Pasta is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which is considered the "gold standard of preventive medicine." Making your own pasta can be a delicious way to eat this healthy food — and drying homemade pasta helps you preserve some of what you made to eat later.
Drying Homemade Pasta
The great thing about making your own pasta is that you can flavor it any way you want. You can add spinach or tomatoes, or spice it up with garlic or hot pepper. And it's nice when you can make a large quantity of pasta at once and then separate it into meal-sized portions to keep on hand, ready to pop into boiling water.
If you're making pasta using a pasta maker, the folks at King Arthur Flour suggest you lay the silky strips of pasta in one layer on a baking sheet and store in a dry area for 12 to 24 hours. Flour is fickle, King Arthur says, so humidity, temperature and the size of the noodles all make a difference in drying homemade pasta. A fan can help. You can also try drying the pasta in the oven, draping your pasta strips over your oven rack with the oven turned off.
You want the pasta dry enough to snap when twisted, not bend. Then you can store it in airtight containers at room temperature. King Arthur suggests you avoid making pasta on very humid days. If that's not an option, then after you make the pasta, you can freeze it into nests.
Dehydrating Your Pasta
There's an easier way to dry your pasta if you own a food dehydrator. Place the fresh strips of pasta in single layers onto drying trays. Dry for two to four hours at 135 degrees Fahrenheit and store in airtight packages, according to dehydrator manufacturer Excalibur.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach suggests using a food dehydrator if you make pasta with eggs in it. They recommend storing the dried egg pasta in airtight bags in the freezer — but according to Fine Cooking magazine, when the water is removed from egg pasta by drying the pasta, it's unlikely to become contaminated with bacteria.
That's because drying food has been the go-to method of preserving food for centuries, Fine Cooking says. In meats, drying methods usually use salt. But when it's so dry that you get that snap, it's dry enough to ward off the bacteria, and thus, safe to store at room temperature.
Freezing Homemade Pasta
Another way to store pasta for several weeks is to freeze it. You don't even have to dry it. Toss fresh pasta with a little flour and store in airtight bags. According to the Happy Foodie, these can be stored in the refrigerator for two days or in the freezer for several weeks.
KitchenAid suggests letting fresh pasta dry on a rack for an hour before freezing. You don't need to separate strands of pasta before freezing, but you should dust them with flour and form them into nests. Freezing and drying pasta in nests makes it easier to separate the strands when you thaw the pasta.
If you want to freeze it for up to three months, King Arthur Flour recommends you place cut pasta pieces on a baking sheet and freeze them for 15 minutes or until they don't stick together. Once they're semifrozen, transfer the pieces to airtight bags; label and date them, and freeze.
Pasta as a Staple
Pasta has become as American as apple pie. There's nothing wrong with eating pasta from a box, but when you have the time and energy to make fresh pasta, you'll be rewarded with pasta that's more tender, and good with light, delicate buttery sauces, according to Real Simple magazine.
You may prefer eating pasta that you've made yourself, because you can control the ingredients used. And now that you've decided on a storage method, you can rest easy knowing you can make fresh pasta and save it for those busy nights when you have little time to cook.
Add some good quality homemade sauce, chop a few herbs, heat up some frozen vegetables for a side dish, and you have a fast, easy, convenient meal with your own fresh pasta as the base. Just know that when you make your own pasta, you'll probably want to make several batches because it's likely to be a hit at the table.
Making the Pasta
GQ magazine says to follow the recipe correctly, using advice from restaurateur and James Beard Award-winning chef Tracie Des Jardins. Des Jardins states that the handling of the dough is most important. Overworking your dough can make it tough. Chef Angelo Auriana suggests in the article that a good beginner pasta is pappardelle as it's long and wide and can be cut into ribbons with a knife or pizza cutter.
King Arthur Flour suggests using flour, egg and water. The company recommends one large egg per cup of flour used, plus two to three tablespoons of water, as needed. The flour can be all-purpose, whole wheat or semolina, or any combination of these. Italian-style is best for delicate sheet pasta, like lasagna. Pastry and cake flours are too soft for pasta, King Arthur notes.
Oil and salt are best left to the pasta water rather than the pasta dough, according to King Arthur. You'll need a dough that's dry for ziti, penne or macaroni. It will need to pass through the extruder of your pasta maker without sticking. Softer pasta dough will have added water; this is for lasagna, manicotti or ravioli. This type of dough can also be cut into fettuccine, linguine or other flat shapes.
Good Dough Consistency
As Des Jardins says, don't overwork the pasta. King Arthur Flour says to keep an eye on the consistency of the dough when mixing the ingredients. Use a dough hook instead of a beater — if you have one.
Pasta for extruders will be drier and look like pie dough. It won't form a ball easily. This will make it dry enough for a clean cut, and you'll want softer dough to roll the pasta.
Here's where you get the pasta ready for storage. If you want to cook some right away, put it into a pot of boiling water. Spread the pasta that's to be stored on a baking sheet, or put it into your dehydrator.
Decide if you want to dry your pasta completely or freeze it. If you decide to dry it and store it, remember King Arthur's advice to dry it for 12 to 24 hours on a day when the humidity is down, and store the pasta in airtight bags when it's dry enough to snap. If it's a humid day, your best solution might be to freeze the pasta, following the instructions outlined.
Cooking With Dried Pasta
When you cook with your own dried pasta, remember not to cook it the way you would packaged dry pasta. King Arthur Flour says homemade pasta cooks much more quickly than commercially dried pasta.
King Arthur's suggestions on cooking pasta are:
Fresh pasta, no drying or freezing: two to three minutes
Fresh pasta, frozen: three to five minutes, depending on size
Fresh pasta, air dried: four to seven minutes, depending on size
Commercially dried pasta: six to 10 minutes, depending on size.
Try for the al dente texture, GQ says. You want just a bit of bite. The pasta shouldn't be too crunchy or too soft.
GQ also says not to add oil to the water. Boil the water in a large pot; Let it get to a rolling boil and then add the pasta. Add one and a half teaspoons of salt for every 3.5 ounces of pasta, and don't use a lid.
- King Arthur Flour: "Homemade Pasta: Six Tips for Success"
- Fine Cooking: "Dried Egg Pasta: Hidden Danger or Perfectly Safe?"
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: "Making Homemade Noodles Safely"
- Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: "Mediterranean Diet and Life Expectancy; Beyond Olive Oil, Fruits and Vegetables"
- Excalibur: "Dehydrating Tips"
- The Happy Foodie: "How to Work With Fresh Pasta Dough"
- Kitchen Aid: "Storing Fresh Pasta"
- GQ: How to Cook Pasta Like a Chef"
- Real Simple: "Dried Vs. Fresh Pasta"