Pasta really is a dish for all seasons; in Italy, people of all shapes, sizes, regions and classes enjoy a bit of pasta at least once per day. Simple and satisfying, nothing says home cooking like a pot of noodles bubbling away on the stovetop.
When the weather turns chilly, making pasta at home can be a fun and delicious indoor project, especially on a lazy weekend. Sure, you can always buy dried pasta at the grocery store for mere pennies, but once you’ve felt the chew of fresh, handmade noodles, it’s difficult to forget and very worth the extra effort, especially when topped with sauces using high-quality Challenge Dairy butters and cream cheeses.
Intimidated? No need. Here, we address a few typical concerns about the process.
Doesn’t making fresh pasta require fancy foreign ingredients?
No. An experienced cook can make a beautiful noodle from just all-purpose flour and water, but in our favorite recipe below, we add eggs for flexibility and structure, olive oil for texture, and salt for flavor - all ingredients found in most home pantries.
What if I don’t have a pasta machine?
Contrary to popular belief, a pasta machine, while nice to have, isn’t necessary for making noodles. All you need is a rolling pin, elastic dough, a pizza cutter or sharp knife, and patience.
Is making pasta by hand really complicated?
No more complicated than baking cookies, really; the formula is basically mix, knead, rest, roll and shape.
Does fresh pasta take days to make?
From raw ingredients to cookable pasta, the process can take as little as an hour.
Will making pasta dirty all my dishes and turn my kitchen into a disaster area?
Again, no more than baking cookies - even less so!
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Pulse flour and salt in a food processor, then add eggs, yolks, and oil. Process until the dough forms a ball. If the dough appears wet, add a little flour; if dry, add a little oil. Dough should be tacky and elastic.
Move dough to a clean countertop and knead until very smooth and silky. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour; alternatively, rest the dough overnight in the fridge.
Unwrap dough and cut into quarters if using a pasta machine, halves if rolling by hand. Be sure to cover sections with plastic or a dish towel when not in use to prevent overdrying.
With a pasta maker: Set machine to thickest setting and roll 1 section into a sheet. Fold sheet into thirds (like a letter) and roll twice more on the same setting. Reduce the machine’s thickness by one setting and continue rolling twice before decreasing again and repeating the process. Stop rolling the dough once 2 settings before the thinnest setting on your machine. Then, to cut the dough into noodles, adjust the machine to cut at a width of 1/4” for fettuccine and feed the dough through.
Without a pasta maker: Using a rolling pin on a flour-dusted surface, roll each of the two dough pieces until the sheet is as thin as a penny. If the dough isn’t yet hydrated enough to roll out, allow it to rest another 30 minutes and try again. Once rolled, use a rotary pizza cutter or very sharp non-serrated knife, cut dough into strips of 1/4” width for fettuccine.
Place the noodles on a sheet tray and cover with a dish towel while you continue to work, always dusting noodles with a bit of flour before laying more noodles on top of them to keep separate. To serve immediately, bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add pasta noodles and boil briefly, 1 to 3 minutes. Drain and top with a rich sauce using Challenge Dairy butter and cream cheese like our Fettuccine with Cheese Garlic Sauce, Fettuccine Alfredo or Chicken and Pasta with Tomato-Basil Garnish. Alternatively, dry the noodles for later use by hanging them on a pasta rack, on the backs of kitchen chairs, or a laundry line; or form noodles into loose nests on sheet trays until stiff.