Fresh pasta is one of life's greatest pleasures, and it's far easier to make at home than you might think. If you have a pasta machine it's a total cinch, but it's also totally do-able if you're stuck with just a rolling pin – you'll just need to use some muscle! It's a lovely, soothing way to while away an afternoon and, better yet, the kids can get involved too.
How to make homemade pasta dough
Dino Joannides in his cookbook, Semplice, says to pile 1kg of tipo 00 flour on a surface, make a well and crack in 10 eggs and beat with a fork. Using your hands, work in some of the flour from around the well until a dough forms, adding a little warm water if needed to bring it together. Knead for 10 minutes, keeping your hands lightly floured, until smooth and elastic.
How to roll and cut into different shapes
Cut the dough in half and place one piece on a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to the thickness required for the pasta shape you are making. As a general rule, long pasta should be 1-2 mm (like tagliatelle), while for stuffed pasta (like ravioli) it should be even thinner. The rolling is hard work because the dough is stiff, but it is well worth the effort.
If you want long strips, such as pappardelle or spaghetti, or big rectangles, such as lasagne, fold the pasta sheet several times and cut the size you want using a knife. When unfolded, you will have multiple strips. If making smaller shapes, use a pastry cutter or the cutting implement from a pasta machine to produce the shape you need. For simple round shapes you could use a glass or cup.
How to store fresh pasta before cooking
Keep the pasta on floured wooden trays in a cool part of the kitchen for no more than 3 hours or so before cooking it. The trays can be stacked, and the top one should be covered with a cloth.
7 recipes to make the most of fresh pasta
This is Anna Del Conte's family recipe. "When I was a child in Milan, ravioli were one of the dishes I loved to make", she says. Pass an afternoon rolling sheets of pasta and slicing them into squares to stuff, seal and cook with plenty of fresh sage and garlic. If you've got kids at home, this is a great one to keep them busy. Ravioli can be filled with meat, pumpkin, spinach or even fish but this cinnamon-spiced beef version is Anna's favourite.
If you're going so far as to make your own pasta, you might as well make your own pesto too. There's nothing quite like homemade pesto – a fresher, zestier, more alive version of the jarred stuff using basil leaves, pine nuts, Parmesan and garlic.
Spaghetti with Anchovies, Dried Chilli and Pangritata from The Return Of The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver
A great storecupboard pasta dish using umami-rich anchovies, chilli and pangritata. "In Italy, pangritata was once used as a substitute for Parmesan, which some people couldn’t afford" says Jamie who fries up fresh breadcrumbs with olive oil, garlic and thyme to give your pasta texture, crunch and an extra hit of herby garlic flavour. Feel free to swap in fresh linguine or tagliatelle here.
Tagliatelle with Crème Fraîche, Parmesan and Asparagus from Pasta by Theo Randall
Asparagus comes into season towards the end of April. Make the most of the UK's new-season delicate green spears in this creamy dish. Pairing egg yolks, crème fraîche and Parmesan, it's a luxurious sauce perfect for your fresh homemade pasta.
A rich duck sauce, deepened with red wine, chicken stock and woody herbs, and tossed through with ribbons of pappardelle and lashings of Parmesan grated on top. Sumptuous and decadent.
There's no need to reach for a jar of pasta sauce with these super-fresh, flavoursome homemade vegan pasta sauces: make a batch of Spinach and Cashew Pesto, Fresh Tomato Sauce or Lemon & Courgette sauce and toss through fresh al-dente pasta.
Got pasta leftovers? Crack in a few eggs, grate in a little extra Parmesan and throw the lot into a frying pan to make Gennaro Contaldo's next-day pasta frittata. You can make this with either plain cooked pasta or pasta coated in sauce. He offers plenty of variations to inspire you whatever the season.