For an Italian cook, making fresh pasta represents the very essence of cooking.
It’s not just a habit, a tradition or a requirement. It’s deeper than that. It is art.
You can make fresh pasta from many different flours, not only from tender or hard wheat (semolina) flours but also spelt, farro, kamut and various combinations of gluten-free flours like rice, corn, buckwheat and chestnut flours.
Please disregard the marketing claims of certain supermarket products; there is no “pasta flour”.
You must decide what type of pasta you want to make and choose the flour accordingly.
The average Italian home pantry stocks three types of basic flour:
Finely ground, tender-wheat flour, used for cakes, pastry and fresh pasta. It’s a medium-low strength flour generally with a protein content of 9-12%.
All purpose (plain) tender-wheat flour used for pizza, focaccia and bread. It’s a flour of variable strength and medium-high protein content (10.5- 13%) and generally not suitable for pasta.
Finely ground semolina obtained from durum wheat. It’s characterized by a high protein content (13-14%) and medium strength.
In Central Italy, 00 flour is used for homemade fresh pasta which is expected to have a thin, silky texture and delicate taste and is generally enriched with eggs. Italian imported 00 flour is generally available online and at major supermarkets or Italian shops.
Semolina is used industrially to make dried pasta like spaghetti, penne and fusilli. In the south of Italy, fine semolina is used for small, thick homemade pasta like orecchiette, cavatelli and malloreddus and also for bread.
If you have never made fresh pasta, I advise you to start with making simple shapes like fettuccini using Italian 00 flour. After some practice, you will be able to extend your repertoire to more complex shapes like ravioli or cannelloni.
Once you feel confident with the method, start substituting 10 or 20% of the 00 type with a different flour if you like, and then test which shapes work best for a specific flour.
Note that artisan and whole grain flours have varying amounts of protein, particles size and capacity for absorbing water or eggs.
Only by experimenting will you get to know if a specific flour can be stretched thin enough to make the pasta that you want and wether the pasta will retain its shape and not fall apart when you cook it.