"Pasta knows when you’re scared or nervous."

By Max Bonem
Updated June 01, 2017
Pasta with Salumi Bolognese
Credit: © Abby Hocking

Homemade pasta is many things: delicious, comforting and versatile. Did we mention delicious? That part really can't be understated.

While dried pasta may be the most foolproof dish this side of instant ramen, its homemade counterpart requires a bit of work and planning in order to make it a success. Luckily for us, chef Sarah Grueneberg of Chicago's Monteverde (and Top Chef Season 9 runner-up) shared some of her favorite homemade pasta tips when she dropped by our test kitchen to make her delicious salumi bolognese.

Pasta practice makes perfect

"The first time I made pasta, it was terrible," confesses Grueneberg. "The dough broke and it was an absolute mess, but you only get better at it the more you try. If you don’t keep trying, you’re just going to hate the process and you'll miss out on how great fresh pasta can be."

Just add water

If a fresh pasta recipe isn't working, Grueneberg says water might solve the problem. "When you find a recipe you like, make it a little wetter than you think it should be, and then see how that feels, compared to how too dry feels," she says. "You'll know the dough is too dry and needs more egg if it looks scaly when you’re mixing it in your mixer. Just keep calm and add a little more egg or water. In the end, the dough should come together as one smooth ball."

Give the dough, and yourself, some time to relax

After you knead your dough, take a break. "Resting the dough for a day is best, but give it at least an hour minimum before rolling it out," says Grueneberg. "The colder, firmer and more hydrated the dough is, the easier it will be to roll. If your pasta dough shrivels after stretching, it needs to rest way longer."

Confidence is key

"Pasta knows when you’re scared or nervous," says Grueneberg. "Your hands will warm the dough and then it'll become way more difficult to work with. If need be, refrigerate the dough for a while once it's done resting and come back to it. Fresh dough is fine in the fridge for up to three days."

Never overcook your pasta, period

We all know to shoot for al dente with dried pasta, but Grueneberg says fresh demands equal attention during cooking. "Do not overcook the pasta, I can't stress that enough," she says. "As soon as the pasta floats, pull it out and put it in your sauce. Have your sauce ready next to the water and finish the pasta in the sauce so it soaks up all of that great flavor. And when you're using dry pasta, always cook it three minutes less than the package says so you can finish it in the sauce and keep it al dente."