Pasta Dough Revisited

Pasta Dough Revisited
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No pictures. No real recipe. Just a short discussion about making fresh pasta.

We make fresh pasta a lot. At least once a week. Sometimes more. And, we’ve been doing this for years. That’s a lot of pasta. So, we think we know a little bit about making pasta from scratch. Not everything, but something. In particular, we’ve learned the exact amount of water you need to add to flour to make perfectly supple pasta dough. Perfect. Every. Single. Time. Who doesn’t want that?

All you need to know is the correct ratio of flour to liquid to make perfect pasta. It’s 5 parts flour (by weight) to 3 parts liquid. That’s it. As an aside, you’ll find that others recommend a ratio of 3 parts flour to 2 parts liquid, but that results in a softer dough that we find too sticky. So, we always use 5 to 3. You should, too.

Here’s how we do it. First, we measure out 150 g of flour (about a cup, which is the perfect amount for 2 people), and a pinch of salt into a bowl (we’ve used all-purpose, a combination of whole-wheat/all-purpose, and other combinations; the key is to measure out 150 g total dry flours). For 150 g of flour, each “part” weighs 30 g (5 parts flour, remember, so we divided 150 by 5), and we need three parts, or 90 g, of liquid (3 times 30).

We tare the scale, so it reads 0 with the bowl of flour on the scale.

Next, if we’re using it, we add 10 g of oil (oil is optional in making pasta). That’s 10 g of liquid so far.

If we want to make an egg pasta (eggs are also optional in pasta), we add an egg, or an egg white, or an egg yolk. Depending on what we’ve added, our scale will read somewhere between 25 g (adding a small egg yolk) and 70 g (adding a jumbo egg).

Regardless of what our scale reads now, if it’s below 90 g, we need to add more liquid. Most times, we fill up half an egg shell and slowly pour it into our bowl, repeating if necessary, until our scale reads exactly 90 g. Go over? We’ll explain how to fix that below.

There. We have the perfect ratio of flour to liquid. All we have to do is mix/knead/rest and shape the pasta dough. You can read more about that under our Basic Pasta Dough post.

Oh, if you’re metric-phobic, you can use 5 ounces flour to 3 ounces liquid and you’ll have almost the same amount of dough; just always keep that 5 to 3 ratio.

Q: What if you add too much liquid?

A: Take the weight of the excess liquid, divide by 3 (three parts liquid) and multiply by 5 (five parts flour), and add that much additional flour. For example, let’s say we added 102 grams of liquid by accident when we needed only 90 g. That’s 12 grams too much. So, we divide 12 by 3 (=4) and multiply by 5 (4×5) for 20. That means we need to add 20 grams more flour to fix our mistake.

Q: What if you need to make a specific amount of dough? Say, 400 grams?

A: We know we want 5 parts flour and 3 parts water. That’s a total of 8 “parts”, and those 8 parts need to weigh 400 g. That means each part weighs 400 divided by 8, or 50 g. So, 5 parts of flour will be 5 times 50, or 250 g, and the 3 parts liquid will be 3 times 50, or 150 g. So, to make 400 grams of pasta dough, combine 250 g of flour(s) with 150 g of liquids.

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