The taste and texture of homemade pasta is undeniably superior to dried pasta, but the short cooking time can be tricky to master. Learn all the tips and tricks here so your fresh pasta doesn’t go to waste!
It’s not unusual to hear even experienced chefs share some intimidation about making pasta at home, but for those who have tried it and mastered it, you know it is worth the effort.
The texture is perfectly chewy, the flavor is mild, the sauce that you top it with seems to soak in even better, and it cooks in just a few minutes.
This short cooking time is one of the major benefits of fresh homemade pasta, but it can also be difficult to get used to. If you are used to waiting 10-15 minutes for your pasta to cook, it may throw you off to have it ready in just two to four minutes.
Chefs who do not adjust for this short cooking time may find their pasta to be mushy and unappetizing.
If you have gone through the effort of making your own pasta at home, or even hunting down fresh pasta at your local grocery store, here are a few tips to ensure it’s a crowd pleaser every time.
How is Homemade Pasta Made?
Making pasta at home may be easier than you think. It’s a tradition that has been shared by families for decades and the tradition of making pasta at home continues today.
Just a few simple ingredients like eggs, flour (semolina flour or just plain all-purpose flour) and water are combined by hand or in a stand mixer. Allow the fresh pasta dough to rest before separating it, rolling it out with a little flour on a clean work surface, and then sending a pasta sheet through a pasta machine to create consistent, smooth noodles.
Start with the widest setting and slowly send the sheet of pasta through your machine several times to ensure it does not crack or break during the process. Continue until your noodles reach your desired thickness. You can send it through your pasta attachment one more time to cut noodles into long strands or use a sharp knife or pizza cutter.
The noodles can be dried out at room temperature and saved in the refrigerator or freezer, or cooked and enjoyed right away. Allowing your pasta to dry for a half an hour or up to two hours helps it maintain its shape during the cooking process.
I’ve made homemade pasta dough with my family for years and perfected the recipe while studying in Italy. Follow my step-by-step guide for all my best tips for making a basic pasta dough.
I’ve also worked with a hand-cranked pasta roller and an electric pasta maker and have shared my thoughts on the KitchenAid attachment. The Kitchenaid attachment is a game changer if you make pasta often!
Purchasing Fresh Pasta
If you still don’t feel ready to make your own fresh pasta at home, you can also purchase fresh pasta from grocery stores. Fresh pasta sold at the grocery store is usually refrigerated near other Italian ingredients like cheese or sausage. Some stores may also have frozen options available.
When you are looking at fresh pasta at the store, try to select pasta that is not too dried out. Fresh pasta that is too dry may fall apart in your pot.
When inspecting fresh pasta, you do not want it to have too much flour on the pasta. You also don’t want to see any crumbles in the package.
At the same time, you don’t want to see any signs of moisture either. Too much moisture in a package will quickly lead to mold. Check the “best buy” date to make sure you have time to cook your pasta. Fresh pasta will go bad much, much quicker than dried pasta.
How Long to Boil Homemade Pasta
Fresh pasta cooks quickly. Homemade pasta cooks to al dente in just 3-5 minutes. Depending on the size and thickness of your noodles, the cook time may be as short as 1-3 minutes.
To cook your homemade pasta, fill a large pot with water and plenty of salt and place it on the stove over medium heat or medium-high heat. It is important to ensure your pasta is covered by at least two inches of water.
Once the salted water begins to boil at a rolling boil, add your homemade noodles. Don’t step away. Three minutes goes by quickly!
You do not need to stir your pasta constantly, but you should stir it frequently to keep your noodles from sticking together. Once they have softened just a bit, stir for about 30 seconds. Let them boil for a minute and then stir again before they are fully done.
You will know your pasta is done when it rises to the top of the water. Drain the hot noodles right away to stop the cooking process. You can also taste your pasta before draining to make sure that the texture is how you’d like.
Before you dump all your pasta water down the drain, check your recipe. Pasta releases starch as it cooks, which does a great job of thickening sauce and helping it stick to your noodles. You may want to reserve some of that cooking water to add back into your dish. If your plan is to cover your noodles with oil or butter, you can rinse your noodles.
How to Tell When Your Pasta is Ready
Homemade or fresh pasta will float to the top of your water when it is done. Dried noodles will not necessarily float, even when they are cooked, so this is a great tip to keep in mind. The Italian Ravioli recipe I highly recommend making your family will be done quickly and you’ll see the pasta quick float to the top if your water is hot and ready.
You can also test the texture of your noodles by taking a small bite. They should be chewy, not hard but not mushy.
The water that your pasta cooks in is an amazing tool for thickening sauces and adding flavor to your dish. It is full of starch and salt, and when it mixes with sauce it helps it adhere to your noodles.
You do not need to rinse your noodles off after cooking but if you decide you would like to, reserve some of that incredible pasta water just in case!
Boiling pasta is the most authentic way to cook it, but if you plan to use your fresh pasta in a casserole like lasagna you can also cook the pasta at the same time as your dish (check out this recipe for no-boil lasagna!).
Boiling is just one way to cook pasta. You could also bake it with sauce or even fry it if you want. Whatever method you choose, you should cook pasta and not eat it raw. Pasta dough is sometimes made with eggs which can make you sick when eaten raw.
The beauty of pasta is how versatile it is. Fresh pasta can be topped with just about any Italian pasta sauce. Choose your favorite sauce! Cover it with your favorite marinara sauce or alfredo sauce or just top it with cheese or butter.
Serve it with a side of salad and breadsticks. When your pasta is fresh and cooked to perfection, you cannot go wrong!
No, you do not need to add any oil to the pot when you cook pasta. Doing so may actually cause problems for the texture of your pasta. It may also make it more difficult for your sauce to stick to your cooked noodles.
You can save cooked pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about three days. I like to add a little bit of olive oil or sauce to keep the noodles from sticking to each other.