Read these 20 "Homemade" Pasta Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Italian tips and hundreds of other topics.
Tagliatelle are probably the most common form of homemade pasta, known in Rome as fettuccine. The pasta is rolled up and cut into 1/4 inch widths. The fettuccini eaten in Rome are a little thicker and a little less wide than the classic tagliatelle. If using a pasta machine, use the broad cutters on the machine to make fettuccine, and the narrower ones to make tagliolini.
If you see that your pasta is sticking there is one basic technique that will help. Ruffle the pasta gently as it extrudes. This is most effective if you keep the pasta moving all the time. If you stop for a few seconds, the pasta will usually start sticking again. This helps keep strands separate and helps the surface dry.
To make tortelloni, trim the pasta sheet to make a straight edge, using a fluted ravioli wheel. Place about ½ teaspoon of filling 1 ½ inches apart in a straight line, about 2 inches away from the straight edge. Pick up the edge and fold it over toward you; this fold covers the many little hills of filling. With the fluted wheel, cut the filled strip away from the pasta sheet, then cut between each mound.
One of my favorite noodle cuts is tonnarelli. It is as thick as it is wide, thus a cross section of it would be square. Its slightly greater thickness gives it the wonderful firmness and bite of spaghetti, but its surface has the texture and fine saucing qualities of all homemade pastas.
A problem with pasta recipes is finding an exact ratio of flour to eggs. The exact ratio will vary depending on the flour quality and its ability to absorb liquids and the size of the eggs, even on the humidity of the environment. It is difficult to be totally exacting in the amounts needed for perfect pasta but the basic rule is to use approx. 1-1/2 cups flour with 2 large eggs to produce approximately 3/4 pound of pasta.
In Bologna, where the standard for handmade pasta is set, no salt, oil, or water is added to the dough. The dough consists of flour and eggs and nothing else. The only exception is when spinach or Swiss chard leaves are added to the basic egg and flour dough to make green pasta. You would use:
1 cup of flour with 2 large eggs to produce about 3/4 pound of pasta.
Maltagliati, translated means “bad cut” (mal=bad, tagliati=cut). Once the pasta sheet is rolled up, the cut is made at an angle, cutting off 1 triangular piece of dough on the near side of the roll. One cut on the far side and then a straight cut produces a third triangle. It is so good in many ways, especially in thick soups.
Cannelloni are similar to manicotti. Once the pasta sheet is rolled out, cut the pasta into rectangles 3 x 4 inches. If using a pasta machine, roll out wide strips of dough, as thin as possible, and cut into rectangles 3 x 4 inches.
The squares of pasta are cooked in boiling, salted
water; then stuffed, rolled up, and browned in the oven. Sometimes they are baked with butter and sprinkled generously with parmesan cheese, or, as in Tuscany, they are covered with a sauce and baked until the top is a golden brown.
The pasta machine does a great job of making tonnarelli, but you may have to think ahead when you are thinning out the dough. The thickness of the pasta strips that will eventually be cut into tonnarelli must be equal to the width of the narrow grooves of the cutting roller. On many machines the corresponding thinning notch is the second before last, but it is advisable that you measure and check for yourself.
To make ravioli, trim and straighten the edges of a pasta sheet with a fluted wheel. Place a level teaspoon of ravioli filling 1 ½ inch apart across the surface of the pasta, in checkerboard style. Use a very thin pastry brush (or your index finger) dipped in water and draw lines along and across the mounds of filling. Carefully, lift another sheet of pasta and lay it over the first. Run your index finger along and across the fillings again sealing the top layer to the bottom where the water was outlined. Then, with a fluted wheel, cut along and across the mounds of filling, cutting them into 1 ½ inch squares. Once cut, transfer the ravioli squares to a floured cookie sheet or towel.
To make Cappelletti, cut 1 ½ inch squares from a pasta sheet. Each square receives about ¼ tsp. of a filling and is folded over, almost diagonally, but not quite. The edges are pressed to seal the filling and is bent around a finger, almost always the index finger, and one point is pressed over the other.
If your pasta sticks together as its coming out of the die, there could be several reasons:
Your dough is too wet. Dough that is too wet will produce a pasta that has a sticky surface.
You haven't added enough oil. Remember, the oil in egg noodles helps the machine extrude and helps keep the pasta from sticking. (Too much oil, on the other hand, won't let the gluten in the flour bind properly and the pasta could fall apart during cooking).
If you used an eggless pasta recipe, one of the problems is that the pasta will stick more.
To make "butterfly" pasta shapes, use a fluted pastry wheel and cut along each edge of a rectangular sheet of dough to serate it with the pastry wheel cutter; divide the sheet into rectangles (use a ruler to start with) 2 inches long, and 1 inch wide. Pinch the center of each rectangle to form butterflies.
Pasta is made differently all over Italy. In some areas, no water is added and in other parts some is used. In yet others, just small drops of oil are used. The method I suggest is to use a combination of eggs, all-purpose flour, some salt, some olive oil, and some lukewarm water. (this combination works best with American flours)
Here is a basic recipe for 5-6 servings (about 1 pound of pasta)
2 1/4 cups all-purose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lukewarm water