Making pasta at home:
a beginners’ guide
Making pasta at home has increasingly become a very popular hobby. Instagram feeds are full of pictures of people showing off their amazing skills. But how hard is it getting started? Is it really worth? In this article, I answer the most common questions people have asked me
In the last few years there’s been a huge increased interest in making pasta at home: every day new instagram accounts are opened by enthusiastic new “pastaia” showing off their pretty pasta shapes. But why is there so much interest in this age long skill born and developed in Italy?
There are 5 reasons that come to mind:
- The beauty of the pasta itself: Pasta shapes are beautiful, some of them look like little edible origamis, and with the addition of colour, the humble pasta sheet becomes a canvas where the imagination is the limit.
- Affordability: you just need some flour and egg, or even just water, to create beautiful and tasty pasta. You definitely don’t need the fancy tools showcased on instagram to get started: all you need you very likely already have.
- It’s rewarding and therapeutic: making pasta gives immediate satisfaction. The results are quick and tangible, and the process itself is akeen to meditation.
- A return to healthy homemade food: in the past decade there’s been an increased interest in homemade, wholesome food. We are more aware of food manufacturing processes and the damage that this is doing to our earth and our health.
- It’s delicious: put it simply, pasta is yummy! And freshly made pasta is absolutely divine. If you haven’t tried at least once, then it’s time to get started!
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making pasta is a rewarding activity
But, but, but…
If you have been considering learning how to make pasta, you might have felt reticent because you don’t know what it involves. Sometimes our perception of an activity makes it scarier and more difficult than it really is.
Not stuck with a long course
You don’t need to be a super chef to make pasta, nor spend 3 years in Italy, nor go to a 6 months course to become proficient.
One or two pasta making classes will indeed help get started on the right foot, but you need to take a big commitment, unlike other activities.
One of the biggest misconceptions I encounter constantly is the fear of the mess.
Pasta dough is not sticky, so you won’t get it everywhere, and unless you play flour-fight with someone, there won’t be much flour to swipe from the floor afterwards.You will need just a few tools to make pasta, a for, a knife, and maybe a bowl if you want to make ravioli, so the washing up is minimal.
No need of big spaces
Another big concern I encounter is the lack of space. Maybe, because of all the curated social media pictures, one has the impression that you need a huge table to make pasta. Well, you don’t. A little clean corner on your dining table is more than enough. Remember, you are making pasta for yourself and your loved one, you are not producing quantities to end world hunger! Most of your handmade pasta will fit nicely on a couple of dinner plates or trays, once finished: your home won’t be taken over by pasta, don’t worry!
Don’t let your fear stop you from trying this very rewarding activity. I promise you!
So, what do you need to get started?
“You don’t need expensive or fancy tools to get started: remember, this is a centuries old art, and all you need is easily found in any household”
How to get started with pasta making
If your hands itch with getting started, but you are worried about the cost, relax. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get started. At the most basic level possible, your hands, some semolina flour, water, a knife, and a tea towel are all the tools you need. Most of them you already have, and semolina flour is easily found and can be very cheap.
If it’s space you worry about, you also don’t need lots of space to make pasta: if you have a dining table, or a countertop, or any flat surface, you can make pasta. A small pasta board measures 50×30 cm (20×12 in), so if you have that much table space in your home, you can definitely make pasta.
If it’s lack of time that stops you, think about all the “dead” time you have in your day: browsing social media, watching cute kittens on youtube, binge watching tv shows… and I can go on.
And to make your experience even more rewarding, start your journey into pasta making with a loved one: it’s a very bonding and relaxing experience, the opportunity to slow down and spend time together doing something that you can enjoy afterwards with a nice glass of wine!
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Tips for Successfully starting making pasta at home
All you need is practice, a little patience, and a lot of passion.
Don’t even start if you don’t have the willingness to sit down and spend some time handling small pieces of dough into little shapes. At the beginning, as your fingers learn the fine movements needed to shape dough into pasta, you might get frustrated and give up. Remember that everybody has started with clumsy fingers, and practicing overtime allowed them to become proficient. Making pasta is a skill, and as such it needs to be practised to master. If you make pasta once a week, you will be able to make good pasta after a month.
And if you want to invest in a pasta machine, you can get excellent results from day 1. All you need to take care of is the dough. If your dough is not properly made, then your pasta will be a disappointment.
So don’t skip the kneading, the resting, and all that is required to get a perfect dough: get your dough right, and you have done 90% of the job. The shapes are secondary!
Common Questions People Ask Me
Is it really worth making pasta at home? Can I just buy fresh pasta in supermarkets?
Well, it depends what your priorities are. If you want to eat delicious fresh pasta, with wholesome ingredients and nothing else added, then spending time making pasta is definitely worth it. If you just want the convenience of ready made food, then by any means buy fresh pasta from supermarkets. Just be aware that you are not buying fresh stuff.
Do I need to buy a pasta machine? I don’t have space for new tools in my kitchen.
You don’t have to buy any tools if you don’t want to. Many shapes can be done by just using fingers. If you want to make ravioli, a wooden rolling pin, a knife, a bowl, and a spoon are all you need.
Is this a messy activity? I don’t want to spend hours cleaning up afterwards!
I don’t find it especially messy. And I speak as someone who absolutely loathes housekeeping! So you won’t find me doing something that makes me doing more housekeeping than necessary!
There might be some flour on the floor, but the quantity really depends on how distracted one is. The dough is not sticky, so you won’t find yourself scraping dough from your surfaces. If you use knives and forks to help you, you will have to wash them of course, but it won’t be more than a couple of tools. So, don’t worry, your imagination is creating a doom scenario, which really doesn’t not mirror reality!
How long will it take me to make pasta from scratch?
At the beginning it will take you longer than necessary. But this is because you’re learning. As you get better, you’ll internalise the movements, and things will get quicker. To give you an idea: you will need between 15 and 20 minutes minimum to knead the dough (depending on the kind of dough), then you will need to leave the dough to sit for a couple of hours. Since you won’t have to babysit it, you will be able to do other things in the meanwhile.
Shaping the pasta is what requires more time. There are some shapes that are quicker to make: for instance, cavatelli. I can make 2kg (± 4.4lbs) of cavatelli in about 15 minutes, but this is because I have been at it for a long time. With a little practice you can also get as fast. Start small, you don’t need to make 2kg of past at once. If you make one or two portions is more than enough for a beginner. However, don’t take the time it will take you to make pasta as a waste: enjoy this moment as a much needed break from everyday stress, an oasis of mindfulness to replenish and calm down. With the added bonus that at the end of it you’ll have a delicious meal to enjoy!
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Once you become a confident pastaia you can invest in some tools.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about [niche]
Pasta making is a cheap, rewarding, and relaxing activity. You can start anytime with tools and ingredients you are likely to have already at home. The shapes do not need to be perfect, they need to be thin, and the dough needs to be well worked.
If you would like to know more about pasta and Italian follow me on instagram or just drop me a line if you have any questions!