What I Learned Making Pasta From Scratch

After binge watching a billion TikToks this summer, I ended up coming across a video on homemade pasta. With Covid and the weather being gloomy this summer (it was monsoon season where I’m staying), my friend and I thought this would be a perfect indoor activity to attempt together. Besides the college cooking we do, we both have little experience with cooking, but it’s pasta. It can’t be hard.

The recipe for handmade pasta couldn’t be simpler; All it takes is flour, eggs, and some salt. For the sauce, we decided to make Carbone’s famous spicy rigatoni sauce (another TikTok trend), and with our accumulated knowledge from watching TikToks at 4 am and guidance provided from online recipes what could go wrong?

Well, let me tell you. 

Lesson 1. Measure out the right ratio

As you might have guessed from the image above, our dough turned out to be pretty messy. At first our dough was extremely sticky and didn’t consolidate together. It got so bad that there was more dough on our hands than was stuck together on the countertop. This made it extremely hard to knead, which is a critical step to making a perfect dough mixture. Although I’m not exactly sure what the exact culprit was, I would think the cause was the ratio of our mixture. Although the TikTokvideo recommended 80 grams per 1 egg, we translated the grams to cups and then eyeballed the amount thinking it would be fine. Turns out it wasn’t. We just keep adding more flour until it was a workable consistency, but if you have a scale, I would definitely recommend you to use that to exactly measure out how much is needed. 

Lesson 2. Use the Right Flour

I believe most recipes suggest you use all-purpose flour. I, as a cooking newbie, don’t know the difference between different types of flour, so we just used what I already had in my house. Honestly, I could not tell you what type of flour we used (maybe multi-purpose flour?), but I believe that the flour we used made our noodle texture a bit too chewy. As seen above, our noodles turned out very curvy and wrinkly, which leads to our next error…

Lesson 3. Make your pasta thin!

My house does not have a pasta making machine or a rolling pin, so we decided to make the shape of our pasta by rolling it out with a bottle of olive oil. As expected, using a bottle of olive oil made it difficult to roll out the pasta, so we couldn’t get our noodles to our desired thickness, giving us fatter noodles. At the time, I didn’t think thicker noodles would be a big deal, but since these are egg noodles, the texture of the pasta was much more dough-y than store-bought pasta.

Lesson 4. No Cook Time

Unlike the pasta you buy at the grocery store, your homemade pasta wont come with a cook time. This means it’s up to you to boil your past for the right amount of time. You’ll most likely have to keep testing out strands to check whether you need to cook it more. Because your pasta is fresh, it shouldn’t take very long to cook (~5 mins?). Check on it every one or two minutes to avoid overcooking!

Lesson 5. Onions

Now turning to the sauce, while this is mostly based on my personal preference, I found the sauce to be chunkier than my preference due to the abundance of onion that the sauce recipe calls for. An easy solution is to blend the onion with a food processor before adding it to the pan. This would ensure a smoother sauce.

Lesson 6. Add Pasta Water

This is more of a helpful tip learned from pasta TikTok, but you should put some pasta water in the sauce!! Apparently, many restaurants use this trick and it makes your pasta taste better (not sure why).

Lesson 7. Cheese Makes Everything Better

After I had put all the ingredients into the sauce, I taste-tested it and the flavor felt a bit off from what I wanted. In hopes to fix it, more salt, pepper, and some more tomato paste as added as needed, but nothing really changed. As a last ditch effort, I resorted to adding parmesan cheese, because who doesn’t love cheese and voila! 

Overall Thoughts

Pasta:

The homemade pasta was definitely harder than I had expected for a three-ingredient recipe. It’s definitely harder to perfect as well as time consuming since you need to chill the dough for ~30 mins before cooking it. Although I wouldn’t make handmade pasta for myself or on an average occasion, I would recommend it as an activity with a friend, SO, or roommate. Handmade pasta is perfect when you can’t go outside (especially with Covid these days) or if you want to do something minimal (you probably have all the ingredients in your house right now),and you get the reward of eating it afterwards. Just prepare to get messy!

Sauce:

The sauce is much more forgiving when you mess up than messing up the pasta. With the sauce, it’s easier to add the ingredients as needed in order to season it correctly. In addition, making the sauce was a lot easier than I had expected it to be and it turned out well, so I’ve made this sauce on multiple other occasions as well and have enjoyed it!

With all that being said, my friend and I really enjoyed the pasta we made and I’m sure if you take everything I learned from my experience your handmade pasta will turn out even better! Good luck, or as the Italians say it, in bocca al lupo!