Fresh and dried pasta each have their virtues, but making fresh pasta from scratch is infinitely more satisfying than buying dried from the supermarket. A big batch of homemade pasta might be more than you'll eat at one sitting, though, and it loses some of its delicate flavor and texture if home-dried. Freezing pasta dough – even store-bought dough, if you've stocked up while it's on sale – is a much better alternative.
When Freezing the Pasta Dough Ball
Once you've made up a batch of your favorite pasta dough recipe, you have the option of freezing it "as is," without rolling it first. Just dust the surface with a bit of flour, wrap it snugly in plastic film, then pack it into a freezer bag or storage container for extra protection. The downside to this approach is that you're committed to using the whole ball of dough. It's better to divide the batch into three or four smaller balls, and flatten them into disks. They'll thaw more quickly, and -- depending on the size of your batch -- each ball represents a serving or two of pasta once it's thawed and rolled.
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When Freezing Sheets of Pasta
Freezing sheets of rolled pasta, or sfoglia, might be the most versatile option. The finished sheets thaw quickly on the counter, can be cut or filled as needed, and you can take out as much or as little as you need for a meal.
If you've bought the pasta ready-made, simply freeze it in its original packaging. If you've made your own, follow these quick steps:
Cut the sheets into lengths of 12 to 14 inches and dust them lightly with flour.
Rest them for for about five minutes, then flip them and allow another five minutes on the second side. By this time, the dough should be dry and slightly leathery to the touch, and not at all tacky.
Stack the sheets of pasta with wax paper or parchment between them, so they won't stick together as they freeze and thaw.
Slide the sheets into one or more large freezer bags, pressing out as much air as you can before sealing them.
When Freezing Cut or Shaped Pasta
If you've already cut your dough or formed it into shapes, the process is similar. Dust the shapes with a small amount of flour, and toss them until they're coated. If you've made long noodles, twist them up into the traditional nest-shaped portions. For smaller shapes or stuffed pastas, divide them into one- or two-portion piles. Shake off any excess flour, and pack the nests or portions into small, individual freezer bags.
Squeeze out as much air as possible to improve their storage life.
Freezing, Thawing and Using
It's difficult to extract all the air from a package of shaped pasta, unless you have a vacuum sealer, so frozen pasta is best used within a month or so. A well-wrapped package of pasta sheets, or a flattened ball of unshaped dough, will usually retain its quality for two to three months.
Packages of shaped and already cut pasta dough don't need to be thawed before they're used. Just bring a pot of water to a boil and drop them straight in. They'll need an extra minute or two of cooking time, but no other adjustments. Sheets or balls of pasta dough should ideally be thawed overnight in the refrigerator, because they contain raw eggs and must be kept at a food-safe temperature.
If you didn't plan that far ahead, you can still use prepared sheets of pasta. They'll thaw enough to be usable in about 15 minutes on your countertop, quickly enough to remain food safe as long as they're cooked or refrigerated immediately afterwards.