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How to Make Spaghetti
Preparations run the gamut—from comforting to polished and upscale. We’re all familiar with the traditional spaghetti sauces—marinara sauce, bolognese, and cacio e pepe (parmesan cheese and black pepper); but chefs the world over have their own personal spins on spaghetti. But the foundation of a spaghetti dish isn’t what you put on top—it’s the noodle.
What Do You Need to Make Homemade Spaghetti?
To truly elevate your spaghetti game, you’ll need to make your spaghetti noodles from scratch. You don’t need a pasta-maker to do it—all you need is:
- A solid egg-based pasta dough
- Rolling pin
- A nylon-stringed instrument called a “chitarra.”
How Chefs Do Spaghetti
For Alice Waters, spaghetti is a totem of home cooking. When Alice and her daughter, Fanny, come home from a trip, the first thing they reach for in the pantry is dried pasta. They cook it with olive oil, garlic, anchovy, and parsley, and call it “coming home pasta”—once they’ve had it, they feel like they are finally home. (Learn how to make it here.)
Chef Thomas Keller makes a simple spaghetti aglio e olio (garlic and olive oil) and adds a luxe finish of garlic confit and bottarga. (Get the recipe here.)
Learn how to make spaghetti at home with Chef Thomas Keller’s method below.
Can You Make Homemade Spaghetti Without a Pasta Machine?
You don’t need any expensive or modern equipment for making spaghetti—a rolling pin and a “chitarra” will do the job. A “chitarra,” which translates to “guitar” in Italian, is a piece of equipment developed in the late 1800s to cut spaghetti. It’s shaped somewhat like a guitar, with fine steel strings through which you push the pasta dough. The strings cut the dough into thin spaghetti noodles. Note the difference in shape between these noodles and boxed spaghetti, which is round because it is made with an extruder. Most boxed pasta is only made with water and flour.
How to Store Homemade Spaghetti
Your options for storing your fresh pasta depend on the shape and thickness of the pasta. For cut pasta like spaghetti alla chitarra, you can dry or freeze the pasta.
- Dry. Chef Keller prefers to dry his pastas so that he has more time to perfect the cooking to al dente when he is using pasta in a composed dish. You can dry on a sheet pan, which allows the pasta to stay straight and makes for easy handling; or, you can dry as nests on a sheet pan, for more compact storage—but take care, as the noodles can dry unevenly and clump together. Your dried pasta will keep for up to one month.
- Freeze. You can also freeze on a sheet pan and store in a plastic bag, which allows you to keep the short cooking time and properties of fresh pasta, but it requires refrigeration space. Frozen pasta will keep for up to two weeks.
How to Cook Spaghetti
Bring water to a simmer in a large pot and lightly season the water with salt. Blanch the dried pasta for a few minutes until the pasta bends but is still very al dente.*
When you cook freshly-made spaghetti, the cook time will be much lower than when you cook store-bought dried spaghetti. You should only need to let it cook for a few minutes. Make sure to taste for doneness as it cooks.
*Note: If you’re making a pasta sauce as well, reserve a cup of the pasta water for use in the sauce.
Chef Thomas Keller’s Spaghetti alla Chitarra Recipe
- Roll the pasta sheet to slightly less than the thickness of a spaghetti noodle (about 1/16 inch).
- Trim your sheet of pasta dough so that it fits over the strings of the chitarra.
- Allow the pasta sheet to dry for a few minutes before rolling—this will help keep the strands separated.
- Roll the rolling pin over the pasta sheet to push it through the steel strings. Spread noodles out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and set aside to dry.