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Hey all! I am so glad that I got to share with you how to make pasta from scratch (and gnocchi too, it totally counts as a pasta). If you missed out on these posts, check them out here:
Now I’ve decided to have a Q&A with your pasta questions because I knew that some still had unanswered questions. Without further ado, let’s begin!
What flour is best for pasta?
I find that Semolina Flour is the best flour when making pasta. It’s super durable and has a high gluten content which is super crucial when you’re rolling and stretching the pasta as much as you need to in order to create the needed layers and texture.
Behind that, I have seen a lot of people use what is called 00 flour which is a super fine wheat flour that a lot of artisan pizza places use. It’s not as coarsely ground as Semolina is but it is super durable and it has to be if pizza joints use it right?!
If you are wanting to watch processed flours and stick with the more whole stuff, whole wheat flour is great because you get the whole grain. It also has a fairly high gluten content which is great for making pasta.
Semolina is definitely number one in my book though! And it’s super affordable. You can get it at your local grocery store for less than $4.
How do you get the dough so thin?
While this answer to this question is easy, the execution of it can be tricky. Simply put, you thin out the dough by passing it through the roller in a decreasing progression through your pasta roller.
For example, with my KitchenAid Pasta Roller Attachment, my widest setting is 1. I pass my dough through this setting a couple of times, folding the sheet in half each time until a rectangle shape is achieved. The folding creates the necessary layers your dough needs in order to survive the stretching. Then I increase the narrowness of my roller a setting at a time, being mindful to not fold the sheet in half any more. The lowest I go in rolling my pasta really depends on what I plan on making with it. If I am just making simple ribbon pasta, I just roll them to about a 6 (or the third to lowest setting on the roller). If I am making macaroni or stuffed pastas (like ravioli), I will go down to a 7 (or the second to lowest setting on the roller) simply because when you shape those pastas, their thickness is going to increase and that would increase the cooking time.
You have to be careful when rolling the dough thin because the sheet of dough can tear easily which can make making certain pastas quite difficult. Treat the dough like a baby and you’ll be all set!
What is the best roller to use to make pasta?
Since I have a KitchenAid, using their roller attachment is super easy! It’s super compact because you just have the roller and the two cutting rollers. I keep them in their box in a cupboard in my kitchen and they don’t take up a bunch of space.
However, I know that many people have a KitchenAid so a hand crank one is your best bet! I had one before I had my KitchenAid and it worked like a champ! It also is quite compact and doesn’t take up too much space in your kitchen. To use it, you simply clamp the roller to your kitchen counter and roll away.
A note of care for your rollers: NEVER CLEAN THEM WITH SOAP AND WATER!!!! This will ruin your rollers over time as the gears will rust. The rollers are pretty nonstick so nothing really sticks to them. If anything, rub the rollers down with some mineral oil and you’ll be good to go.
What is the best pasta to start your kids out making?
This is my personal opinion. I would say that from scratch, spaghetti is the easiest to make. Reason being, there isn’t too much intricate work that needs to be done in forming the pasta, you just pass it through the thin cutter and boom it’s done. Making a tomato sauce from scratch is easy and you don’t have to worry about thickening sauces or any of that nonsense. If you have a young one at home who wants to learn how to make pasta, I would definitely have them start on spaghetti and work from there.
A great resource I used when I was learning the ins and outs of pasta making is The Pasta Bible. It goes into great detail as to what all the different pastas are, how to form a lot of them from hand, as well as some great recipes highlighting the different pastas out there!
Can pasta be easily swapped out depending on what you have on hand?
I would mostly say yes to this question. I find penne, rotini, bowtie and pastas like that, all can be interchangeable because they’re all designed to catch chunky sauces. Whereas fettuccine, spaghetti, and angel hair can be interchanged because their design isn’t really meant to catch sauces.
There have been times, I’ll be honest, where I had no suitable pasta in the house, so I broke lasagna noodles into bite sized pieces! That’s poor meal planning on my part. But I would say that if you have penne but the recipe calls for bowtie, don’t sweat it and swap out.
What does al dente mean?
Al dente means to have a bite. In cooking this means that something isn’t cooked until soft, it’s cooked until most of the firmness is gone. For dried pasta, al dente comes at about the 7-9 minutes ’after the pasta has been cooking. For fresh pasta, about 3-5 minutes.
What pastas are great for casseroles or salads and how long should they cook for?
For casseroles and salads, there is a lot going on in them and there tends to be tons of chunky ingredients. I find that pastas that are tube shaped or have ridges are the best fit for these applications as they hold on to the sauces and other ingredients better.
*An exception to this rule would be Tetrazzini in which fettucine or spaghetti is used.
As for cooking them, I would cook the pasta closer to the 9-minute mark for pasta salads as they won’t be doing any more cooking and you want them to be on the softer side. For casseroles, I would cook the pasta more towards the 7-minute mark since they will finish their cooking in the oven along with the other ingredients.
Do you have any gluten free pasta recipes?
While I don’t have a recipe for making gluten-free pasta dough, I found a few that I think would work for those who are wanting to make gluten-free pasta at home. A word of caution though for those who want to make their own gluten-free pasta at home, be prepared to shop online for some specialty ingredients as these help mimic the effect that gluten has on the dough.
However, if you are looking for pasta dish recipes, I don’t have specific “gluten-free” recipes per say, though my Fried Mac and Cheese would be fine if you swapped out my pasta for gluten-free pasta and of course bread it in rice or corn flour. I did find a good resource for you if you are looking to create your own gluten-free recipes. She has some great tips to keep in mind when cooking gluten-free pasta.
Thank you for all of your wonderful questions! I hope I answered them all sufficiently and of course, if you have any other questions, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment.
Happy eating everyone!