Best pasta for a beginner?
Have a little read of my where to start for making homemade pasta. I recommend starting with a flour and water shape like my hand rolled gnocchi sardi or hand rolled pici pasta. I find these dough are easier to bring together and both require little or no equipment.
Best flour for pasta?
For fresh egg pasta you will use '00' flour which is a plain white flour which has been finely milled. I use Caputo but use whatever you can find. Plain flour will also work perfectly. You will also see me talking about semolina a lot. For hand rolled shapes you will need to find the really finely milled semolina referred to as semola rimacinata. I always figure if I can find these flours in New Zealand you must be able to find them anywhere! If you live in New Zealand I buy my flours from either The Mediterranean Food Company or My Pantry.
Why do you use different flours in one dough?
Plain flour or '00' flour is a soft flour, it makes your dough elastic and tender. Semolina is classed as a hard flour and is going to add structure and bite. Using the two together means you get the best of both worlds. For the ratios that is about personal preference and also the type of shape you are making. A good place to start is 350g '00' and 50g of semolina. For shapes that require more structure, such as a garganelli, I might up the ratio to 300g '00' and 100g of semolina as the semolina is going to add structure. For a shape like papardelle or handkerchief you might choose to only use '00' if you want a super silky and tender finished result. There really is no rule here, have a play around and see what you like best, just know the more semolina you add the more bite the pasta will have when cooked.
What does it mean when you talk about hydration?
Talking in hydration percentages makes it sound much more complicated than it actually is. It simply means the ratio of flour to liquid. An egg pasta dough should have a 57% hydration that just means that 57% of the flour amount should be liquid. So for 400g of flour that means 228g of eggs. Make sense?! That means whatever amount of flour you want to use just work out 57% of that and that's how much liquid you need.
For a flour and water dough the hydration is 50% so for shapes like orecchiette and gnocchi sardi if you use 400g of flour you need 200g of water - easy!
What equipment do I need?
- Wooden board - just a store bought wooden chopping board is fine. I don't knead my dough on it but it is handy for hand rolled shapes and cutting out shapes for ravioli.
- Kitchen scales - for weighing your flour and liquids. This is compulsory!
- Bench scraper - they are so cheap and a must for me when making a pasta dough.
- Gnocchi board - again, these are so inexpensive and you can make so many shapes on them.
- Pasta roller - this is a must if you want to get into making pasta regularly. You can hand roll pasta sheets out with a rolling pin but it's not the easiest. For a hand cranked roller the Marcato brand is the best. You will be able to find one online wherever you live. If you have a kitchen aid mixer then the pasta attachments are amazing. Extremely heavy and good quality and this is what I personally use.
- Piping bags - this is obviously optional but if you are getting into filled pastas it is so much easier to put your filling into a piping bag.
- There are so many other tools you can buy, fluted cutters and ravioli stamps etc but these are obviously all optional.
How do I store fresh pasta?
There is a delicate balance here of drying your pasta so it sets the shape and will stay intact when cooking and drying it out too much so it will have a really hard bite. If you are making pasta to cook straight away it is fine to sit out on the bench but for no longer than 20 - 30 mins. This really is a bit about personal preference, texture wise. For filled pasta, I don't like it to dry out as I find it just doesn't hydrate well in the water so I will let it sit out for 20 mins max n(but generally under some loose cling film) then I freeze it open on a tray for 20 mins then transfer to a bag or container to cook from frozen. If you want to keep them in the fridge, make sure the tray they are on is well dusted with course semolina otherwise they will stick. The condensation in the fridge makes pasta stick so it's not my chosen method. I've heard a pizza box is the best way to store pasta in the fridge. Long shapes like pappardelle benefit from drying as they will be sturdier when cooked but again I wouldn't personally do this for longer than 20 - 30 mins. You'll learn as you go what you like!
Can I freeze pasta dough?
Yes you can but I don't personally recommend it! The texture won't be as good. It is far better to make the dough into a shape then freeze that instead. Pasta dough will keep in the fridge tightly wrapped for a couple of days but keep in mind the longer you leave it the more elastic the dough will become, making it harder to work with.
How thick should I roll the pasta?
I'm becoming a broken record but this is about personal preference to some extent. If you want more bite then you can go thicker! For most shapes I go to the second to thinnest setting (that is 7 on my kitchen aid) but I will do handkerchief pastas at the thinnest and sometimes a papardelle too. Filled pasta I generally go to the second to thinnest as it makes it easier to work with, but make sure you really press the edges together to thin them out a bit. For shapes like garganelli, I roll to a 6 (the third to thinnest on my machine) as it needs a bit of thickness to maintain the shape.
How long do I cook fresh pasta?
This really depends on the shape and the thickness of the pasta. You will get to know what you like but most fresh pasta I make I cook for between 2 - 3 minutes.