Just as we have plain white bread and artisan breads, you can also create plain noodles and artisan noodles for any style of cooking using your best pasta maker. Noodles are nothing more than bread without the leavening agent (yeast, baking powder, etc.) that causes the air pockets to form. In their most basic form, they are made of only two ingredients: some flour and a liquid to bind it together. There are many types of flours and even more types of liquids that can be used to make noodles, and we’ll take a look at each one in a moment.
Before we get into making the world’s best noodles, let’s get our terminology straight:
“Pasta” is an Italian word that was originally used to describe sheets of dough (whole or cut) but has evolved to include extruded and fancy shapes as well that are used in traditional Italian cooking.
“Noodles” on the other hand, can refer to Italian, American, Asian, or other types of foods.
So what’s the difference? Nothing! Just because your pasta maker was made in Italy doesn’t mean it’s only capable of creating noodles for Italian cooking, so from here on out let’s just call the stuff “noodles” and if you’re only interested in Italian pasta that’s your call. There are no rules here.
Traditional Italian pasta is made from Durum Semolina, Soft Wheat Flour, or a combination of both (Depending on the part of the country and who you talk to 😉
Most Italian cooks making pasta will have nothing more than water or eggs as the liquid. Noodle makers, on the other hand, have no such boundaries.
What you choose to put in your noodles and how flavorful you want them to depend on the dish. Are your noodles simply going to be a mechanism to carry a sauce from the plate to the mouth or will they be something more?
Time To Make Some Noodles
The typical quantities of ingredients you’ll want to start with are 1-3/4 cups flour and 1/2 cup liquid. We’re listing the ingredients by volume and not weight because this is how most home cooks measure. For reference, 1-3/4 cups of all-purpose flour weighs 7.9 Oz while the same amount of Durum semolina weighs 9.9 Oz. This is just one of the reasons why it’s impossible to list the exact amount of liquid required or the number of eggs. The consistency of the dough is the important thing, not the quantities of the ingredients.
How much dough should you make? If the dish is primarily composed of noodles, about a half pound of flour (or the listed 1-3/4 cups) should be enough for two very good size portions. This can be stretched to 3 or 4 portions if other dishes are being served with the meal or a lot of other meats or vegetables will be in the dish with the noodles.
What type of flour should you use? There are no rules here and you are encouraged to experiment. This can be both fun and cheap since each batch only costs about 50 cents.
- Make a small batch of noodles using the three types of flours listed above first with only water and then with only egg as the liquid (for a total of six batches).
- Cook each in unsalted water.
- As you taste each one without any sauce or additional flavorings, ask yourself some questions – Is one type of flour slimier in your mouth? When chewing the noodles how do they feel? Would one type of flour be better for smaller, thinner noodles or thicker, wider noodles?
- Bonus Points – Try the experiment again adding salt to the dough this time.
Should the dough rest before cooking? The notion that the dough needs to rest seems to come from those trained in baking. While it certainly won’t hurt to prepare the dough and let it rest under a damp towel while you prepare the rest of the ingredients for your meal, it’s by no means required. If you are making ravioli or some other kind of filled pasta where the dough needs to develop elasticity before filling so it doesn’t tear, kneading it or folding it and running it thru your pasta roller several times will accomplish this.
How long should the noodles cook? This depends on the thickness of the noodle and where it’s going to end up. Usual cooking time is 30 seconds to 3 minutes max for freshly made noodles. Unless the noodles are to be rinsed in cold water immediately for use in a cold dish, they don’t need to be fully cooked in the water. The process of adding the noodles to the rest of the dish and mixing it will finish cooking the noodles and they will be perfect at the table.
Should noodles be rinsed? Not unless you need to stop the cooking process immediately and chill them for use in a cold dish.
As you can see, the perfect noodle will always be the one you make. It’s very difficult to make a mistake other than too much or not enough liquid and fresh noodles will always taste better, feel better in your mouth and be healthier than something you buy in a package.