Making your own pasta is surprisingly simple. But what flour you use and how you knead the dough can make or break the noodles. And, like most tricky things in cooking, the advice most people give you is often wrong.
One of the questions home cooks often ask about homemade pasta is, why their pasta noodles came out rubbery and chewy.
“My first attempt at making pasta turned out very chewy,” one home cook says on Reddit.
Another one on Chow Hound shares, “Although my homemade pasta is very good indeed, it’s without the delicate chewiness you get when eating out. I’m beginning to think the fresh pasta you get at restaurants is made somewhere off-premises.”
I’ve been there and, as you most probably know since you’re reading this post, it’s not a pleasant place to be. You did everything the recipe said. You picked all the right ingredients. You took your time and were careful at every step along the way. Yet your pasta came out rubbery and chewy.
After a fair share of online reading and trial and error in my home kitchen, here’s what I’ve learned — and how it can help you to make perfect fresh pasta every single time.
Three Reasons Why Homemade Pasta Can Came Out Chewy
There are a number of reasons why homemade pasta can come out rubbery and chewy. Here’s a breakdown of each of them.
Reason #1. You Used Eggs and High-protein Flour
Nearly all fresh pasta recipes you can find online are egg pasta recipes, which means the pasta is made with flour and eggs. Since eggs are high in protein, using a flour that’s also high in protein can produce chewy pasta.
According to Stuart Farrimond, author of The Science of Cooking: Every Question Answered to Perfect Your Cooking, 00 flour is more essential to egg pasta than most people think. Unlike all-purpose flour and durum wheat flour, 00 flour has a low protein content of 7-9%.
“A low-protein flour is important when making fresh egg pasta because the eggs provide the protein needed to bind the pasta together,” Farrimond writes. “Using a high-protein flour would result in a dense, rubbery pasta.”
|Type of Flour||Protein Content||Suitability|
|00 (double zero) flour||7-9%||Suitable for fresh egg pasta.|
|All-purpose white flour||11-12%||Suitable for fresh pasta and fresh egg pasta.|
|Durum wheat flour||14-15%||Suitable for dry pasta and fresh pasta without eggs.|
All-purpose white flour and durum wheat flour have anywhere from 2% to 8% higher protein content than 00 flour. To make the best fresh egg pasta at home, always use 00 flour.
Italian mills have several grades for flour: 00, 0, 1, and 2. Double zero flour is the finest milled flour and is best for making egg pasta and pastries. Zero flour is good for pastries and flatbread. Flour grades 1 and 2 are best suited for making bread.
The all-purpose flour (plain flour) that you can find in practically any store is comparable in granularity to 00 or 0 flour. On theory, durum wheat flour shouldn’t even be called flour. It’s coarser than flour and resembles polenta in texture. This is why Italians call durum flour semola.
If you’re looking to buy flour online, consider my all-time favorite (and a favorite of many Italian chefs I watch on YouTube), Antimo Caputo 00 Flour (at Amazon). This is as authentic, traditional, and tasty as Italian flour gets.
Reason #2. You Made Bread Machine Pasta Dough
To make fresh pasta, you need to mix the dough, knead it, let it rest, and roll it.
The second step of the process, the kneading of the dough, is critical to making well-textured pasta noodles. The kneading process warms and stretches the gluten strands in the dough, eventually creating a springy and elastic dough (Wikipedia).
Mixing and kneading dough can be a messy and hard thing to do. Some home cooks, like yours truly, really enjoy the process. Others do everything that they possibly can to avoid it. Which is where bread machines come into play.
Bread machine pasta is a thing. It’s easy, quick, and tasty. Just mix the ingredients in the bowl, turn the machine on, and let it do its magic. But there’s a caveat. If you let the machine work the dough for too long, it’s going to over knead it.
A well-kneaded dough is stretchy and elastic to work with, but also tender and delicate when you bite into it after cooking. Overworked dough, on the other hand, feels tight and tough. This is because kneading the dough too much will cause damage to the gluten molecules, which give it its elasticity.
While it’s practically impossible to overwork pasta dough if you’re kneading it by hand, the same can’t be said for when you use a bread machine to mix the dough. If you made homemade pasta and it came out chewy, there’s a high probability that the machine overworked it.
Many bread machines on the market today come with a pasta dough setting. However, keep in mind that bread machines knead dough is significantly more aggressive than how you would knead the dough by hand.
If you read the machine’s usage instructions and followed the fresh pasta recipe, but your pasta still came out chewy, try kneading it in the machine for less time. Keep on experimenting until you find the time that’s “just enough” to produce a dough that’s consistent but not overworked.
Reason #3. You Didn’t Roll It Thin Enough
Rolling is when you take a pasta dough ball, flatten it into an oval shape with your hands, and use a rolling pin or a pasta machine to make thin sheets of pasta (that you can turn into practically any pasta shape).
Homemade pasta should be rolled out thin to allow for even cooking on the outside and the inside. Otherwise, the outside of the pasta noodles will turn mushy as the inside stays rubbery and chewy.
Rolling pasta, however, can be an effort- and time-intensive process. Especially if you’re doing it with a rolling pin or wine bottle. Most home cooks simply give up too early when they roll their pasta by hand, which is why they end up with pasta that’s chewy.
Though the process of rolling is marginally easier when using a pasta maker, it takes me about 4-5 passes to get to the thickness that I want. I use an Atlas Marcato 150 Pasta Machine (check latest price at Amazon). Give up too early, and you end up with thick pasta noodles that will most probably come out chewy when you boil them.
How thick should you roll out pasta dough?
For tagliatelle, pappardelle, and fettuccine, roll the dough to about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thickness. For lasagna and cannelloni, roll it out a little under 1/8 inch (2 mm) thickness. For ravioli and thin pasta noodles, aim for 1/32 inch (0.8 mm) thickness.
In cooking, some recipes are easy to understand and hard to master. Fresh pasta is, without doubt, one of them. Pasta is simple food made of flour, water, and, optionally, eggs. It’s how you make it that matters.
The good thing is that it doesn’t have to be tricky. You only need to get it wrong two or three times to learn what it is that you should watch out for. Once you do, your pasta will come out tender and delicious every single time.
So remember one of the three reasons why pasta can come out chewy the next time you make yours at home: use the right type of flour, mind the bread machine or food processor if you’re using one to mix and knead the dough, and don’t forget to roll out the pasta sheets thin enough.
Let me know in the comments below how you managed to solve your pasta challenges 🙂 .