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Handmade pasta
Photo ©Kinzica Sorrenti

Homemade pasta: flours, shapes and secrets

Discover the best pasta types to make by hand like a true Italian

Pasta is part and parcel of Italian culture as well as being one of the most popular foods worldwide. For any Italian, one of the greatest satisfactions in life is to make and enjoy fresh pasta at home. Normally, you can make fresh pasta using common wheat flour or durum wheat semolina: two different products that come from two kinds of wheat. The first one can be found in supermarkets with a numeric code, which indicates the kind of milling, ranging from the most refined flour to the variety that contains all parts of the wheat grain: type 00, type 0, type 1, type 2 and whole-wheat flour. Semolina is the coarse flour obtained from the first grinding of durum wheat, so it has a larger grain and a yellow-amber colour.

One of the main differences between both types of raw ingredients is the elasticity that the dough acquires, so common wheat flour is used mostly for pizzas and cakes and semolina for bread. You can use both to make pasta, but the results will be different (though still yummy!). The secret is to create elastic dough that does not break. The other precaution is to let the dough rest covered for at least an hour before preparing your pasta.

There are three popular kinds of Italian pasta shapes that are made at home: Strozzapreti, which means "priest stranglers" and is a hand-rolled type of pasta, Orecchiette, a traditional type of pasta from Puglia, and Cavatelli, small pasta shells typical of southern Italy.

Strozzapreti
Strozzapreti
Strozzapreti - Credit: HarshLight

This recipe makes pasta for 4 people, and you’ll need 250 g of wheat flour 0 and water.

  • Sift the flour onto a countertop and slowly add a little warm water, stirring with a fork
  • Knead the dough, which must have a very elastic consistency and not be too wet
  • Let it sit in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for about an hour
  • Roll out the dough on a countertop with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 4 mm
  • With a knife, cut a strip of about 1 inch and prepare the pasta with the palms of your hands
  • Cook the strozzapreti for a few minutes in salted water.
Orecchiette
Orecchiette
Orecchiette - Credit: Taz

This recipe makes pasta for 4 people, and you’ll need 250 g of re-ground semolina.

  • Sift the semolina onto a countertop and slowly add a little warm water, stirring with a fork
  • Knead the dough, which must have a very elastic consistency and not be too wet
  • Let it sit in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for about an hour
  • Take a little bit of dough at a time and shape it into 1-cm cylinders. Use a knife to make the orecchiette
  • Cook the orecchiette for a few minutes in salted water.
Cavatelli
Cavatelli
Cavatelli - Credit: Lauren

This recipe makes pasta for 4 people, and you’ll need 150 g of re-ground semolina and 100 g of burnt durum wheat semolina.

  • Arrange the semolina on a countertop and slowly add a little warm water, stirring with a fork
  • Knead the dough, which must have a very elastic consistency and not be too wet
  • Let it rest in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for about an hour
  • Take a little bit of dough at a time and shape it into 1-cm cylinders. Use two fingertips to shape the cavatelli
  • Cook the cavatelli for a few minutes in salted water.
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