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Making pasta by hand- which flour?


Sony
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I'd like to make pasta totally by hand- I'll have a decent chunk of time for a weekend project. (I don't have a mixer or food processor.)

Which flour do you think will be better as a novice with just hands, a rolling pin and a strong will :wink: ? Durum flour or semolina flour are the 2 options I'm thinking are best, though of course I have access to AP, whole wheat, pastry flours, etc.

I'd like to pick up the flour from a great bulk foods store tomorrow on the way home from work, so any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

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I'd like to make pasta totally by hand- I'll have a decent chunk of time for a weekend project. (I don't have a mixer or food processor.)

Which flour do you think will be better as a novice with just hands, a rolling pin and a strong will  :wink: ? Durum flour or semolina flour are the 2 options I'm thinking are best, though of course I have access to AP, whole wheat, pastry flours, etc.

I'd like to pick up the flour from a great bulk foods store tomorrow on the way home from work, so any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

I prefer AP flour when I'm making it by hand - the theory says that semolina has more flavorful, but I find it much more difficult to work with by hand. Handmade pasta made with AP flour is still fantastic, and doesn't really require "weekend project" status -- it's pretty easy to make. On second thought, you don't mention how you are rolling it out... are you doing that by hand as well (i.e. with a rolling pin?). That might be some work, I always use a pasta machine to roll it out.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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My first husband used to always roll w/ a rolling pin. He was more of the artist type.

My 2nd husband uses a pasta roller. He is more into machines. So much, so, that he really wanted the KA pasta attachment... but I held out for the hand roller.

We use AP flour, because it's already here :-) I like to make sure that there is somewhere to dry the pasta for a little while before cooking.... laundry rack?

Karen Dar Woon

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I usually use durum flour. It will give your pasta a very nice texure but perhaps a little bit too much bite resistance. I think my next batch will have 70-80% durum and the rest AP.

I always use a hand cranked pasta machine. If you have a machine and done it once or twice before, there is no problem to make a batch of pasta from start to finish in 30 minutes.

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There are traditions of fresh pasta made with semolina or durum flour (which is more or less the same thing -- semolina is simply coarse durum flour). A good example would be orecchiette.

However, the classic model that most of us think of when we think of "fresh pasta" is the Emilia-Romagna style of fresh pasta as exemplified by tagliatelle, etc. This is classically made with Italian "00" flour for pasta, which is a highly refined flour that is relatively low in gluten, producing a characteristically soft and tender noodle.

Durum flour/semolina, on the other hand, has the most and strongest gluten of any other wheat flour. This makes it perfect for extruded factory-made dry pastas such as spaghetti, but not so great for a soft, tender Emilia-Romagna style fresh pasta. This is especially true of semolina which, in addition to being an extremely strong flour, also imparts a somewhat granular texture. American cooks who use semolina in making fresh pasta often must resort to cutting the dough with fat in order to make it tender.

I think the best approximation of Italian "00" flour for pasta is a mixture of 3/4 AP flour and 1/4 cake flour (cake flour is both highly refined and low in gluten).

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Durum flour/semolina, on the other hand, has the most and strongest gluten of any other wheat flour.  This makes it perfect for extruded factory-made dry pastas such as spaghetti, but not so great for a soft, tender Emilia-Romagna style fresh pasta.  This is especially true of semolina which, in addition to being an extremely strong flour, also imparts a somewhat granular texture.  American cooks who use semolina in making fresh pasta often must resort to cutting the dough with fat in order to make it tender.

Durum/semolina flour does not have to be course-textured. But it usually is, in which case I find it to be totally unusable. If you find it finely ground, like any other flour, it makes superb pasta, firm with a distinctive flavor. But even finely ground, the high gluten level would probably make it very difficult to work by hand. I second the votes for 00 pasta flour if you are doing it by hand.


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I picked up some durum flour and will try my hand at the pasta using part durum/part AP this weekend just for kicks. The durum flour feels quite fine in texture. If it doesn't work out, next round will be AP/cake flour and the durum flour can go towards bread making (worst case scenario, I blew a buck and a quarter!)

Thanks for the advice! I'm already looking forward to my first pasta-making experiment.

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If I may make a suggestion about rolling out the pasta dough. I took a pasta class with a chef who spent much time in Italy- first in the long Slow Food-related ItalCook program in Jesi, then did a stage with a master pastina in a little family-run osteria. We used a large wooden board and instead of a conventional rolling or French pin, we used a very long dowel (can get at a local lumber supply store). Instead of rolling the dough just as you would a pie crust, we would start with a small piece, roll it first pie-crust like, but then after some thinning out, the flattened piece of dough would be gradually rolled around the pin, stretching it laterally outward as it was curled around the pin. The piece of dough would be unrolled, turned 90 degrees and the process repeated a number of times until the desired thickness was achieved. The dough was then cut by hand to the desired shape. Although AP makes great pasta by itself, it's fun to vary and make your own blend- add a little "00", some durum, etc. depending on the thickness, desired shape and tenderness of the final product. Have fun!

Mark A. Bauman

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Durum flour/semolina, on the other hand, has the most and strongest gluten of any other wheat flour.  This makes it perfect for extruded factory-made dry pastas such as spaghetti, but not so great for a soft, tender Emilia-Romagna style fresh pasta.  This is especially true of semolina which, in addition to being an extremely strong flour, also imparts a somewhat granular texture.  American cooks who use semolina in making fresh pasta often must resort to cutting the dough with fat in order to make it tender.

Durum/semolina flour does not have to be course-textured. But it usually is, in which case I find it to be totally unusable. If you find it finely ground, like any other flour, it makes superb pasta, firm with a distinctive flavor. But even finely ground, the high gluten level would probably make it very difficult to work by hand. I second the votes for 00 pasta flour if you are doing it by hand.

That's the point I was making: Durum flour and semolina are both made from durum wheat. "Semolina" is simply a name for coarsely-ground durum wheat. In Italy, any coarse-ground grain i s"semolina" -- what we think of as "semolina" is properly called semolina di grano duro (as opposed to, say, semolina di mais). It is not possible to get "floury" semolina, because you would then have flour and not semolina.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is true that some companies and in certain non-Italian-speaking countries "semolina" has come to be synonymous with "durum wheat" regardless of the fineness of the grind.

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The Silver Spoon cookbook said to use All Purpose Unbleached Flour in the United States, as 00 Flour is so difficult to find. I've used the King Arthur AP Unbleached with spectacular results. Also, I use a pasta roller. Good luck with the rolling pin!

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Many Italian markets sell 00 as well as durum, sometimes labelled "Pasta Flour". Not to confuse things further, I've seen one Italian market sell durum labelled "Fine Semolina". As stated, King Arthur AP works great; they also sell 00 as well as their "Pasta Blend" which is a proportioned mix of AP and durum. I save the coarser semolina for making a thicker textured pasta like orecchiete, or semolina gnocchi.

Mark A. Bauman

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Mark, thanks for the tip about rolling the dough! And thanks to everyone for the information about the different (or not so different :wink: ) flours. Any and all information/advice is, as always, appreciated.

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Here's a little story for you from culinary school.

I developed a knack for pasta early on in the course. I just "got it" right away, and my pastas always came out great.

One day, somebody served the head of the school (who was French, not Italian), some pasta that he wasn't impressed with. He went and told the chef-instructor who did our ordering that he shouldn't have us making pasta with unbleached flour. He said bleached flour is superior for making pasta, and be sure we have plenty on hand because he didn't want a repeat of the pasta he'd just been served.

Fast-forward a week or so. Pasta is on the menu again. My team makes the pasta for the head of the school, and since I'm good at and enjoy making it, I'm the one who does it. After lunch, he came and asked who made the pasta, and I said I did. He said he liked it, and then he asked me what kind of flour I'd used. I told him I used unbleached AP flour. He shook his head, looking surprised, and wandered off.

I don't think it matters whether you use bleached or unbleached flour. Or at least that's the conclusion I take from this story. I will say that I prefer handmade pasta with AP flour over handmade pasta with semolina or durum flours.

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Durum flour/semolina, on the other hand, has the most and strongest gluten of any other wheat flour.  This makes it perfect for extruded factory-made dry pastas such as spaghetti, but not so great for a soft, tender Emilia-Romagna style fresh pasta.  This is especially true of semolina which, in addition to being an extremely strong flour, also imparts a somewhat granular texture.  American cooks who use semolina in making fresh pasta often must resort to cutting the dough with fat in order to make it tender.

Durum/semolina flour does not have to be course-textured. But it usually is, in which case I find it to be totally unusable. If you find it finely ground, like any other flour, it makes superb pasta, firm with a distinctive flavor. But even finely ground, the high gluten level would probably make it very difficult to work by hand. I second the votes for 00 pasta flour if you are doing it by hand.

That's the point I was making: Durum flour and semolina are both made from durum wheat. "Semolina" is simply a name for coarsely-ground durum wheat. In Italy, any coarse-ground grain i s"semolina" -- what we think of as "semolina" is properly called semolina di grano duro (as opposed to, say, semolina di mais). It is not possible to get "floury" semolina, because you would then have flour and not semolina.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is true that some companies and in certain non-Italian-speaking countries "semolina" has come to be synonymous with "durum wheat" regardless of the fineness of the grind.

I've found that the nomenclature varies widely, depending on where and from whom you buy it, so that the term "semolina" isn't consistent with coarse or fine grain flour. Ask to see the flour before you buy--the difference will be evident. BTW, the fine grain semolina flour works beautifully with a pasta roller. It's the "by hand" that leans me towards the 00 flour.


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Many Italian markets sell 00 as well as durum, sometimes labelled "Pasta Flour". Not to confuse things further, I've seen one Italian market sell durum labelled "Fine Semolina". As stated, King Arthur AP works great; they also sell 00 as well as their "Pasta Blend" which is a proportioned mix of AP and durum. I save the coarser semolina for making a thicker textured pasta like orecchiete, or semolina gnocchi.

Not all Italian 00 flours are the same either. "00" doesn't define the gluten composition and a single mill can produce various types of "00" flour with protein ranges of broad 7-12%.

edit:

This Italian Mill has a big range of "00" flour with a very broad range of protein and gluten contents. It also sells both various grades of semolina and "farina di grano duro" which are both made out of durum wheat. It is worth noting that some of the "00" flours actually have a much higher protein and gluten % then the durum wheat flour/semolina.

Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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Exactly. The "00" -- if I'm remembering correctly -- has to do more with the level of refinement than it does the protein/gluten content of the flour. That's probably why the head of Rochelle's school said pasta should be made with bleached rather than unbleached flour.

My experience is that there is "00 for pasta" flour, which is low in protein/gluten, and that's the one you want (there is also "00 for bread" and so on...).

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The "Tipo 00, 0, 1, 2" system is about refinement yes, specifically the residual ash content. 00 flour is very finely milled also.

My experience has been that depending on the pasta I are making, some flours are better then others and it is a matter or trial and error. For instance there is a big difference in the types of flour that gives the best result when making a really eggy Northern Italian pasta compared to a more southern pasta without egg like Spaghetti alla chitarra.

The last time I made pasta I grabbed the wrong flour (farina for dolce) by mistake and this really didn't work out so well.

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I've noticed also at Buon Italia in Chelsea Market, in NYC, that they sell different varieties of "00" flour for different purposes-same Italian brand, different color bags; one "per pasta", the other "per pizza". I mentioned this to one of my cooking instructors and they were disbelieving-thought all "00" was the same.

Mark A. Bauman

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Although I realize this is a gross over-generalization, my impression is that cooking school faculty are usually quite firmly in the French camp. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it can have the tendency to make them insufficiently informed as to Italian (and other) technique/aesthetic/ingredients. Not knowing that there are many different kinds of 00 strikes me as an almost shocking lacuna in culinary knowledge for a culinary instructor.

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My experience has been that depending on the pasta I are making, some flours are better then others and it is a matter or trial and error. For instance there is a big difference in the types of flour that gives the best result when making a really eggy Northern Italian pasta compared to a more southern pasta without egg like Spaghetti alla chitarra.

Can you elaborate? Any guidelines that you've found to be helpful? I ask because I usually find this to be a trial and error process, sampling flours until I find those I like. I've almost stopped paying attention to the labeling, it's so inconsistent.


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Rolling tip: broom handle, cut to the width of your table. This is what Grandma used. It's delicate enough to easily transfer the pressure and you can get a feel for what you're doing. Offers great efficiency in rolling out large sheets of thin pasta.

I myself use a KitchenAid with pasta rollers.

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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