Want to learn to make fresh pasta… at home? It’s easier than you’d think! And if you want to bring Italy’s finest foods into your kitchen, making pasta is one of the best—and simplest—ways.
Pasta, that world-famous Italian dish, comes in hundreds of different shapes and sizes, from pappardelle to penne, each designed to match best with a different sauce. (Don’t miss our post explaining pasta’s different kinds and shapes!).
But no matter what the shape is, Italian pasta also can be dry (pasta secca) or fresh (pasta fresca). Dry pasta is what you find in boxes on store shelves; while you can also sometimes find the fresh variety in stores, it’s usually much more expensive (and, of course, doesn’t last long).
In Italy, meanwhile, you’ll find many traditional restaurants (and Italian nonnas) will make their own fresh pasta. While this is a good sign, fresh pasta isn’t necessarily always “better” than dried. It’s just different, with a lighter, more delicate flavor.
But fresh pasta is definitely a delicacy. And, yes, it’s one you can make at home. Here’s what to know about fresh pasta… and how to make it!
Nota bene: While the history of pasta spans thousands of years, and is somewhat of a tangled issue (various regions in Italy claim they invented the dish!), there is one myth we just have to bust. No, it wasn’t Marco Polo who brought pasta to Italy. We know pasta was already popular in various areas of Italy in the 13th century, if not before!
How to make fresh pasta
When it comes to ingredients, fresh pasta couldn’t be simpler. You usually need only two: flour and egg, or flour and water. Fresh egg pasta is the most common. But we also love some of the water-and-flour varieties, like pici, a hand-rolled pasta from Tuscany that looks like a super-thick spaghetti.
Check out the video below, of Walks of Italy’s Simona making homemade tonnarelli at home, for step-by-step instructions.
After mixing the ingredients together and rolling out the dough, it’s time to cut it! Depending on the width of the strips of pasta, they are given different names–from pappardelle, which is between 3/4 to 1 inch wide, to tagliolini, a tenth of an inch.
You can even color the pasta. Add carrot or spinach puree to the dough to make it orange or green… or, throw in squid ink to make that silky, black pasta so popular in Venice.
Want to get even more creative? You can also fill your fresh pasta, making pasta ripiena like ravioli, tortellini, and cannelloni. The filling used is as varied as the different pasta shapes, from vegetables to cheeses to meat.
Matching sauces to your pasta
Italy boasts as many varieties of pasta sauce as pasta. Many are very regional: Pesto alla genovese is particular to Italy’s Liguria region, for example, while amatriciana and carbonara hail from Rome. (Don’t miss our post on the how to make pesto alla genovese!).
The trick? The sauce is meant to enhance the pasta, and not overpower it. Plus, it has to “go” with the shape of the pasta.
For example, filled pastas are already full of flavor—so they only need a simple sauce, like butter and sage, to enhance the dish. Thin fresh pastas would best be served with lighter sauces that glide over their surface, while wider pastas, such as pappardelle, work well with a hearty meat sauce, like wild-boar ragu. For pasta with holes and grooves, look for a chunky sauce that gets trapped in their texture.
And some dishes, like tortellini in brodo (a typical dish from Emilia-Romagna), are without sauce altogether, and served in a broth instead.
Learn to make pasta… with us!
If you’re in Rome, and want a hands-on experience making fresh pasta with a professional chef, check out our Cook, Dine and Drink Wine experience. In a stunning loft situated in the heart of Rome, learn the know-how, tips, and tricks to recreate this delicious authentic Italian dish at home! Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect.
Have you made fresh pasta at home? What’s your favorite pasta dish? Let us know in the comments below.