Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Homemade Pasta: Orecchiette

Every so often, I go through a phase of making pasta from scratch.  There are multitudes of accessories for making and shaping pasta.  I own quite a few of them myself and am always on the look out for vintage pasta equipment.  Even with all of the gadgets though, I still prefer to make pasta by hand.

I’ve made pasta dough using the “well method” of mounding the flour, placing the wet ingredients in a well in the center and gradually drawing in the flour.  It’s messy, but authentic.  I’ve made it in my stand mixer - less messy and not so authentic.  I’ve made pasta dough in an electric pasta maker which mixes and extrudes the pasta - absolutely nothing authentic about that.  This thing is not fun to clean and I only use it when I want to make tube-shaped pastas. 

This time I made the pasta in the food processor based on this recipe from Williams-Sonoma.  I did substitute about half of the all-purpose flour for semolina flour.  (Of note:  the fault I find with this recipe is that it calls for “4 eggs” without specifying the size of the eggs.  Since my eggs were extra-large, I needed more flour than the recipe required.  Should I use this recipe again, I’ll probably just go with three extra large eggs.) 

Orecchiette is one of my favorite pasta shapes.  Orecchiette means “little ears”.  It’s quite simple and doesn’t necessarily require any of the special equipment in my possession.  Williams-Sonoma also has instructions on shaping orecchiette.  My homemade version uses a slightly different method and doesn’t look like the little saucer-shaped orecchiette you buy packaged.  They look more like . . . well . . . little ears.

Begin by slicing off a piece of pasta dough.  Keep the rest covered.
Roll the pasta dough into a rope about 1/2-inch thick.  My dough
was quite elastic and would snap back a bit after rolling.
Cut the dough rope into 1/2-inch pieces with a bench scraper
or thin-bladed knife.  My intent was to use the guide on the
silicon mat, but that wasn't working out so well for me.

Instead I chose to pinch the dough and cut next to my fingers.
This is why I prefer a bench scraper to a knife.  I can be accident prone.
I tried to photograph shaping the orecchiette, but I am so right handed it's unreal.  My left hand was totally incapable of reaching the shutter release on the right side of the camera and completely inept at trying to shape the orecchiette.  My solution is this brief, extremely amateurish, video. There's no narration, just some strange clicking noise in the background.

After mixing the dough, letting it rest and shaping the pasta I loaded it up on mesh lined dehydrator trays and dried it at 95°F for about 24 hours.  I once read (I wish I remembered where) that the best pasta is dried at low temperatures.  It would have been great to let it dry naturally in the sun, but I wasn’t going to sacrifice that much real estate on the kitchen table.  It's worth pointing out that drying is not necessary.  You can use the pasta fresh, but it won't have the al dente quality I like in pasta.

The finished pasta.  I think some bolognese sauce is in order.
Before the pasta phase passes I’m hoping to get some ravioli made (still trying to decide on the filling) and some simple sheets for homemade lasagna.  And then there’s that recipe for sweet potato gnocchi that’s been collecting dust in a folder waiting to be realized and the virgin gnocchi board waiting to be used.


  1. Oh! I've been looking for something to do with the dehydrator we have sitting in our kitchen, and this seems like a perfect use for it. Your step by step photos are really useful too. I've only made rolled pasta before, not shapes made by hand. Do you know how long you can keep it for once it's dried?

    1. This was one of those times I really could have used another set of hands - or at least a photographer!

      As long as the pasta is thoroughly dried, it should keep (in an airtight container) just as long as commercially made pasta. I would conservatively give it a six-month shelf life.


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