How to make homemade pasta

Dec 30, 2008 at 9:21 a.m. ET

There's nothing like freshly made pasta, and it's even better when it's homemade. Though making fresh pasta takes some work - and you get a bit of an upper arm workout - homemade pasta is a fun activity for a cold winter day - especially with your kids.

Woman with Pasta Maker

Making pasta with your kids is delicious fun

When I asked my husband to pick up an ingredient on his way home last week, he misinterpreted what I said and brought me a box of pasta flour (a mixture of durum wheat and semolina flours). After a good laugh, I went out to the market myself for the needed ingredient, intending to return the pasta flour. At the last minute I didn't. I had 10 days at home with the kids ahead of me and a pasta rolling machine. I knew right then that there would soon be homemade pasta in our house.

Invest in a pasta roller - your kids will love it!

The trick to making good homemade pasta is patience in the mixing and rolling through a pasta rolling machine. The first time I made pasta, almost 20 years ago, I didn't understand this, the result was disastrous, and the couple that came to dinner that night still think I am a horrible cook. (Truly!) Yes, for the really smooth pasta you do need the little hand-crank machine with rollers and width attachments. We've had ours for a very long time and I'm glad we've never tossed it out!

The kids loved being part of the kneading and rolling of the dough. The boys took turns helping me knead the very thick dough, turning the crank for the machine (great upper body workout!), and catching the sheets of pasta as they came through the machine. They definitely got some late afternoon energy out and were very proud of our resulting dinner.

For homemade pasta, simple sauces are best

When you go to the effort to make homemade pasta, a simple sauce is best so the pasta itself can shine through. Fresh arugula pesto was the perfect complement for our recent batch of freshly made pasta. With a green salad, we had a great-tasting healthy dinner.

How to make homemade pasta

There are many variations on homemade pasta. This is a basic egg pasta recipe accompanied with a peppery arugula pesto. Use these recipes as a guide and vary your own by adding ground spices to the pasta or by using different herbs for your simple pesto sauce.

Homemade Egg Pasta

Makes about 1 pound

2-1/2 cups pasta flour
3 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 to 3 tablespoons water (if necessary)

1. Place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the center of the flour with your hands. Place the eggs and egg yolks in the well and, using a fork, beat the eggs lightly, then slowly start to incorporate the flour. Continue to mix the ingredients, eventually using your hands to knead the dough together. Add water if necessary. Knead for about 10 minutes. The dough will still have a fairly course texture, and that's okay.

2. Cut the dough into quarters and keep the dough you aren't using covered. Press this first bit of dough as flat as possible and run through the pasta rollers at the widest setting. It will be difficult at first, but keep at it! If it's crumbly at first, keep pressing it back together and running it through again. When it's finally a sheet that holds together, move to the next setting on the pasta rollers.

3. Folding in thirds between each roll, put the pasta dough through each setting on the roller at least three times. You will see the texture of the dough change from coarse to smooth, and the color will change from dark yellow to light yellow.

4. After you have run the dough through the thinnest setting, you can use the cutting attachments to cut the dough into the desired width. You can hang the pasta to dry, or, if using it immediately, gently pile it on a cookie sheet, moving it around every few minutes to be sure it's not sticking anywhere.

5. To cook fresh pasta, bring a pot of water with just a touch of olive oil to a boil. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes only. Drain and serve with your favorite simple sauce.

Arugula pesto

About 1 cup

2 cups lightly packed baby arugula
3 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the arugula, garlic, pine nuts and cheese. Pulse the mixture several times until the arugula, garlic and pine nuts are pretty well chopped. With the food processor running, stream in the olive oil. It will make a beautiful green emulsion. Toss with fresh pasta and enjoy!

More kid-friendly cooking fun

How to make shaped pancakes
6 Mom-tested tips to teach your kids how to cook
How to make pizza at home