How To Make Pasta

By Daniel Lucas

A simple guide to crafting the best handmade pasta


I hold pasta near and dear to my heart, like many others, as both a tradition and a comfort. I’ve had the luxury of watching my grandmother make pasta from hand many times growing up as a kid. But let’s face it–pasta is not exactly always the best thing for you, especially when you are toping on a load of butter and cheese. Moderation is key, and fresh is best.

Handmade v.s. Manufactured Pasta

Manufactured pasta are made on a commercial scale using hard durum semolina flour and water. They’re stored dried–and you buy them in a box. Macaroni is a type of manufactured pasta that is cut into shorter shapes such as penne, rigatoni, and fusilli. Handmade pasta are pasta made at home or boutique grocers that usually consist of some type of flour blend, and eggs. From a culinary perspective, the differences are significant. Macaronis, and other manufactured pasta that use semolina flour and are virtually impossible to replicate properly at home without complicated equipment such as a pasta extruder. These pasta are hard, have a little bit more of a bite than fresh pasta and can be easily molded into different shapes and sizes making them versatile for many different types of sauces. Pasta such as spaghetti, fettuccine, lasagne, and stuffed pasta such as ravioli and tortellini are much more suited for home production. These handmade pasta have a softer (but not mushy) bite, a more pronounced freshness to them, and are more absorbent than manufactured pasta.

Traditionally, as I was growing up, we mostly ate pasta that was fresh and handmade. I think that fresh is superior to manufactured pasta for several reasons. For one, the convenience of manufactured pasta allows us to eat it more than we ought to. I can’t deny that boxed pasta can be a much-needed shortcut in certain occasions to get dinner on the table but premade foods have encouraged bad habits. There is no denying that processed white flour has little nutritional value, and that high gluten hard durum semolina flour can be difficult to digest for some. You should eat pasta as often as you can muster up the energy to make it for yourself. Fresh handmade pasta is approximately 40% pasture raised eggs by weight, which adds (albeit minor) nutritional value and aids digestion. But, perhaps that is naive optimism, just because I love pasta so much. In the end, I’ve decided that I’m willing to live with the cognitive dissonance of striving to eat a healthy diet while simultaneously making and eating the foods I love, even if they aren’t perhaps what you would call a textbook health food.

I realize that not everyone has a Saturday afternoon that they are willing, or able, to devote to making pasta. It’s understandable. If you find yourself falling into this category, here are a couple tips for eating higher quality pasta. Instead of buying 5 boxes of cheap boxed pasta at $1.99 / lb, find a local specialty store that sells high-quality fresh pasta at $7.99 and eat it 75% less. In the Portland area, Pasta Fuego sells freshly made pasta that is made in Estacada and sold at the Portland State University farmer’s market every Saturday from 8am-2pm. Go stop by, they are super knowledgeable and the pasta is fantastic!

Basic Pasta Dough Recipe

There are many families that all claim to have the secret recipe. The secret is that there is no secret. Even members within my own family often debate different merits of their own individual pasta recipes. The following recipe is the one that I’ve been using now for a while. It was graciously provided to me by my cousin, Anthony Police. Here’s what I like about it:

To start, his recipe calls for 9 eggs. 9 eggs makes a lot of pasta–about 10 main course meals. Rarely do I ever need that much pasta at once. However, once you’ve pulled out the board and are covered in flour, you might as well make enough pasta to last you a while. Once I’ve kneaded it, I generally slice it down the middle and form two individual balls and one promptly is wrapped and put in the freezer for future use. The other half I roll and cut on the same day. Whatever isn’t eaten that days gets wrapped into nests and stored in the freezer as instant handmade noodles later on in the month. Convenience and quality! Second, I think this is a good balance between all-purpose and semolina flours. Despite its lack of digestibility, semolina’s high gluten content is what holds this dough together. This balance makes a dough that has amazing texture on the plate and is a pleasure to work within the pasta machine. If you add too much semolina flour, the dough can get hard and crumbly, not enough and it’s too soft to make long noodles like spaghetti and fettuccine.

Note: The following instructions are for a pasta machine. Using the rolling pin makes a much more vibrant yellow dough and is perfect for stuffed pasta however, you need a considerable amount of space and patience.

Set up the pasta maker adjacent to the cutting board and secure it tightly to the counter. Once it is secured, slice a 4 oz piece of dough off of the dough ball, which should remain covered at all times while you are making your pasta. Using your hands, gently shape the 4oz piece of dough into a flat rectangular shape. Pasta machines have an adjustable roller that allows you to form your dough into pasta sheets. Mine has 7 settings, where 7 is the widest (thickest) setting, and 1 is the smallest (thinnest) setting. Machines are also made in the inverse order, so take a look at your machine to determine which direction you need to go.


  • Pasta Machine
  • Pasta Board
  • Bench Scraper


  • 4 Cup 100% Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Cups Semolina Flour
  • 9 Eggs


  • ~10 main course servings, or 20 appetizer portions


Place the flour into a small mound on a decent sized pasta board then set a little bit of flour to the side in a measuring cup. Carve out a crater in the center of the mound of flour so that it resembles a volcano. You’ll want to make it large enough so that you can easily whisk two eggs inside of it. Some people do this step in a bowl, but it’s much easier to just start on the board rather than have to transfer all of the dough from a bowl to the board. Crack the eggs into the crater of flour. Gently whisk the eggs inside the flour using a fork while gradually adding flour from the edges to thicken up the eggs. Be patient, if you perform this step two quickly you will have eggs running all over the counter. Once the eggs are thick enough, start to mix with your hands. Use some of the spare flour and rub it in your hands to remove the wet dough. The exact ratio of flour to eggs will depend on humidity and the type of pasta. Generally, long pasta such as spaghetti take a bit more flour whereas stuffed pasta such as ravioli can be a bit more yellow. Keep this in mind when dusting your hands and the board. Continue to mix the flour and eggs until they are well incorporated and the dough forms a single mass. You can incorporate loose flour by scraping up the loose flour using the brench scraper, then create a dimple in the dough mass and add the loose flour bits. Once your dough is sufficiently mixed, scrape any remaining loose flour to the side. Knead for 10 mins, rotating the dough either clockwise or counterclockwise until the timer expires. The longer you knead the harder the dough will be. If you’re 6 ft. 4” and 200 lbs, you can probably knead the dough all at once. But if you’re 5 ft. 11” and 145 lbs, you might find it easier to split the dough ball in half and simultaneously knead two smaller dough balls. Cover the dough with a bowl and let rest for 20 mins while you clean up your workstation.

Roll the dough through the pasta maker on the widest setting (7) using your hand to guide the pasta into the machine. Roll the dough at both subsequent notches (6 and 5), then slice the dough in half. Set the machine one notch smaller (4) and then roll both sheets one last time. If any holes appear, gently patch them and reroll them through the machine. Once you have satisfactory sheets of dough, place them back under the towel and move on to the next piece of dough. Once all of the dough is rolled you may begin cutting

For Fettuccine and spaghetti, attach the noodle cutter to the pasta machine and run the sheets of dough through the desired cut.

For ravioli, use a knife to cut the dough into squares roughly 2 x 2 inches. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of the square, and gently fold the dough over, using a fork to seal the edges.

For tortellini, use a cookie cutter to slice circles of dough with roughly a 2-inch diameter. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center folding the dough in half, using your fingers to seal the edges. Take the edges of the noodle and mold them together.

For lasagne, then layer with sauce, filling, and cheese in a baking dish.

For quadrucci (i.e. “patches”), roll the dough to 5 then use a knife slice to cut the dough into squares


Select a large lightweight pot, such as an enameled aluminum pot to cook the pasta. Bring at least 3 quarts of water to a boil to cook 1 lb of pasta, adding 1 tbsp of salt. Once the water is at a raging boil, add the pasta. Stir the pasta then quickly replace the pot lid and let the water return to a boil. If using hard manufactured pasta, use a wooden spoon to gently bend the noodles until they are completely submerged. The only way to tell if pasta is done is by eating it, but if you like numbers a general of thumb is 3-5 minutes for fresh pasta and 8-10 minutes for manufactured pasta.


Have a large colander waiting in a sink or basin to dump the pasta into once it is cooked. If wearing glasses, it is best to remove them before this step.
Quickly transfer the noodles into the saucepan containing the sauce, or put the noodles back into the pot in which they were cooked in and turn off heat. Toss the pasta using a wooden fork and spoon, coating the pasta with the sauce.


Quickly transfer the noodles into the saucepan containing the sauce, or put the noodles back into the pot in which they were cooked in and turn off heat. Toss the pasta using a wooden fork and spoon, coating the pasta with the sauce.