How to Make Pasta Without a Machine: Homemade Orecchiette

Homemade Orecchiette

Have you ever made fresh pasta? I don’t know why, but for the longest time I assumed homemade pasta was something too complicated for my own kitchen, or, at the very least, something that required all sorts of gadgets I didn’t have.

shaping homemade pasta

As it turns out, fresh pasta is beautifully simple – most simply call for eggs, flour, and if you don’t have a pasta machine, just a little bit (okay, a lot) of arm strength to roll it out. But in the case of this homemade orecchiette, you don’t even need that!

When it comes to these little ear-shaped noodles, all you need is flour, water, and a lazy weekend afternoon to make silky, dreamy homemade pasta at home. It’s true that the pasta is best with finely ground semolina flour, but if all you have in your pantry is standard all-purpose, well, that will work just fine, too. It’s magic.

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Here’s all you need to know for making the pasta.

First, you’ll start by whisking together flour and salt and forming it into a mound in a shallow bowl or on a clean workspace.

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Make a well in the top, like the crater of a volcano, and gently pour the water into the well. Using your fingers, swirl the flour into the water, gently folding the flour into the liquid until it begins to form a shaggy dough.

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Use your hands to knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until it becomes semi-smooth and elastic. At this point, let the dough rest for a few minutes to let it relax. Place the dough in an airtight container or cover it with a damp towel and let it rest for 15-30 minutes.

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When you’re ready to form the pasta, split the dough into several pieces. Keeping the other pieces covered, roll one piece into a long cylinder, about half an inch in diameter. Cut the cylinder into half-inch pieces. Err on the side of keeping the pieces smaller, since they’ll expand when they cook. (I ended up with a few giant orecchiette because I forgot this!)

making Homemade Orecchiette

For each piece, take the blunt edge of a knife or a straight spatula and press it into the center of the dough piece at a 45-degree angle, angling the knife down and away from you, into your work surface. Keeping the pressure on the knife, pull it slowly towards you, so that the dough curls over the knife as you drag it. Drag the knife until the dough releases from the surface and curls fully over the knife edge.
Take the curled piece and unfurl it over your thumb, turning it completely inside out.

shaping Orecchiette without a pasta machine

That forms the “ear” shape of the orecchiette. And that piece is done! Lay the finished orecchiette on a single layer on a baking sheet – no need to cover – as you continue to work with the rest. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

forming homemade pasta

Finally, you’ll need to cook the orecchiette. Fresh pasta takes far less time to cook than dried pasta – you’ll need to boil it just 2-3 minutes. Bring a pot of well-salted water to boil, then add the orecchiette. They should initially sink to the bottom.

When they’re ready to eat, they won’t bob on the surface, but will start floating and billowing with the water as it boils. Feel free to try one and make sure it’s to your liking. Then drain and toss in your favorite sauce – I like pesto and sausage – and enjoy immediately!

homemade pasta with sausage and pesto

Homemade Orecchiette

Loosely adapted from London Bakes via Martha Stewart Living; serves 2-4 and is easily doubled.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  1. Place all the dry ingredients on a clean work surface and swirl to combine. Make a well in the middle and pour in half the water. Use your fingers to bring everything together into a dough, adding the remaining water bit by bit.
  2. Knead for five minutes until the dough is elastic. Place in an airtight container, Ziploc bag or under a damp towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
  3. To form the orecchiette, divide the dough into pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll each piece into a long cylinder about half an inch in diameter, keeping the remaining pieces covered. Cut the cylinder into cubes about half an inch long.
  4. Place the blunt side of a knife at the top of the cube of dough and press down at a slight angle, with the knife angled down away from you. The dough should form an “edge” that curls slightly over the knife. Drag the knife towards you, continuing to apply pressure, until the dough wraps around the back of the knife.
  5. Unfold the curl and turn it inside out over your thumb to form an ‘ear’ shape. Set aside in a single layer on a baking tray until ready to cook.
  6. To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the orecchiette and simmer for about 2-3 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente and begins to float slightly. They will not float to the top, but will bob instead of sinking to the bottom. Feel free to taste as you go.
  7. Serve immediately with your favorite sauce — the most traditional combination is broccoli rabe and sausage, but I love it with pesto and sausage, too.
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