I was in middle school the first time I tried fresh pasta at a local culinary school offering classes for teenagers. At the end of each class, we served and tasted each other’s dishes. One day, a group served us fresh tagliatelle; it was so luxurious and velvety, served with a simple cream sauce that underscored its delicate flavor.
Years later, I still recall that first bite of soft, delicious twirls of pasta. It’s that memory which inspires me to lug out my pasta attachment and devote a relaxing Saturday to the wonderful act of making fresh tagliatelle.
What is Tagliatelle?
Tagliatelle, pronounced “tah-lyah-TELL-eh,” is a thin cut of long pasta consumed in different variations across Italy. According to legend, a court chef in Bologna first created the shape inspired by Italian noblewoman Lucrezia Borgia’s blond hair. In the Encyclopedia of Pasta, the author notes that it’s much more plausible the cut had already been prepared elsewhere in Italy but concedes that Bologna most likely perfected the shape.
For pasta to qualify as tagliatelle, the uncooked pasta strips should be translucent, measuring 6.7mm to 7mm in width (about 1/4 inch). It is traditionally made with a ratio of 100 grams of flour to one egg, but a more useful ratio is that the hydration level should be 57% (that is, there should be 57g liquid to 100g flour).
Tagliatelle is wider than fettuccine but significantly thinner than pappardelle. Both tagliatelle and pappardelle are commonly served with hearty ragus.
How to Make Homemade Tagliatelle
Making homemade tagliatelle involves a few steps, but once you get the hang of things, it can be a rather relaxing process.
- Make the dough: Fresh pasta is traditionally made using the well method. Here, we place the eggs and olive oil into the center of the flour before mixing and then kneading the shaggy mass into a soft, smooth dough.
- Rest the dough: Rest the dough for at least 30 minutes to give the gluten time to relax, hydrate the flour, and smooth out the surface even further.
- Roll out the dough: Divide the dough into sections and feed each section into your pasta machine until it forms a thin sheet.
- Cut the dough: Cut each sheet into thin strips of tagliatelle. Note that some pasta machines come with a fettuccine cutter, but since the pasta sheets for tagliatelle are rolled a bit thinner and tagliatelle’s noodles are cut wider than fettucine, I prefer to cut it by hand. Form bundles of strips into a nest, then cook the nests in boiling water until al dente. That’s it!
How to Cook Tagliatelle
Store-bought dried tagliatelle is often sold in nests. To cook it, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then carefully add the nests to the water. Cook until al dente according to package instructions, then drain and serve with your choice of sauce.
Fresh pasta is much more delicate than dried varieties and needs less cooking time. You will still want to cook it in boiling salted water, but it may only need to boil for 1 to 3 minutes until soft, cooked through, but still slightly al dente (depending on the thickness).
How to Make Tagliatelle Without a Pasta Machine
While this recipe focuses on making tagliatelle with a pasta machine, you can make it without one. You will need a good rolling pin and a bit of muscle, but it’s a really rewarding process to roll out the dough by hand. Once the dough has been rolled out into a thin sheet, you stack and cut it like you would with the pasta machine.
Check out our guide to making pasta by hand for more detailed instructions for rolling out the dough.
Tips and Tricks
- Don’t waste any egg. Use every bit of egg possible for the perfect egg ratio to flour! I’ll even scoop out the leftover egg white stuck to the shell.
- Make a wide well. A strong and wide well will protect your eggs from spilling out of the well much more than a tall, narrow one.
- Keep a mister handy. Depending on the humidity, your dough may dry out slightly while kneading. A mister adds just enough moisture to keep your dough soft and supple.
- Flour properly. Pasta tends to stick to itself. Believe me, I learned this the hard way once. Generously dust your tagliatelle before cutting it and wrapping it into nests. And make sure to dust any baking sheet or container you’re storing the tagliatelle in.
- Reset your pasta machine. Another lesson learned the hard way. Always remember to reset the pasta machine to the widest setting when rolling out a new section of dough.
How to Serve Tagliatelle
Fresh pasta is so special on its own that I tend to serve it with a simple sauce. Sometimes, I’ll just toss it in a cream sauce that I’ve reduced on the stove with a bit of garlic, salt, and pepper.
The following sauces pair nicely with this pasta shape. Replace the pasta called for with tagliatelle: