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Oct 23, 2011 05:58 PM

Stretching/Rolling Fresh Pasta By Hand?

(My apologies if this is a repeat thread. I did a search and didn't find anything...)

Okay, so here is my problem. I want to make fresh pasta without a machine. Partly because I don't have a machine, and partly because I keep reading that hand stretched pasta is so superior.

So I found me a pasta recipe (Marcella Hazan's), made myself a rolling pin of the recommended proportions, made the dough, kneaded it, let it rest...

And watched about 5 utube videos, each of which shows an entirely different method of rolling/stretching pasta. And all of those are different from Hazan's description, which frankly just confuses the heck out of me.

I settled for some hodgepodge of Hazan's and some other video. It came out okay, but it wasn't thin enough. Some deal where you roll the pasta up on the pin and push the middle toward the outer edges of the pin as you do it. It got to about 1/8 inch thin, but that was as far as I got.

Does anyone have a tried and true (and comprehensible) method of rolling the pasta?


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  1. I'm going to have to do a little research to really understand what you mean and the different techniques. I have made pasta by hand for years and rolled it out many times by hand just with a rolling pin. I've always gotten it very thin and never had any problems.

    Maybe you are starting with too large a piece of dough and it is getting hard to manage? Is it resisting being rolled out? Maybe you just need to let it rest for 5 minutes and then continue rolling it out?

    Are you trying for a specific shape or just trying to create sheets?

    12 Replies
    1. re: thimes

      Thanks for the reply, Thimes!
      I'd be more than happy with a simple sheet. I used a small piece of dough and got it to 1/8 inch thin; but the dough got stiff, probably because I tried like 5 different techniques at the same time.

      Maybe I'm just, well, ... overthinking things as usual? But I read stuff that says you shouldn't just roll out the dough, that it has to be "stretched", and then they describe different ways of stretching it, and Marcella Hazan describes something still different.
      Here's one:
      and here's another:
      and this one...

      ...but maybe I should just roll away?
      Thanks for the help!

      1. re: overthinkit

        So that second video is how I learned to roll out pasta dough.

        If your dough got too stiff and wouldn't roll out any further I would let it rest for 5-10 minutes (you can cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap to stop it from drying out too).

        It could be that your pasta dough is a little dry at the beginning which can make it harder to roll out. Not all eggs are really the same size, so 3 eggs may require a Tbs of water too if the dough is too dry . . . . remember you will be adding flour to the dough as you roll it out to keep it from sticking too. So while it shouldn't be "wet" it shouldn't be dry either . . . .

        But I also wonder what flour you are using. If you are using a '00' flour the dough will have a different texture than if you are using All Purpose flour. So just like with bread, if you have strong gluten development and not enough rest time you can get stiff dough - but a little relax time should help fix that.

        The other thing that helps (I find) is if you notice the end up letting 1/2 of the dough hang off the edge of the board while they roll out the other half on the board. That helps stretch the 1/2 you aren't working on too.

        1. re: thimes

          I will try getting the dough a little moister. I used KAF all purpose flour, 2 large eggs and one cup of flour, and let it rest 30 min.
          The rolling in the second video... I notice their hands are on the outside edge of the dough, and move to follow the edge as they roll. Is there something to that? Are you supposed to press down? forward?
          I really appreciate the help!

          1. re: overthinkit

            Your dough sounds fine but without touching it you never really know.

            As far the rolling. I watched it again and see what you are talking about. it is funny, I didn't interpret it the same way you did so i would never have called that out.

            With a pin that long (I LOVE my long rolling pins) it is actually easier to make sure you are keeping an even pressure if your hands are positioned at the edge of the dough as opposed to fixed some distance out from the edge. So while you see her hands move, the pin itself is rolling and she is pushing "down and away" like a regular rolling pin action. The hands are moving for leverage and to better "feel" if the pressure and dough are even across (so you don't get one thin side and one thick side).

            You can see that she if fighting some resistance in the dough as well. That is what she is doing when she stretches the dough edge around the pin a little before she rolls it around the pin to turn the sheet and keep rolling. So no real "trick" there, just a technique.

            Essentially what you are doing is rolling out the pasta dough (just like you would roll out pie dough) but you have a more elastic dough and when it gets that big it can be challenging to keep the entire sheet at an even thickness.

            It is easy to end up with a thick center because you didn't start rolling from the center very well - or thick edges because you focused on the center and your edges kept shrinking back making them thick.

            That is why having 1/2 the dough hang off the edge is such a good trick. It allows you better leverage and access to the center of the dough while the weight of the dough itself helps keep the hanging 1/2 of the dough stretched.

            KEEP ON ROLLING! ;)

            1. re: thimes

              Thanks, Thimes!

              This is a lot of help. I'll keep trying...
              ps: I put the wrong link down for the Laura Schenone video:
              is the correct one.

              1. re: overthinkit

                Ahh I see the difference in this video from the other one posted. I never learned to do it this way. It looks like she is just pulling the pin (without rolling) back towards her and then rolling forward to get the dough to flop back onto the board. Hmmm.

                Now I'm curious. I'll have to try that too and see. I would imagine it would give the surface some texture but I'm not sure how much actual stretching it is doing . . . but who am I to argue with generations of tradition. Sometimes you just do what you do and that is how you do it- and I'm all for that!

                1. re: thimes

                  Yeah, I don't get it either. If you try it and have any insights, let me know!
                  For now I'll just try to get the rolling down, I guess...

                  1. re: overthinkit

                    Hi Thimes,
                    Just a pasta-making update: I made pasta again yesterday and had a lot more success. I did two things:
                    1. I added a little olive oil to the dough. It made it a lot softer and easier to work with.
                    2. I followed Marcella Hazan's method, religiously this time. It really worked! It has three steps.
                    a. you flatten the dough using the usual method (rolling pin in middle, push out, turn...) until it gets to be 9 inches in diameter.
                    b. you roll a little of the dough on the pin and, gently holding the other end, gently stretch, roll a little more, stretch, until it's all rolled, then turn and repeat. You do this until it gets to me 12 inches in diameter.
                    c. (this is the part that sounds hard but isn't) you roll a little dough on the pin, and using only the palms of your hands and just skimming the dough, push out from the middle to the ends, rocking the pin back and forth as you do it. You do that until the dough is all rolled up and then turn and repeat.

                    Once I figured out how to do this, I LOVED this method! The dough was super super thin, and it hardly took any time to do it.

                    I know you've got a method that works well for you, but I just wanted to share this because it worked so well.

                    1. re: overthinkit

                      awesome, I'm glad it worked. I will give this method a try next time and see how it works for me too.

                      In step 'c': push out rocking the pin back and forth . . . I'm assuming you're doing this so that you are almost pinning down one side (lightly) with the pin while stretching in the opposite direction. Is that right?

                      1. re: thimes

                        well, not quite... she says to "cup both hands" over the pin so that only your palms touch, and so that both palms move out toward the edges. When you do this, the pin naturally rocks toward you a bit. Then you move your hands back to the center, skimming over (not touching) the dough on the way back while "rocking" the pin away from you. You do this four or five times, then roll up a bit more dough on the pin and repeat. It sounds confusing, but it works pretty well.

                        so... no pinning down, because you're stretching in both directions at once.

                        1. re: overthinkit

                          aaaahhh got it - when I read "rocking" i was thinking side to side - she (in my mind) means rolling slightly back and forth - not rocking side to side. . . . I get it now.

                          I'll have to try this and pay more attention to what I'm doing, I may do this subconsciously anyway . . . . so hard to describe what you do when you've been doing it a long time.

                          Thanks for the tip!

                          1. re: thimes

                            right! Let me know how it turns out. If pasta making is this easy I'm going to do it all the time now! :-)

    2. was doing a little more research on this rolling technique and found this video - will have to try this but seems tricky . . .

      1 Reply
      1. re: thimes

        Hey, that's it!!!
        That's what Hazan describes and what I (try to) do! I'm nowhere near that good at it yet, and nowhere near that fast, but I've had good results.

      2. This is a marvelous discussion. Clearly, the hand rolling involves gentle stretching, but written descriptions baffled me until I saw some of the videos, though I haven't had a chance to try my hand at it yet. (For one thing, I need to make a long pin.) A friend who had been recently in Italy sent me a link. Fortunately, I speak Italian. The dialogue doesn't really cover technical questions, so even if you don't understand Italian you don't lose much. Just watch the hands. And then be astounded when she unfurls the dough from the pin.

        9 Replies
          1. re: Father Kitchen

            SO COOL! Thanks for sharing. I notice she doesn't bring her hands all the way back into the middle, which is interesting.
            Did you see how many eggs were in there?? Must be a huge batch of pasta.

            Father Kitchen, about the long pin: you can just go to home depot and cut yourself a length of 1.5" diameter dowel... that's what I did and it cost me all of $4. Then just sand it down, wash it, oil it and screw an eye into one end (Hazan says you should hang them so they don't warp) and you're good to go.

            1. re: overthinkit

              That dowel is precisely what I want to do. But I just unexpectedly inherited two parishes. I've been in academic work and one-on-one pastoral work for the last forty years, so this is a whole new ball game for me. Medard's is just up the street. I will get that pin made, and I am glad to know it worked for you. Keep up the good cooking. It is a gift of live and it support life--not just keeping people alive, but it brings them fully alive.

              1. re: Father Kitchen

                Good luck with all the new duties! I'm sure your parishoners will appreciate your hard work and your cooking.

                1. re: overthinkit

                  I'm hoping to do a retreat day on the connection between spirituality and food sometime in the spring. Probably it will involve soup and pasta. One of my favorite soups is a soffritto of onions, carrots, celery, and ginger. After it sweats, add clear chicken broth to simmer. Meanwhile, cook in boiling water until barely al dente some fresh tagliatelle or tagiolini. Add them to the simmering broth. Throw in a handful of torn basil leaves. Serve immediately.

            2. re: Father Kitchen

              I'm not ashamed to admit that this is my favorite youtube video of all time!

              1. re: aburkavage

                Just sent this video to my sister in law, her grandmother used to make dough just like this. She made it seem easy, just like this woman. I always have used my Atlas machine, and the Kitchenaid to start the dough, but now I am inspired. Might just try this for Christmas myself.

                1. re: coll

                  Well, maybe THIS Christmas! I just found one of those "French" rolling pins which I have been looking for since seeing this video, so I'm all set!

                  1. re: coll

                    Time to update, I DID roll the pasta for my cannelloni by hand a month or so ago, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. Not that I'll never use the Atlas again, I couldn't get it all that thin, but it was received very well.

            3. I really must share this. The restaurant TRU (very very expensive) in Chicago used to have a window into the kitchen where passers-by could watch from the street. Once when we were peering in, two chefs were making pasta using a little hand-crank machine then stretching the pieces by hand. They had a huge piece that seemed the size of a bedsheet, holding it up almost over their heads at arms' length, AND IT DIDN'T BREAK. "Do not try this at home: we are professionals".

              1. Whether it is a person rolling with a metal rolling pin or a machine pressing dough between two metal rolling pins while it is fed by hand what is the difference? Of course if you need a large circle of dough for a particular recipe--pasta in a drum for instance--I can see the need but can't imagine the flavor knows which way it was rolled.

                6 Replies
                1. re: escondido123

                  supposedly hand stretched pasta has a better texture than pasta that is simply pressed thin by a machine. I don't know if that's true or not; someday I'll have people do a blind taste test and see if they can tell.
                  I just have to roll it by hand because DH will have a stroke if I try to fit one more kitchen appliance in our 700 sq home. And now that I have, I think I'd rather do it this way anyway. Just as fast, more fun, less stuff to clean.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    I'm not sure about the taste difference. i own a hand crank machine, Kitchenaide roller attachments, ravioli pins, ravioli presses, etc etc etc

                    I think there is just a charm and elegance to the old world style of making some things that seems to always get lost for the convenience of modern day. I think this is one of them.

                    I guess it speaks to a love for technique and an appreciation for tradition.

                    To me at least.

                    1. re: thimes

                      I too appreciate a love for technique and tradition, I was just wondering whether there was enough of a difference in the taste/texture of the final product to make it worth the great deal of work.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        I found I could order a beechwood Italian-style rolling pin from Amazon for about eight dollars. It is only about 20 inches long, but for smaller batches it should do. Every authority I've consulted says that the stretching that take place in the hand rolling affects the quality of the final dough. Whether it is enough to justify the extra labor involved is a subjective decision. I think if I were to slather on a lot of sauce, the way Americans do, any flavor difference would be minimized. Still, I hope to try and find out.

                        1. re: Father Kitchen

                          We often dress our pasta simply with black pepper and Romano or bitter greens and garlic both with olive oil, so the pasta does matter. For those dishes we use dried pasta--without egg--so we are now trying out the extruded ones that use bronze dies for a rougher texture. It certainly is rougher, but not sure it is worth double the price of our everyday brand.

                          1. re: escondido123

                            I also love tossing the pasta with bread crumbs fried in a bit of olive oil. Garlic is optional.