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Fresh restaurant pasta: translucent and delicately chewy. Why?

When I order fresh or house-made pasta at a restaurant, I get a pasta that's slightly translucent and has a lightly rubbery bite. It's heavenly.

When I make it at home, although it's very good indeed, it's floury white in color and tender without the delicate chewiness. I've tried AP flour and semolina flour and varying combinations of the two. I've tried making it without eggs, but no luck. I'm beginning to suspect that the restaurant "fresh pasta" is made off-premises via some sort of commercial process which I can't duplicate at home. Maybe the process is similar to that which is used making wonton skins, as a fresh wonton skin is much more similar to restaurant fresh pasta than the homemade pasta I make at home.

Does anyone have any secrets to share so that I can achieve a restaurant-quality result?

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  1. I use mostly AP flour and a little semolina and my pasta is golden and translucent. Are you rolling by hand or using a machine. Machines are easier to get a consistent thinness.
    Basic dough: 1 1/2 c. AP flour, 1/2 cup fine semolina, 3 eggs. That's it. No oil, no salt, no water (unless dough looks super dry) Toss in kitchen-aid w/ dough hook and you're good to go. adam

    4 Replies
    1. re: adamshoe

      I use a machine and that's pretty much my recipe, except I've always added salt. Next time maybe I'll leave the salt out and see if it makes a difference.

      1. re: teela brown

        Also, make sure you knead the dough long enough (my recipe says to knead for a full 8 minutes), which will help with the texture and with rolling it out in terms of getting it thin enough. What kind of pasta machine are you using?

        1. re: teela brown

          I don't think salt will make a difference. It's definitely in the kneading (I knead for 10-12 min by hand) and resting. Min rest time should be 20 min but I go as long as 45 min. No rest, the dough will pull back and become very chewy to the point of rubbery upon cooking. I like mine fairly tender hence the longer rest time. Experiment with rest time to get it to your liking.

        2. re: adamshoe

          Oops, yes, I always rest the dough for at least 20-30 before proceeding w/ the thinning/rolling and use copious flour to ensure no sticking. adam

        3. If you are making this by machine, it's very easy to over knead the dough. This will make it very tough and difficult to roll - the resulting pasta will be too chewy. Reduce the kneading time or knead by hand (almost impossible to over-knead). To tell if the pasta is ready, cut the dough - small holes mean more kneading is necessary.

          Let the dough rest for at least 1/2 hour before rolling.

          1. It sounds like you know plenty about flours, but given what you're mentioning I think it could be totally worthwhile to read the excerpt that's viewable at Amazon of Cookwise... http://www.amazon.com/Cookwise-Reveal...

            It is a marvelous section on the properties of different flours and the cooking result, tied in part to the glutinousness of different varieties. (And even if it doesn't answer your question, it's a heck of a tidbit of knowledge for other cooking exploits.)

            1. Try making pasta dough by hand instead of using machine. That's how good, fresh restaurant pasta is made - on a cool marble or steel tabletop. Don't over knead (a big failing of bread machines which are for making bread not pasta). The only machine you need is a rolling machine unless you've got spacers on your rolling pin.

              1. I use Hazan's recipe of eggs and unbleached flour BUT I put 1/2 of that and 1/2 00 flour. Makes it a bit harder to knead but I like it. I haven't yet tried using all 00 but an Italian man who owns a restaurant in San Francisco told me he'd never use any flour except 00.

                1. Great question, I found your post asking the same thing. So after reading all of these replies, I did an experiment at home. None of these replies seemed to quite nail the problem, and I'm starting to think cooking time might have to do with it.

                  So, I made the pasta a cut it into 1/16" square spaghetti. I tried a bit uncooked. It was kind of grainy but fell apart. Still, no eggy spring to it. I but it all into a boiling pot of salt water, and pulled out a quarter of it at 1 min., 2 min, 3 min, and 4 minute intervals. I put some fresh Scott Conant style tomato sauce on each right away and let in incorporate. My wife and I tried them in succession last night. I was amazed!

                  The 1 minute and 2 minute pasta had a more grainy fresh pasta texture to it. At 3 minutes it started to feel springy like egg pasta, and by 4 minutes it was obvious. I loved the 1 minute pasta, but my wife preferred the 2 minute. I think that's the right call, one minute in the water, and give the pasta another minute in the saute pan with the sauce and basil, and a little water to finish cooking it. So my theory for now is cooking time, but I'd love to see what evidence ya'll come up with to corroborate or refute this claim!

                  Oh, PS: I used 50/50 AP and Semolina flour. Next time I'll try 100% semolina to see what it does.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nathawkins

                    I just tried adding semolina -- what's it made from?

                    Anyway, Marcella Hazan calls for 2 eggs to 1 cup unbleached flour. I always double this recipe so last night I tried: 1 cup fine semolina, 1/2 cup unbleached flour, 1/2 cup 00 flour. I used Kitchen Aid pasta attachment, to next to last setting. I liked this combo, firmer chew.

                    Also tried Spuntino Restaurant meatballs: Beef w/raisins and pine nuts. I doubled the garlic but next time will triple the amount, at least. It's Sicilian style.

                  2. What do you mean by "chewy"? Do you literally mean chewy as in like slightly rubbery? Or do you mean chewy as in it has some "tooth" to it?

                    Re: chewy - that has to do with kneading the pasta long enough. It has to be kneaded really well (about 8 mins in kitchen aid w dough hook) or 12 by hand. Also, the egg pastas do tend to be a bit chewier (kind of like rice noodles).

                    Re: "tooth" - I think the best proportions of flour are 2 parts semolina to 1 part King Arthur all purpose flour. Some people have switched the proportions backwards so they can skip the "rest" period for the dough, but I find it's too soft and sometimes even soggy. Not at all like the pasta I've had on my many trips to Italy.

                    The eggless variety is definitely easier to roll out as it's not sticky. Here's a blog post I did about it with a video showing to do make it: http://christophercooks.blogspot.com/...