Cooking fresh pasta is both an art and a science, one that has been perfected by generations of chefs and home cooks alike.
Unlike dried pasta, fresh pasta has a delicate texture and takes considerably less time to cook. It’s a culinary delight that can elevate the simplest of meals to a memorable dining experience.
If you’re ready to dive into the world of fresh homemade pasta, here’s how to master the cooking process. I will show you all the steps, tips and mistakes to avoid in order to cook a great fresh pasta dish!
BOIL THE WATER
To get a perfect result, this step is important and needs some small attention.
The pot must be quite large, with high sides, because the pasta must be cooked in a lot of water, so that it “floats”.
THE QUANTITY OF WATER
For the amount of water to use, let’s say that the rule of 1 liter (~4 cups) for every 100 g (3.5 oz) of pasta may be fine.
But if you are cooking fresh long pasta like tagliatelle, fettuccine, or pappardelle, I recommend adding 1 liter of water to the total. So: (1 liter x 100 grams) + 1 liter. For example: for 500 grams (1.1 pounds) of pasta, you need 6 liters (~25 cups) of water.
The ratio of water to pasta is essential so that the starch contained in the flour can dissolve in the right amount of water without forming a saturated starch solution, which would make the pasta sticky and difficult to digest.
It’s important to remove as much excess flour as possible before soaking the dough.
TYPE OF FRESH PASTA
While waiting for the water to boil, weigh the pasta.
When portioning, remember that fresh pasta, once cooked, does not double in weight like dry pasta. This is because, since it’s not dry and already contains a lot of moisture, it needs very short cooking times, which cause the pasta to absorb very little water.
Gnocchi, which have a very short cooking time and absorb almost nothing, can go up to 250 g (~9 oz)!
Salt (preferably coarse), at the rate of 10 grams (3/4 tablespoon) per 1 liter (~4 cups) of water, is a good idea to add when the water has reached boiling point. Wait for it to dissolve completely before adding the pasta. Remember that salted water takes longer to boil.
ADD THE PASTA
At this point, the boiling salted water is ready to “receive” the pasta.
First, it’s important to get rid of as much excess flour as possible before adding the pasta. This is to prevent too much starch from forming in the water.
Turn the flame down to the lowest setting, THEN drop the pasta all at once. Finally, turn up the heat to bring the water to a boil. Cover for 1 MINUTE (no more) to speed up the boiling process.
Once the water is boiling again and the pasta has risen to the surface, look at the clock.
Fresh pasta takes 2 to 3 minutes to cook, depending on the size of the different shapes, the thickness of the pasta and the quality of the wheat.
FROZEN FRESH PASTA
If you have frozen fresh pasta, you can toss it directly into the boiling water. Just be sure to lengthen (or even double) the cooking time.
As the pasta cooks, turn it with a wooden spoon to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
For fresh homemade pasta, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
This is not necessary for fresh store-bought pasta. This is usually made with a firmer, harder dough that prevents the pasta from sticking.
Always taste the pasta before removing it from the heat!
The only way to know when pasta is done “al dente” is to taste it!
“Al dente” is an Italian term used to describe the ideal consistency of cooked pasta. It literally translates to “to the tooth” in English.
When pasta is cooked al dente, it’s firm to the bite, offering a slight resistance when chewed, but not hard or undercooked.
Achieving al dente pasta requires precise timing. It is usually cooked slightly less than usually recommended.
DRAIN THE PASTA AND SEASON
The pasta is cooked and it’s time to drain and season.
Drain the fresh pasta with a slotted spoon and toss it directly into the bowl or pan with the sauce.
Fresh pasta is much more “wrinkled” than dry pasta. Therefore tends to absorb the sauce better if it’s tossed in the pan for a few moments (30 SECONDS, no more or it will overcook).
You can add 2-3 tablespoons of cooking water, which will dissolve the sauce well.
You can also add grated Parmigiano Reggiano (if the recipe calls for it), butter or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil at the last moment.