Not everybody’s first time making noodles is with a middle-aged Brazilian hairdresser who orders you around with a fervor that historic dictators would envy. I still remember using her broken pasta roller while she bore down on us in the sweltering 110 degree heat of the kitchen while the 70s-era radio in the corner played Portuguese versions of Beatles songs that she insisted on singing along with. I nicknamed her the dragon lady. Bless her heart.
If you’ve ever tried making noodles, you probably had an experience that was just as frustrating, although it probably involved significantly fewer Brazilians trying to imitate John Lennon. And that is a complete shame. Because with my technique, noodles easy and done with only an hour of hands-on work. They’re filling and but not heavy in your stomach. They can cool you down on a summer day or they can warm you up in Autumn. You can use them in Alfredo, in soups, for ravioli, in lasagna, in salads and in bakes. Hungry for noodles yet? I am. Let’s get to it.
So what is this technique?
Use a food processor and leave the dough crumbly and imperfect.
Using a food processor is a no-brainer. The result is almost identical hand-made noodles, and even better than by hand if you’re a true beginner. And guess what, it’s up to 20 minutes faster (and sometimes even more)! As for leaving the dough crumbly and imperfect, here’s the deal: You need to the dough to form an imperfect ball. You don’t want it to look perfectly smooth and pretty. Perfect looking ball now = torn dough when you roll it out. Crumbly dough now = easiest dough to roll you’ve ever seen. It should look like this:
Once it looks like this, take it out of the food processor, knead any straggling pieces of dough into the ball and let it sit for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour at room temperature (though if you’re worried about food safety, you can let rest in the refrigerator for double the time). Voilà. You’ve got your dough.
Why does the dough need to be crumbly?
Flour has a protein called gluten. Mix flour and water, and the gluten goes to work building bridges between the different pieces of flour. These bridges make dough stretchy and keep bread from falling apart.
But here’s the catch: gluten, like Goldilocks, is really picky. Too little hydration, and the gluten can’t form strong bridges. Too much hydration and the gluten gets watered down and can’t build strong bridges. Either way, your noodle dough won’t roll out without tearing. But, when you have just enough liquid, gluten builds strong bridges while it’s in the food processor and even after, when it’s resting, and rolling the dough out is almost completely painless.
Once your dough has rested, cut the dough into four equal pieces and use your pasta machine to roll it out and cut it (this machine from CucinaPro seems like the people’s choice on Amazon, though you can find pasta machines for cheaper. My advice is to make sure the machine is well-reviews if you choose another model — some really just don’t cut the noodles properly).
So why DIY it?
First, let’s look at the price breakdown (all information comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics):
10 ounces all-purpose flour: $0.32
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