Start to Finish: 90 minutes
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Difficulty Level: Intermediate
To make penne at home, you'll need a pasta machine, or a stand mixer with a pasta extruder attachment; you'll also need a disc or die made specifically for penne in order to form the noodles with pointed ends. But don't go running to the store just yet: You can form garganelli pasta -- a lesser-known penne look-alike -- by hand. The main difference between penne and garganelli is that the garganelli tube has a visible flap on top.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 cup semolina flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 egg yolks
If you don't have semolina flour, or if you prefer not to use it, substitute all-purpose flour.
Prepare the Pasta Dough
Blend the all-purpose and semolina flours and salt in a mixing bowl, incorporating them thoroughly.
Whisk together whole eggs and egg yolks in a separate bowl.
Start mixing the dry ingredients with an electric hand mixer or in a stand mixer. Pour the eggs into the flour slowly.
Continue mixing the ingredients until the flour absorbs all of the egg, yielding a light yellow lump of dough that is uniform in texture. The dough should be moist enough to hold together but not sticky when you touch it.
Divide the dough into four portions that are roughly the same size. Wrap each portion in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.
Form Penne With an Extruder
Use a pasta machine or stand mixer attachment.
Fit your pasta extruder with the disc or die for penne noodles.
Remove the plastic wrap from the first portion of dough.
Feed the dough through the machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the tubes are approximately 2 to 2 1/2 inches long, slice the noodles from the end of the disc with a knife or the machine's designated cutting tool.
Set the penne aside on a lightly floured baking sheet while you process the remaining portions of dough. It is best to cook all of the pasta together.
Shape Garganelli By Hand
Dust your work surface and the barrel of a rolling pin with flour.
Remove the plastic wrap from one portion of the dough. Place the unwrapped dough on the floured surface.
Roll the dough with the rolling pin, forming a thin disc. Do not worry about making the disc a perfect circle or oval.
Slide your hand under the rolled dough to test its thickness. You should be able to see your hand through the dough but still be able to handle it gently without tearing it.
Transfer the rolled disc to a baking sheet dusted with flour. Cover it with plastic wrap while you roll the other portions.
Lay a dough disc on your work surface. Cut the disc into vertical 1-inch-wide strips with a pasta cutting tool, a pizza wheel or a sharp knife. Leave the strips in place on your work surface.
Cut the disc horizontally, spacing each cut about 1 1/2 inches apart. The disc should look like you cut it into a grid.
Pick up any cut pieces of dough that are not 1-by-1-1/2-inch rectangles. Put them in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and set it aside.
Lay a rectangle of dough on a ridged pasta board such as a garganelli board or gnocchi board, with a corner of the rectangle pointed toward you.
Hold a clean pencil on top of the square. Orient the pencil horizontally. Lift up the corner of dough closest to you. Lay the tip of the corner on top of the pencil so that you can start rolling it.
Roll the pencil away from yourself in a straight line, forming a tube of pasta around it. You should roll from one corner of the rectangle to the corner diagonally opposite it.
Slide the noodle off the pencil. Place it on a lightly floured baking pan while you form the rest of the dough. Roll the remaining rectangles.
Cut and shape the other portions of dough, setting the edge pieces aside in the covered bowl.
Roll the edge pieces into a new disc. Repeat the cutting and shaping steps to finish forming the noodles.
- Forming dough discs with a pasta roller -- if you have one -- can save time and yield more uniform results.
- You can shape garganelli on a smooth work surface if you do not have a ridged pasta board. The noodles will just be smooth rather than ridgedlike penne.
Boil the Pasta
Fill a large stock pot with enough water to cover all the pasta, about 6 quarts. Season the water heavily with salt -- pasta water should be salty like the sea. Bring the water to a boil.
Drop the pasta into the water gently to minimize splashing. Boil the pasta for 1 to 3 minutes. Remove a noodle from the water and taste it to determine doneness.
Heavy or chunky sauces are the best complements to penne and garganelli. Dairy-based sauces such as Alfredo sauce or a creamy garlic sauce are natural choices. Vodka sauce, a chunky tomato sauce that contains cream and vodka, is also a tradition accompaniment.
Another option is to serve the pasta with a lighter tomato sauce and a cooked vegetable or meat, such as sautéed torn spinach, sliced mushrooms, slices of grilled chicken or cooked sausage.
Penne also works well in sauceless dishes that contain meat or vegetables and crumbled cheese. For example, toss penne with diced pancetta, sautéed spinach and blue cheese, seasoning with herbs and spices to taste. Include diced tomatoes to impart a flavor reminiscent of marinara without adding a sauce to the dish.