior – working on wood helps this (the grain acts as a grip)
- A guide for dryness/stickiness of dough is that if you are going to use a pasta machine to produce sheets (sfoglie) it’s better to have a dryer dough and if you are making handmade shapes (such as orecchiette or trofie) then slightly more pliable is best
- Kneading pasta dough is much tougher than kneading bread dough but it s similar technique. To start with, the dough will be very tough to manipulate. If you find it too tricky, try putting the heel of your palm on the dough (as normal) but lean into the dough with the whole weight from your upper body by leaning in to it right from your shoulder, through your arm and down to your hand. As you knead the dough will become more elastic and easier to manipulate
- Knead with your palm to spread the dough out away from you, then roll the dough back with your other hand. Turn or flip over the dough and continue
- You will have to knead for about 10 minutes as someone new to pasta (although if you’re very strong you’re at an advantage and may be quicker). You’ll get faster as you get more practiced and stronger
- The dough is ready when it has a slightly shinier and smoother surface and is more easy to stretch and knead
- Another way to tell is by gently making an indentation in the dough surface with a finger – the dough will slowly spring back (though pasta dough never will fill in the indentation completely)
- Round the dough off into a ball and cover it – your choice of linen, wrap, a bag or whatever – just ensure that it’s covered or the surface will start to dry out and crack
- Any cool-ish, area out of the sun or the top of the fridge will be fine to rest your dough (though if your kitchen is very warm then it really should go in the fridge and, also please note the next point because of raw eggs)
- Leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes ideally. It can be left for a day in a fridge (don’t leave it out of the fridge longer than the 30 minutes because of the raw egg involved)
- After the dough is rested it’s ready to use in your preferred recipe
If you have a question for me please do leave one below, or a nice comment! Thank you
Instructions and visual steps on how to make egg pasta dough, including tips and help on creating pasta when ingredients are hard to come byTweet