You say Tagliatelle, I say Fettucine…

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Stand aside, from-scratch croissants.  Out out, damn osso bucco!  For all of the satisfactions of spatula-and-tongs-ing your way up culinary K2’s nothing produces quite the same glow as transforming 3 eggs, 2 cups of flour and bit of semolina into a pound of Fresh Tagliatelle*.   Making your own pasta is akin to making your own pie crust, one of those notches on the wooden spoon that certifies you as a cook.  Contrary to reputation, it is neither difficult nor arduous, and only mildly time-consuming (30 – 40 minutes, start to finish).  We’ve wanted to do this post for awhile, if only to give everyone who makes one of our pasta dishes a place to go for instructions on making their own.  After you taste your first batch of homemade, you’ll marvel at your abilities, those you feed will sing your hosannas (or you’ll kill them) and while you may not entirely give up buying commercial noodles, you’ll know that your own taste better.

We published an earlier version of this recipe in our book, IN THE HANDS OF A CHEF.  A decade of additional pasta experience has led to some insights.  We no longer resort to a food processor when making the dough.  We make it by hand.  To our taste, the dough that results from a food processor is never as elastic as handmade.  It isn’t even terribly faster to make.  What do you gain?  Ten minutes?  In a pinch–say, when prepping a double or triple batch, or there are nine million other things happening in the kitchen that require attention–we’ll pull out the standing mixer (we’ve included instructions).  If you knead by hand, it’s almost impossible to overwork the dough, unlike in a standing mixer.  Just keep kneading until your dough looks like the dough in the pictures.

Our original recipe divides the dough into 6 pieces, which are then rolled into sheets.  This new version only has you partition the dough into 3 pieces (and you can cut that to 2, our usual practice, if you don’t mind handling comically long pasta sheets).  Three pieces of dough instead of 6 means less time feeding a new sheets into the roller.  Each piece of dough will take about 10 – 12 minutes to roll out.  Try not to work slower than that or the dough will start to dry.  When rolling the pasta, remember that semolina is your friend.  Think of it as the magic fairy dust of fresh pasta.  Sprinkle it on everything to prevent the curse of stickiness.

And the most important thing we’ve learned?  Don’t shortcut your way through the rollers.

There are two stages in rolling pasta.  In the first stage you repeatedly run the dough through the same setting, folding the dough into thirds each time before feeding it back into the rollers.  This continues the process started in kneading,  that is, increasing and lengthening the strands of gluten in the dough, making it more elastic.  The second stage of rolling thins the pasta sheets until they’re ready to be cut.  We now put the dough through the rollers 8 to 10 times in the first stage, twice what we originally called for.  It takes a bit longer but makes a pasta with a much more developed gluten structure, contributing to its chewy, stretchy structure.

This post is VERY photo heavy.  Old pasta hands already know the way through the woods, but we thought newcomers might like to see what each of the stages looks like.  We want you to see exactly how we do it so you’ll try it on your own.  A pasta attachment for a standing mixer is great, but the absence of one isn’t a serious obstacle.  We learned on a hand-cranked machine (really old school means just using a rolling pin).  An inexpensive, collapsible pasta rack with dowels makes things easier, but you can improvise with a laundry rack, the backs of chairs or even oven door handles (cover them with towels dusted with semolina first), or just lay everything out on towels or a sheet on the table, as long as you use a cloth with no flocking and have a liberal hand with semolina.  You can make it work.

Oh, and don’t forget to take a batch of Bolognese from last week out of the freezer.  Enjoy.  Ken

*Tagliatelle and fettucine appear identical, but are not quite the same thing, although you can substitute one for the other. Tagliatelle is the flat rolled pasta noodle of the Emigia-Romagna (which includes Bologna) and Marche regions.  Usually it’s made fresh, then cooked.  Fettucine is the flat wide noodle of the same width, but theoretically a shade thicker, found in the cooking of Rome.  It may be fresh, but is widely available dried.

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Fresh Tagliatelle (Fettucine)

Makes 1 pound of fresh pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • a couple of tablespoons of semolina flour

Directions:

  1. To make the pasta by hand dump the flour in a mound on the counter.  Make a well in the center with your fingers.
  2. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork.  Pour the eggs into the well.  Stick your fingers into the eggs so they touch the counter.  Start whisking your fingers around the edges of the well, slowly pulling the flour into the well.  Continue until the eggs and flour have become a shaggy mass.  At this point a bench scraper comes in handy to pull everything together.  If the dough seems dry, add a tablespoon or so of water, on the other hand, if it is too wet, add a little semolina flour.  At this point you can cover the dough with a plastic sheet and let it rest 10 minutes or so.  This allows the flour to absorb the eggs and it makes it easier to knead.
  3. Using the heels of your hands, start kneading the dough.  I like to use both my hands with a steady even rocking.  Some people like to focus on one hand and use the second as a helper.  Either way, work the dough until it’s smooth and elastic and there are tiny holes in the dough when you cut through the center with a knife. You will just have to be confident about figuring out the right texture, but rest assured, the dough is forgiving.   This is going to take about 10 minutes, and you will have the double satisfaction of working your core while you knead.
  4. Cover the dough with a sheet of plastic and allow to rest 20 minutes.
  5. OR FOR A STANDING MIXER, dump the flour in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Beat the eggs in a bowl with a fork.  With the mixer running, add the beaten eggs in a steady stream.  Process until the dough comes together and is smooth and elastic and forms a cohesive ball, about 8 minutes.  If the dough seems sticky, add a little more flour, if too dry, add a little water.  Cover the bowl with plastic.  Let rest 20 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into 3 pieces.  Cover 2 of the pieces with plastic.  Flatten the remaining piece of dough slightly with your hand, dust it the with flour and crank it through a manual or electric pasta machine with the rollers set at their maximum distance apart.  Now fold the dough in thirds as though you were folding a letter.  Run the dough through the machine again, feeding the narrow side into the rollers.  Repeat the process of folding and rolling 8 or 10 more times.  This process kneads the dough and prepares it for the next step of thinning it.  Don’t hesitate to sprinkle the dough with semolina flour as you continue running it through the machine.  You don’t want it to stick to the rollers. It is ready when it has a leathery texture.
  7. To thin the dough, begin passing the dough through the rollers again.  Narrow the distance between the rollers with each pass of the dough.  If the dough tears just patch it back together and roll it through the same setting again, a little slower this time.  If the dough sticks to the rollers, sprinkle it with semolina.  You will soon get the feel for the right speed and the proper level of moisture to keep the dough rolling efficiently.  As each sheet begins to get unmanageably long, cut it in half and begin rolling each half individually.  After you’ve rolled the dough through the next to last setting it should be thin enough to cut into any string pasta.  (Dough for ravioli should be rolled thinner, that is, taken to the final setting, but that’s another story.)  Cut them into 12 inch lengths.
  8. Hang the sheet to dry for 5 minutes or so before cutting noodles.  Don’t let them get completely dry or they will break when you try to cut them.
  9. Put the tagliatelle cutter on the machine and run the sheets through the cutter.  Catch them with a wooden dowel, or gather them in a loose bundle and transfer the cut noodles to a board or a sheet pan covered with a towel lightly dusted with semolina flour.
  10. If I’m not using the noodles right away, I will move them from the dowels to towel once I’ve cut all the noodles.
  11. Once all of the noodles have been transferred to the towel, I sprinkle them with a bit more semolina  while giving them a little fluffing with my fingertips.  It helps prevent them from sticking.   If not using immediately I generally leave them out for a few hours,  letting them dry completely before storing them *in plastic bags.  Use within a day or two for the best flavor.  They can also be frozen for a month or so.
  12. To cook, just add them to a large pot of salted boiling water.  Taste after a minute, if the pasta is perfectly fresh; if the noodles have dried, they’ll still cook more quickly than conventional noodles, so start tasting after a few minutes.  .

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Jody Notes:

I love making pasta by hand.  It’s a basic technique requiring only a few ingredients.  And then you have this extraordinary thing–homemade pasta–that opens the door to so many other possibilities for noodles and ravioli.  At Rialto we regularly replace some of the all-purpose flour with buckwheat, farro, wholewheat, or semolina flour.  You can also use other liquids for flavoring or color: wine, spinach or beet purees, water.  Then come the spices and seeds–caraway, mustard, saffron, etc.  Making fresh pasta really is one of the most versatile things you can learn in a kitchen.    

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51 thoughts

  1. Really wonderful photos and instructions guys! I made the Bolognese (fabulous!) last week and am a bit cooked out today, but…. I relegated the pasta machine to the basement and you have just inspired me to pull it out, , so I’m absolutely going to make the pasta (again) soon.

    • Aaargghh! WP screwed up the display of the photos in the post body–editing page, preview, etc. all look fine. Then the post comes out and the photos are all over the page. Oh, well. Thanks for the kind words. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving weekend. Ken

  2. Pingback: You say Tagliatelle, I say Fettucine… | Skipping Stars Productions LLC

  3. These are the best photos I’ve ever seen of pasta making and fettucine making, complimenti! I am just getting over a small operation on my back that is forcing me to keep still but, otherwise, I swear I would have jumped out of my seat and gone straight for the flour and eggs … such is the “suggestive” power of this wonderful post. Thank you for the vicarious pleasure!

    • What a sweet thing to say about the photos, but they’re just the eye candy to get you to try your own hand at this. Once you’re up and about I hope you’ll give it a shot–maybe with last week’s Bolognese. Get well! Ken

  4. The magic fairy dust of fresh pasta….I love that! Your beautiful and super instructive photos should take all of the guess work out of this time honored tradition. I’m in need of such a tactile cooking project, thanks for the nudge.

  5. Love the photos, Ken. Cameron and I made pasta last winter with a hand crank machine. A bit sketchy because our countertop was not too sturdy, but we have a granite countertop now, so we’re in pasta-making business again. :)

  6. Ken, the photos look perfect on my screen, in a tidy grid. So inviting, in fact, that I actually feel tempted. Might as well try it while the kitchen is still in shock from yesterday. :)

  7. I’ve been making pasta in a cranky/creaky manual machine, so much fun when we have time on a weekend. Didn’t know to knead the pasta using the pasta machine though, we’ll be having better home made pasta!!
    Did I tell you we made nettle pasta recently? Unusual but addictive, must be the idea of conquering that beast of a plant, and that fairytale in the back of my mind. :-D

    • You should absolutely try doing it with the pasta machine, but don’t skip the hand kneading beforehand (the dough should be fairly smooth and not at all shaggy). It really does make a difference though to put the dough though the machine with the triple fold a good 8 – 10 times before you start thinning it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the texture. Nettle pasta! Good for you. Did you use nettle flour or add puree to the flour yourself? Several months ago Rialto had ravioli made with nettle pasta. Great stuff. Ken

  8. Very nice post and photo, I see you are very experienced in making pasta by hand, I note also that the dough is pretty rough, otherwise, if it was too smooth, the sauce would slip away.
    But I do not want to sound too picky, but I have one small criticism.

    I’m sorry, but the difference between tagliatelle and fettuccine is not exactly what you described, it is true that often also here in Italy we tend to think they are the same thing, in fact, in the North, as you described, they use to call them Tagliatelle instead to Fettuccine like in the south, specially in Rome, but the real difference lies only in the width, thickness can usually vary according to personal taste, too thick will have a cooking time too long and look more shriveled and stiff, however too thin will cook too quickly and tend to break, so you always look for the right balance based on the own experience.
    However, it is true that in the South Italy, the pasta is made slightly thicker and vice versa.

    it is always a pleasure to read you and I apologize if I do a little professor.

    A big hug
    Patrick

    I report here a list (in metric) with traditional widths of hand-made ​​pasta with eggs:

    Capelli D’Angelo (Angel’s Hair) 0.5-1 mm (usually eaten in soup)
    Tagliolini 1-2 mm
    Fettuccine 3-5 mm
    Tagliatelle 4-10 mm
    Pappardelle 2-3 cm
    Lasagne and cannelloni 4-5 cm

    • Hi, Patrick–No problem. Thank you for your insight. I relied on regional Italian food writer Ada Boni for my distinction between the two kinds of pasta. I am always willing to be corrected, and, as I have discovered while visiting Italy, people hold passionate–and sometimes contradictory–opinions about pasta. One thing everyone agrees on: Italians take their pasta very very seriously. Which is a good thing. Ken

  9. Beautiful, thanks for sharing! I went to a fresh pasta making class just two days ago, so these scenes look familiar ;) i’m so delighted at making my own now!

    • That’s great! People are so surprised at the difference when they make their own pasta, even when they serve it with a basic tomato sauce. Good for you. Next you’ll be making ravioli! Ken

  10. Yes, very true, I think that Ada Boni had her reliable sources, and in 1929 she wrote her most famous cookbook “The Talisman of Happiness” and then “the Roman cuisine” (1930), with the stated aim of saving traditional cuisine that already, at that time was being lost.
    The version that I have told you, that is handed down to me by my grandmother who made ​​the pasta by hand with the rolling pin in the old way, going to various restaurants in her town 100 Km north of Rome , and then the same version It was confirmed by the chef who taught me to hotel school .
    Over time I learned that in the culinary field, the truth is always a bit confused, because the Italian tradition has its roots far back in time, when the country was divided and the different regions were more isolated, developing very peculiar gastronomic identities and often very different from each other, so frequently we have multiple sources and versions for the same recipe or product.
    This is a priceless heritage that should not be lost and you, with your blog are helping to spread it and keep it alive even concerning the tradition of your and other countries.

    …and also this is a good thing! Patrick

  11. I made the Bolognaese sauce last week and it was amazing. My first recipe from the Blog and the first since enjoying Jody’s wonderful cooking class at Rialtos. Egg noodles are a family tradition from my German great grandmother that my grandmother and my mother made each year for Thanksgiving and I have carried that on. My family believes it is the essential Thanksgiving dish (that and gravy). My variation is that I hand cut each strand of pasta as my great grandmother did which is why they only get made once a year. I look forward to trying your version.

    • Very cool! The only noodles we hand cut are pappardelle (or Chinese chow fun), deep in the middle of winter for braised beef. These things need to be preserved. Good for you. (…and glad you liked the sauce.) Ken

  12. Beautiful post. I love the way you have presented the step-by-step guide in making pasta. Would love to get my hands on a pasta machine and make my very own home made pasta. Beautiful photos (I might add)!

    • Hi, Katie–Think of it as like a slow bread-dough speed for kneading, say, 4, roughly mid-range, just below center on our Kitchen Aids. Knead just until it begins to look like it does in the pictures, that is, still a bit bumpy. Not smooth until you pinch the undersides together to tighten the skin on the top. Hope this works. Ken

  13. Pingback: You say Tagliatelle, I say Fettucine... - Mes recettes favorites

  14. Masterclass and meditation all in one and the photos are just bliss! The last time I made my own pasta I hung the strands on a broom handle. This was quite successful, but you make it into poetry. Sophie

  15. I absolutely love fresh pasta, but have not made in a decade or so…. the only thing i have never done is hung on the dowels, where do you purchase that sort of system?

    • They usually have them in cooking supply/kitchen equipment stores. Our is inexpensive, a little crude, but if you loosen a pair of screws the whole frame folds flat. I’m sure if you googled pasta rack you’d find one. Good luck. Ken

  16. My Aunt Lu sent us money for Chanukah, specifying that we had to spend it on ourselves and weren’t to put it into savings. Well, last week Amazon had a flash cyber sale on a pasta maker, which cost exactly what the check was for. It arrived on Friday. The best part of the story is that I’ve been so busy, I’m just catching up on blogs right now. I know you didn’t write this post just for me, but it sure feels like it. :)

    • Hi, Molly–Of course, you’re right, we didn’t write the tagliatelle recipe specifically for you. We wrote the Bolognese recipe specifically for you. We wrote the tagliatelle recipe for Sara. :-) Ken

  17. Oh my goodness, such stunning photos and such beautiful pasta! I love the step-by-step shots — so wonderful. As someone who’s definitely still growing as a cook (and has done a lot of that just in the last year), I agree that pie crusts and fresh pasta were a few of my biggest milestones, maybe surpassed only by baking with yeast. And it’s a surprise because, like you said, it’s not as hard as it sounds! I don’t have a pasta machine so my tagliatelle was definitely more rustic — I’m hoping I’ll eventually get my hands on one. Thanks so much for posting this! :)

    • Good for you for making it without a machine! I’m sure your pasta was BEAUTIFUL. You do realize that there is a particar type of noodle called “pasta malfatti” (loosely translated: “poorly made”) which is deliberately cut (or sometimes even torn by hand) to mimic really bad made noodles. Of course it’s delicious. So, next time you make yours by hand, you know what to tell your guests, right? :-) Ken

  18. Thanks for sharing! The pictures really show the process and make it look delicious. I’ve only ever made noodles with a pasta press mixer attachment but seeing your fettucine hanging on the pasta rack to dry really makes me want to try sheets of pasta like this. Also, I love the layout of your site!

    • Glad to hear you like it. We can’t detail everything, but we like to show the important bits–and some of the ones that are just fun to see. Thanks for the compliment on the layout. Ken

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