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Fresh Pasta Problems

I've attempted to make fresh pasta twice now. Both times, I did a ravioli, and started with the well method. On the first try, I used 3 1/2 c. flour and 4 eggs (Mario Batali's recipe). I rolled the pasta out on wooden board with a rolling pin. On the second attempt, I used about half the flour, 4 eggs, olive oil, and my great grandmother's pasta machine to roll out the dough. The dough was way too sticky this time so I had to continue to add flour as I was kneading. On both attempts I kneaded for 10 minutes and let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes. Both times, the pasta was too firm/tough. I cooked the ravioli for about 2 minutes each time.

Any pointers or adjustments I can make to get a softer pasta? I'd really love to get it right and carry on our family tradition of making the pasta by hand, but my mom and I just can't seem to figure it out.

Thanks in advance for any tips!

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  1. If you were able to roll the dough and cut it without it cracking, then the dough wasn't too dry. If you mean that it was tough after cooking, try cooking it a little longer.

    I like to add flour as I roll it out, so I start out with less flour than I think I'm going to knead. This lets me achieve just the right consistency.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pikawicca

      Yes, the pasta was too tough after cooking. That's my problem.

      I did leave a lot of the flour on the board the first time (when I thought I had too much flour) because I could tell from watching others in the past that it was starting to get too dry and may be a problem to roll. Starting with less and adding as I need to is a good point. Thanks!!

    2. what kind of flour are you using?

      7 Replies
        1. re: jmbella

          try half all purpose and half semoline

          1. re: Kater

            I'll try that. Thanks!

            I also think I may not be rolling it thin enough. Could that be cause for tough dough as well?

            1. re: jmbella

              Yes, are you rolling it by hand or using a pasta machine? I am not brave enough to roll by hand!

              1. re: Kater

                The first time I rolled by hand, the second time I rolled it in the machine. It got better with the machine but still too tough.

                Could I possibly be not cooking it long enough?

                1. re: jmbella

                  I doubt it but anything is possible - even using the machine you may not be going thing enough

      1. I find that fresh pasta will have a little more "tooth" to it than dried pasta as well. I agree with kater about machine rolling. It's very hard to get your dough to a uniform thickness unless you've had a lot of practice at it. If you don't have a machine, try looking on Ebay where there are tons of them at good prices.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Den

          I'm surprised no one has mentioned this, but I'd try kneading less. Gluten development causes toughness in flour products. I knead for just a few seconds-- just long enough that the dough holds together-- and then put it through the widest setting on the pasta machine several times (flatten out the dough as much as possible by hand before you put it in the first time-- less gluten means more chance of tearing, put it through, fold it in half, put it through, fold it in half, put it through, fold it in half.) This gives you just a little gluten development, which you will need to hold the pasta together when it gets to the thinner settings, but not nearly as much as you'd get with all that kneading. My pasta comes out very soft and silky.

        2. Marcella Hazan's recipe works best for me: 1 cup unbleached AP flour, 2 eggs. (I make more, 3 cups flour, 6 eggs.) I always need more flour -- I add until it's not sticky. NO OLIVE OIL. I knead at least 10 minutes and then wrap in plastic wrap and leave on the counter at least 1/2 hr to an hour. This recipe is easy to work with. I usually use 1/2 AP and 1/2 00 flour -- it's a bit harder to knead.

          I love my pasta attachment for Kitchenaid -- I find it's best to go only to next to thinnest setting.

          2 Replies
          1. re: walker

            Thanks! I'll try using this ratio and see how it goes.

            1. re: walker

              I have a different recipe of hers, from the "Classic" book: 1 1/2 c. flour and 2 eggs.

              I find that works almost perfectly. I use 3/4 c. semolina and 3/4 c. regular flour to arrive at 1 1/2 c.

            2. I think I see your problem. If your dough seems firm I would switch from AP flour to TIP 00 flour (you can get it at any decent Italian market) which will produce a silkier pasta which is perfect for stuffed pastas. You can also add a tablespoon or so of mlik to the dough. Using AP flour will definitely yield a toothier pasta which is great for tagliatelle and the like that is going to soak up some nice ragu but for stuffed pasta you probably want something a little softer.

              I never measure for my pasta dough anymore I know by now how much flour an egg can take but definitely knead for 10 mins you will see the dough really change and become super smooth and elastic. I never use olive oil but i know it makes the dough easier to work. Another trick is to leave it in the fridge overnight after kneading, the longer rest more evenly distributes the moisture and makes it a dream to work with.

              I would never roll by hand for Ravioli (though it unquestionably produces better fettucini etc) unless I was an Italian Grandma, the reason being by the time you are done rolling for suitable thickness the dough will likely be dry and difficult to make into ravioli without cracking. For ravioli which you are going to layer to double thickness at the edges it needs to be thin thin!

              One note on the pasta machine I HATE the last setting I find it way TOO thin! Instead I use the second to last setting and roll through twice. Also be sure to keep everything covered with a towel cause once it is passed through the last time the clock is ticking and the pasta will get drier and harder to shape and work with.

              8 Replies
              1. re: rezpeni

                I did try making some fettucini with the scraps I had left over and it came out pretty well. I think you're right about the AP working well for that. I'll have to try the 00 next time I do a stuffed pasta. I also was told by my mom to not dry the stuffed pasta at all, but dry the non-stuffed versions some before cooking. Do you find that to be the case?

                I did give up on hand rolling after trying it on the pasta machine. I have the kind with the manual crank.

                Thanks so much for all your insight. You had some great suggestions. I will definitely keep trying!

                1. re: jmbella

                  No prob, pasta cooks gotta stick together! Instead of drying my pasta what I do is freeze it. I was told this trick by the head chef at one of Mario Batali's places, it's what they do for all their fresh pasta except the ones stuffed with raw egg yolk. It has the same effect of impoving the texture of the finished pasta that drying it has, making it better to work with esepcially when saucing at the end, but it is much quicker. Fresh pasta straight from the machine into the hot water can be gummy and absorb too much water making it flaccid and waterlogged, not good. Try it and see, I freeze all my cut pasta and stuffed pasta before use, usually takes about 30-45 mins or so to freeze completely.

                  I mostly use the machine too, I use the one with the manual crank as well, but if I am feeling ambitious I will roll by hand because it really makes lovely pasta with great bite and texture from the uneven surface that hand rolling produces.

                  1. re: rezpeni

                    so when you freeze it, do you drop it into the boiling water frozen? and does that make it necessary to adjust the cooking time? I've never heard of freezing it but i LOVE Mario Batali so I'm sure a chef of his would only have good advice.

                    thanks again....i know i have tons of questions!

                    1. re: jmbella

                      No prob happy to share what I know. Yes, right from the freezer into boiling salted water. The other advantage is you can make a larger batch, cook what you need for that night, then you have perfect pasta leftover for when you need.

                      Cooking time isn't really effected that much because the pasta is so thin to begin with. I find there are so many variables with cooking times though the only really reliable way is to keep testing noodles. Usually anywhere from 1-3 mintues. For stuffed pasta I usually just wait till they float or a minute or so after.

                2. re: rezpeni

                  Re: too firm pasta ravioli. I've read and tried nearly everything posted here,but,"00" flour .doesn't seem to be at all available locally.If this is my problem,can I try just whizzing AP or even semolina in a common blendor to make finer texture? Also,some other info plays with the egg combinations,i.e.,mix of whole eggs and some separated yolks. Maybe that would help

                  1. re: jdon

                    If you can't find 00 you can make a substitute by mixing one half cake flour to one half AP flour. I've also had good results recently making tortellini using a dough of 3 parts AP to 1 part Semolina made with only egg yolks, going the other direction in terms of hardness but seems to hold well to rolling thinner than AP alone.

                    1. re: jdon

                      Have you called to inquire at health food stores? In my area, they have it in the bulk section.

                  2. One comment I'll add...

                    I've noticed that extra large eggs are almost always used in Batali's recipes (always check the intros as the book will usually state the info)
                    I'm wondering if the OP may have used large eggs, which didn't create the suppleness that extra large ones would have produced.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Novelli

                      I follow Hazan's proportions, but using medium eggs ('cause that's what we have here, for the most part), and have no real issues. If the pasta seems a little too stiff, I just add a tablespoon of water or so.

                      P.S. Having made pasta twice is not necessarily enough to establish a baseline for yourself. Making it on the kitchen table (or in a mixer), incorporating ingredients until they become thoroughly blended and somewhat stiff / somewhat tacky is not all that hard, and is not an intolerant procedure.

                    2. Thanks so much for all your help! I've actually taken a few pasta classes since my last post. I think my initial problem was not kneading enough, and not rolling thin enough. I was taught to stretch the dough gently as it's coming out of the roller...it creates a little more elasticity and enabled me to roll down to a thinner setting on my machine. Practice makes perfect though...it's gotten progressively better each time!

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: jmbella

                        It's hard for me to imagine that 10 minutes of kneading isn't enough, or that not kneading enough could cause tough pasta. Pasta dough is extremely simple and forgiving. I'm sure that attention to detail can allow you to tweak it to your liking, but it's not hard to get something that tastes good. If you are cooking it the same amount of time and rolling it thinner, the problem before was that you didn't cook it long enough (if you were cooking wet pasta straight out of the pasta machine, two minutes should have been plenty. If you air dried it, probably not). Using all purpose flour, you should be able to roll it much thinner than you would want for ravioli with little or no kneading. Kneading may make the dough stronger, though, which is good for helping the ravioli not tear.

                        1. re: jvanderh

                          I wasn't kneading with enough force according to my instructor, so he suggested I do it longer (or more forcefully for the same period of time). He's got a James Beard award so I take his word for it. Yes, I do use pasta straight from the machine without drying for stuffed pastas. So, 2 minutes is exactly right. Thanks for your input.

                          1. re: jmbella

                            I gave up on making pasta dough by hand many years ago, once I tried making it in the food processor. I start with the eggs and some semolina and process that till it forms a soupy mix. Then I add my regular flour, salt and olive oil and process until it just barely comes together, adding teaspoons of water if necessary. It then rests for an hour in plastic wrap before I finish the kneading by running it through the pasta machine on the lowest setting until it is silky. Never had as good luck with the "well" method.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              I would suggest kneading for 15 or so minutes by hand after bringing the ingredients together and before the 1 hour rest. I don't think a food prcessor really has the ability to knead and work the dough like it should be.

                        2. Try here: http://blog.pennlive.com/italian-kitc...

                          I like to use all eggs, and no water ! Because of this, your foemula might require an extra egg.
                          I use 1/2 semolina and 1/2 all purpose (don't have the Italian "00" flour). II also use olive oil in the recipe, which helps to keep the dough pliable enough to work with. Most recipes don't even mention olive oil in their formulas.

                          Experiment a little......that's how you create a recipe that's all your own !

                          1. I've done it once, and it was amazing. Thomas Keller will step you through the process quite easily.

                            1. Wow! Thanks for all the advice. I agree Lisbet...experimenting is fun and it's great to come up with a recipe that you love that's just your own. I'll have to reference the recipe I now use and share it with you all, but it's all egg yolks with water, olive oil, and 00 flower. No semolina. I have a semolina recipe for extruded pastas but I havent tried that one at home yet.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: jmbella

                                jmbella: Your dough recipe sounds as though it ought to be good, and I have never been successful at making extruded.

                                A touch of olive oil makes for a silky, tender pasta. Homemade pasta cooks very quickly, so that you have to be extremely watchful and careful not to overcook.