Reader question… “I’m having problems with making extruded pasta that holds its shape. I have a hand-cranked pasta extruder similar to yours and I have tried three of the recipes that came with the machine. The pasta shapes like the macaroni that should be hollow are just blobs of dough. Your pasta shapes look impressive. Do you have any tips or a recipe that you would be willing to share? Thanking you in advance.” –Marla B.

The same thing happened to me when I started making extruded pasta. The recipes I tried at first… including the ones in the booklet that came with the machine… just did not work. It takes a special type of dough to work well in a pasta extruder… it must be dry enough so the pasta will hold its shape but not so stiff that it won’t move easily through the extruder dies.

I finally developed a recipe for a pasta dough that tastes great and is easy to work with. This pasta dough is made using only flour, eggs, and oil… no water or other liquid. I use an organic all-purpose unbleached flour or organic whole wheat flour (the only two flours I can buy here that do not contain soy enrichments). To make just over one pound of pasta, I use 3 1/2 cups of flour and five large (organic) eggs.

I make the dough in the food processor and start by pulsing the flour with any herbs or salt. Next I add five eggs to the flour, one egg at a time, with a very thorough pulsing after the addition of each egg. This flour and egg combination can usually be squeezed into a ball that will hold its shape after I have pulsed in the fifth egg. Some recipes stop here. I have found that the addition of approximately two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil at this point will make the finished dough much easier to handle, prevent sticking, and help the pasta pieces hold their shape.

I always use 3 1/2 cups of flour and five large eggs… the only variable is the amount of olive oil. Even with careful measuring and the same size eggs, no two batches of dough will have exactly the same consistency, so I always start with the two tablespoons of oil. If the dough seems a bit dry, I add another tablespoon of oil. After you have made a few batches of pasta, you will know exactly how the dough should feel.