easy, no-machine homemade pasta dough

I’ve always thought homemade pasta was more work than I cared to take on. Make the dough, knead the dough, cut it, feed it into a machine multiple times, then cut again. All that work for a few strands of fresh pasta that I could easily buy at Whole Foods? No thanks. Besides, I try to avoid foods that require special equipment beyond a mixer or food processor. Except for ice cream. I’ll store any machine for homemade ice cream.

So, I don’t want to buy the machine, but I’ve always wanted to at least attempt making my own pasta. I’m such a contrarian. Like when Tom asks me what I’d like for dinner and I’ll say pizza. So, he’ll ask me where I’d like to order from, but I can’t decide or I’m too lazy to pick it up, and we end up eating frozen burritos. It’s a bit like that.

Anyway, back to the pasta. I finally decided to make an attempt, but it would have to be one of those “rustic” pastas that have a more free-form shape. Something I didn’t need a machine or rolling pin to accomplish. Something exactly like Orecchiette. An ear-shaped pasta that doesn’t have to be perfect and only requires one piece of special equipment everyone, or at least most everyone, has handy — your thumb. This dough actually comes together rather quickly (about 30 minutes active time) and requires little of the tedious work associated with fresh pasta.

For Saturday’s dinner, I decided to make giant orecchiette to hold up to the hearty lamb ragu I served over it (recipe later this week). Usually, I’d make smaller shapes if I was pairing the pasta with a lighter sauce. I also used all semolina flour, which makes for heartier, less delicate pasta. You can follow the same method using cake (not self-rising) flour, or half semolina, half cake flour for a lighter texture. I also know that a lot of people use “00″ flour for homemade pasta, but I’ve never been able to find it.

If you’ve been wanting to make your own pasta, but don’t have the patience and cabinet space for a pasta machine, definitely give this recipe a go.

No-Machine Pasta Dough & Orecchiette-shaping instructions

1 1/2 cups semolina flour (or cake flour, or 3/4 cup cake flour & 3/4 cup semolina flour)
1/2 tsp. very fine grain salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp. water, room temperature
2 tbsp. olive oil

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour and salt together until evenly combined. Add the eggs, water and olive oil and mix with a spoon until large crumbs begin to form and most of the dry ingredients are stuck together.

Now, dump everything onto a Silpat or lightly floured workspace and knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until the wet and dry ingredients are combined and you have a firm ball of dough.

Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour.

Now, cut the dough ball in half and begin rolling the each half with the palm of your hard to form a long, cylindrical tube of pasta about 1/8 – 1/3 inch in diameter (depending on how big you’d like your pasta shapes). This should remind you very much of rolling out Play-Doh.

Once you’ve got the tube to the diameter you’d like, use a sharp knife to slice it into thin rounds about 1/8-inch thich. When you’ve got the rounds, punch your thumb into the middle of each piece, apply a bit of pressure and roll your thumb to one side, creating a ear-shaped dent.

Set these on a Silpat or a piece of parchment paper as you go. It’s ok if they dry out a bit, but if you’re going to leave them out for more than 15 minutes, cover them with plastic wrap or a (clean) kitchen towel.

When you’re ready to eat, bring a pot of water to a rapid boil, salt it and add the orecchiette. Let them cook for 2 – 5 minutes (cooking time depends on the kind and ratio of flour you’re using). You want to bite into the pasta every minute or so, making sure you drain only when it’s almost al dente. You don’t want to overcook it. Once it’s done, drain and serve with your favorite sauce.

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26 Comments

  1. These ears are cute! I love the fact that they look rustic and are rustic. Lovely lamb ragu, too.

  2. I just read about making Orecchiette. I have yet to do it though. This looks very well done; very well done!

    You know, you can get a roller for your Kitchen Aid mixer (if you have one of those). I didn’t want to have an entire separate machine for pasta. I hate uni-taskers.

    I lovin’ the lamb ragout.

  3. Wow, Melissa! I’m impressed! Your orecchiette looks fabulous!

  4. js – Thanks! Ragu recipe tomorrow or Thursday :)

    Donald – I know. I just don’t think I’ll use it enough to justify the $130. Maybe someday. Maybe I’ll ask Santa for it for Christmas this year.

    Candace – Thanks :)

  5. What an awesome idea. I learned to make pasta on a machine awhile back, but have never made it at home because I have no machine and don’t want to buy one. I’m with you on the ice cream machine, though–that’s going to be my next kitchen buy, and there’s nothing else I can think of to want after that.

  6. This is great. I would never buy a machine even though I want one. I don’t have a particular reason for my stance. But I’d do this. It’s quite simple. Thank you!

  7. Ok. You have convinced me that I can make pasta. I was going to buy a pasta machine, but didn’t want another appliance in the kitchen.

  8. I made this pasta, and the recipe is easy and delicious. Instead of the Orecchiette shape, I shaped the dough into little o’s, kinda like cheerio’s, and my children loved it! They thought it was like having breakfast for dinner! They were so intrigued by its shape, and the novelty of eating “cheerio spaghetti” for dinner, I even got them to eat the mushrooms in the tomato sauce! Thanks again.

    -Jennifer

  9. Julie – If you’ve got a KitchenAid mixer, the Ice cream maker attachment it not too expensive and really easy to use. (Not too big either.)

    cookinpanda – Yeah, I don’t really have a stance either. I just never wanted the machine (I’m far too practical).

    EAT! – You can most definitely make pasta! It’s so not as bad as I thought…

    Jennifer – How’d you make the little o’s? I’d love to make little O’s! My husband would love them (he’s a big kid). Glad you liked the recipe :)

  10. Oh wow! I think you have inspired me to make pasta! I love the shape of orecchiette! Yours came out beautifully. Thank goodness I have a thumb!

  11. $130???? Noooooo! Try eBay: $75.

  12. I’m one of those people – I’ve always wanted to make my own pasta but don’t have room in my kitchen for one more gadget, let alone a machine! I’m going to try this – and your sauce looked good, too…got a recipe for that? Thanks! Nan

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  15. I have the pasta attachment for my KA, but I only use the roller part for making the sheets. I make the dough in my Robot Coupe food processor. Mixes up much faster and does the kneading for me. I cut the pasta by hand. Roll the sheet from both ends toward each other. Cut, slip a wooden spoon handle under the middle, lift the cut pasta and shake out.
    I also have an ice cream maker. Make mostly slush with it for BBQ’s.

  16. I haven’t ever made my own pasta but I have some semolina flour on hand. I was thinking of trying it! Sounds fun with the kids too.

  17. Once it’s done, drain and serve with favorite sauce.

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  21. I just did this with a recipe I found on Recipezaar for Gnocchi. These look outstanding though- Maybe I’ll take another stab it with this recipe and semolina flour.

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  23. That’s an awesome way to make pasta. Really the machines were the only reason that I don’t make pasta and other foods like that myself.

  24. 1/8″ X 1/8″? How small is your thumb? I just don’t get it, unfortunately…

  25. White – 1/8″ – 1/3″. Your thumb will be bigger than the piece you cut off and the pieces should spread when you squish it. This makes it thinner and more like orecchiette…

  26. These look terrific!! I am so trying these for tomorrow’s dinner.

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