Semolina Pasta Recipe (and Tips for Awesome Homemade Pasta)

We started making pasta at home a few years ago. We’ve become very comfortable with the process and have had some great results making whole grain pasta, gnocchi,mushroom noodles, egg noodles and other treats (you’ll find many of those recipes here).

Every once in a while, I crave a better version of the pasta I grew up with.  The white-flour carb-loaded starch that isn’t the dream health food but it delightful to eat.  We’ve had varying results trying to make ‘authentic’ pasta like our Italian friends make by hand – until now.  I did some more research, including picking an Italian Chef’s brain (our friend Massimo Bruno) and am finally thrilled with the results:

Semolina Pasta Recipe (and Tips for Awesome Homemade Pasta) pasta November Flour


Before we share the recipe, here’s a few tips on what we’ve learned:

  • A pasta machine is a great help.  Although it’s possible to roll and cut pasta by hand, this can easy take the task from an hour or two of active work to about 20 minutes.
  • A good pasta machine is better than a mediocre one.  I’ll review ours soon; we’ve just replaced a $30-$40 generic cutter with a $65 “high-end” pasta cutter.  Each time we make fresh pasta we will save $5-6 a meal based on the cost of fresh pasta.  At once-per-month, this unit will pay for itself and last many years longer.
  • Semolina flour.  I had never used it and, because of that, I was teasingly sworn at in Italian.  It’s not the healthy choice of a whole grain but it’s the choice of many Italian pasta makers around the world.  Lifting the bag showed me why – it felt soft and fluffy, even when constrained by the packaging.
  • Use your hands.  A food processor will do the job (and some argue it will yield better results) but it’s really far easier to knead with your hands than cleaning the machine after.
  • Dont’ cut your dough until the end.  This was a major lesson – I used to cut it into small balls that were easier to handle.  Get used to handling a long strand of dough and you’ll end up with equal-lengths of pasta (the balls produce oval sheets which produce pasta of different lengths).
  • Roll the pasta on the widest setting, toss a small bit of flour on it, fold it in half and roll it again.  Repeat 5-7 times and you’ll have a better texture and sheets that are the full-width of the pasta machine.
  • When I fold the pasta in half, I fold the ends into the middle.  This helps keep the ends square and resolves the oval issue.
  • Roll as much as you can into a giant pasta rectangle and cut at the end – it will be easier to cut identical sheets in this way.
  • Let the dough rest a lot.  It should rest for 30 minutes after your initial kneading and at least 10 minutes between rolling out and cutting into noodles.

The entire process is about 15-20 minutes of active work and takes place over about an hour.  The results are phenomenal!

Ingredients (yields enough for two very-full plates or 4 healthy side dishes)

  • 1.5 cups semolina flour (available at Italian grocers)
  • 0.25-0.5 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt (a healthy pinch)

Directions

  1. Scatter flour on a large, secure cutting board (or directly on counter).
  2. Add salt, scatter to spread on surface.
  3. Make a ‘hole’ in the middle of the flour (like you’d do with mashed potatoes as you prepared them for a ‘gravy lake.’)
  4. Add the olive oil and 0.25 cups water water into the middle of the flour.  Be careful to ensure it all fits (spread the flour further if needed).
  5. Begin to incorporate the flour by swirling it around the edges where the water meets the flour.  A loose dough will form.  You will likely need to add the rest of the water to make it come together (it should be the texture of play dough).
  6. Knead the dough until it is consistent and smooth when stretched.
  7. Cover with a damp cloth, allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
  8. Roll and cut the dough per the instructions above.

Cook in boiling salted water until al dente (this generally only takes a few minutes).

What tips would you add to this list?

 

Comments

  1. Funny you should blog about this…I just took a course last month at Longo’s about how to make pasta. From a Jewish French-trained chef, who learned how to make pasta from a little old Italian grandmother (or Nonna) in Tuscany, Italy. So easy to make and to die for!
    :)

  2. Great summary! Have always used semolina (and use eggs) and it makes beautiful pasta. Before kneading and shaping, I wrap ball of dough tightly in plastic and rest for 30 minutes. Nicer to work with; also cut into three balls before running through pasta machine YMMV. I bought dowel from the lumber store and prop on chairs to dry noodles. Normally would use fresh flat sheet for lasagna; and also freeze extra. Boxed pasta has nothing on homemade.

  3. So what was the brand/model of your high end machine?

  4. I am usually reluctant to comment on these sites because they seem to become a contest of sorts however I thought I would have something to add.
    I grew up in a very Italian neighborhood in the South Bronx. Home made pasta was very common and didnt seem to vary much from one house to the next, unlike gravy which is different even from mother to daughter.
    In any case, I spoke to my aunt, the real cook in my family zia Vera (dont tell my mom) and the homemade pasta conversation got more involved than I expected it would. And when she speaks Italian too fast I cant understand it all…. but…. I thought I would share her words in summary for as much as I did get.
    Pasta for a linguini or fettuccine or pappardelle is from a dough with semolina flour, water, salt and olive oil. Basically anything you will eat and cook as fresh or maybe even dry and store for later. Also, the olive oil can be left out of this one if you choose.
    A pastry type pasta like for ravioli is about the same but will include egg. The egg pasta is one that would be stored in the fridge or freezer depending on how long before you intend to eat it. Also, when working with the egg pasta you should not let it rest for an hour before working it. 15 minutes at most or the egg will dry and the dough can not be rolled out by hand or machine.

  5. Am I missing something? 1.5 cups semolina and 1 cup of warm water did not produce anything close to dough. There seem to be way too much water in this ratio. It took working at least another 1.5 cups of semolina to make a workable dough. In the end the results were good and I was surprised that I didn’t miss the egg that’s in my go to pasta recipe.

    All the tips are good ones. The new for me was folding into the middle to help square off the sheets. That said I don’t stress on getting the sheets to the full width of the machine. After cutting I just lightly toss with semolina to make nests letting any small pieces fall out and brush aside.

    • Ian,

      I’ve fixed the recipe thanks to your comment – thank you!
      Thank you for the comment – this indeed has to be a typo; apologies. You are indeed correct; I generally use half the water (0.5 cups). I start with a quarter cup and work my way up to a half cup.

      My notes had two versions of the recipe and I obviously took ingredients from a bit of both. :( Glad you stuck it out and added more flour – indeed a good solution! :)

      Joel

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