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.