worth the effort: hand-made pasta

Hand-made pasta can seem like a daunting task, particularly when purchasing a box of dried pasta or package of fresh ravioli at the store is so easy these days. However there is something immensely satisfying about working a mound of flour, fresh eggs, and salt into a beautiful sheet of thin, supple pasta dough. As you knead the dough with your hands, the gluten begins to develop and what was once a sticky mess of flour and raw egg becomes a smooth and elastic ball, ready to form into your favorite pasta shape such as pappardelle, fettuccine, or ravioli.

There are a few inexpensive kitchen tools that will make your homemade pasta adventures a bit more manageable. The first is a dough scraper, which is essentially a flat device that allows you to scrape extra dough and flour from the cutting board back into your ball of pasta as you are mixing. There are many options on Amazon and in kitchen stores, but a simple plastic one works very well.

Once your pasta dough has rested and is ready to form into sheets, you also will be immensely grateful for a pasta roller (I have personally used the Imperia and love it). You do not need a mechanized one - just a manual crank roller that attaches to your counter will do. The roller will save you time and energy, but you can always roll the pasta dough out by hand with a traditional rolling pin to yield the same results. The pasta roller allows you to run the dough through multiple thickness settings to help the gluten develop and then to form long, thin sheets of pasta.

If making ravioli, you can stuff your pasta with an infinite number of combinations of ingredients. You could saute ground meat and fresh herbs, then mix with tomato paste and ricotta, or you could go vegetarian as I did for this recipe and blend roasted butternut squash, sauteed leeks and ricotta. I prefer ricotta as the binding dairy product for ravioli because it has a thick consistency and mild flavor that marries well with other ingredients. However you could try cream cheese or thick Greek yogurt as well.

I hope that you will try your hand at homemade pasta - it requires just a few simple ingredients and a bit of patience and arm strength, but will leave you and your friends or family wanting more of that extra special chewy texture when you are done!