Homemade Pasta Play Dough

I don't know a lot of secret cooking tips or anything, and I'm usually strongly against anything that smacks of unnecessary steps in recipes (see the Times' silly instructions for boiling and freezing garlic to remove the skins. What, your fingernails don't work?). However, every once in a while I like to pull out a little razzle dazzle which, effectively mastered, evokes the image of a patient and highly-trained chef who regularly pulls off culinary masterpieces with nothing but an unassuming "Oh, this? It's just something I like to whip up when I don't care what I eat."

Since I am more Gob Bluth than David Copperfield in the kitchen magic department, my arsenal of cooking tricks is unfortunately limited. But I do have (at least) one thing that's easy, delicious, and never fails to impress: homemade pasta dough.

My love for pasta runs deep and true. As a stereotypically picky eater in my childhood (and, what the heck, adulthood too), I never met a pasta I didn't like. Aside from the taste, which, bland and perfect for conveying butter, I liked all the shapes pasta could come in (oh! Except for bowtie pasta! For some reason, I have always, always hated bowtie pasta). I remember shopping with my mom and begging her to buy me boxes of pasta (alphabet! fusilli!) which I wouldn't eat, but instead pour out over the kitchen counter and play with.

It wasn't until I was older that I realized pasta's original form wasn't a bunch of hard little shapes, but instead soft, smooth, pliable dough. And it wasn't until I was much, much older that I realized I could make pasta--I could make pasta! It was as if someone told me I could make fairy dust or chipmunks. These things just exist, no one makes them. With my first batch of homemade pasta dough I experienced the giddy thrill of unparalleled power. While other foolish pastaphiles languished in the stratas of Barilla and Ronzoni, I created my own universe. (ok, even though we're just talking about pasta here, come on! how cool is it, really?)

I found this recipe on NPR's website (not to label myself the kind of person who reads NPR's website... oh who am I kidding? I have a "Carl is the king of my Kasell" tattoo). Also, if I complain about The New York Time's level of pretentiousness in their recipes, they at least got nothin' on make-sure-after-you-cook-this-you-compost-the-scraps-actually-just-compost-the-whole-meal NPR (not to put too fine a point on it.). I don't usually visit the NPR recipe archives, mostly because I'm uninterested in the kinds of meals that require me to take out a loan to prepare. Still, sometime last year I found the recipe for homemade pasta (from Laura Schenone) and fell in love with the idea of preparing my own fresh pasta for use as ravioli, lasagna, thick and hearty noodles.

I used to regularly make this, back when I thought cooking Dave a fancy meal would get him to leave the office sooner (eventually I dropped this, learning that a) he will hardly ever leave his office sooner and b) he is the kind of little fish as easily caught with chewing gum as a $500 lure). I still make it when we have friends over for dinner and I want to impress them. The fresh pasta cooks into a beautiful smooth texture and is pliable without the rubberyness of store-bought pasta. I tend to make mine pretty thick, since I don't have a pasta press, so it comes out hearty without being heavy, but I'd bet it would taste amazing a little thinner as well.

Note: the recipe doesn't say anything about how you actually cook the pasta, which I found a little annoying. Generally fresh pasta cooks faster than store-bought, and it will cook at different times depending on how thick or thin you roll it out to be. Smallish squares for ravioli will cook in about 4 minutes, larger squares for lasagna closer to 6. Experiment.


2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 egg
tepid water, beginning with 4 to 6 tablespoons

Shape the flour into volcano, with a hole in the center that has a little bit of flour on the bottom.
Sprinkle the salt on top.
Add the oil into the hole.
Next, crack the egg into the hole.
Use a fork to lightly scramble the egg and then gradually pull in flour from the inside walls of this volcano.
As you do this, cup your hand around the exterior walls to keep the sides from collapsing and the egg from running all over the pasta board. (If this happens, however, don't panic; just use some flour to quickly pull the egg back into the flour as best you can.)
Continue to scramble the egg and pull in flour a little at a time. As the egg absorbs the flour, begin to add the water, gradually. At some point soon, you will no longer have a volcano but a mass of sticky dough. Don't be shy.
Abandon the fork, take off your rings, and use your hands with confidence to gather the dough up into a ball, adding enough water as necessary, little by little, so that the dough is workable and elastic but not too sticky, as you continue to pull in the loose bits of flour on the board.
If you must err with your liquid, better to be too wet than dry.
You can add a little more flour later, while kneading. It's much harder to add more water.
When you have a dough that you can knead, wash your hands and scrape the pasta board clear of crusty bits and gumminess so that it is smooth.
Knead the dough for about 8 minutes (longer for a larger batch).
Generously sprinkle flour on your board as needed so that your dough is strong and absolutely not sticky.
I suggest using the heels of your hands to push, then fold the dough in half, then rotate your lump a quarter turn and do it again.
When your dough is satiny, soft, and elastic, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 20 minutes if you plan to use the pasta machine, but at least half an hour if you plan to roll on a pin.
You can let it sit as long as 2 hours.
It will continue to develop flavor as it rests, and the glutens will relax so you can roll the dough without having it snap back at you.

Image from Recipetips.com. They used 3 eggs and I use 1. Don't get confused.


  1. hey, cool! i want to try. how much does this make? like, in poundage. you may have mentioned it above, sorry, but my mind started wandering towards my kitchen counter space and if i am currently equipped to create pasta from scratch.

  2. About 1 pound. Also, do you have the ingredients? Two hands? Something long and round for rolling? You're equipped.

    Also also, I think we made this for you once...