Pasta without a Pasta Maker: Orechiette

OrechiettePastaBowl2Before I owned a pasta maker, I too fell into the lazy pattern of assumption. I assumed I lacked the rolling pin skills to make pasta. I assumed I could buy pasta that was good. I assumed that those assholes with pasta makers were the only ones who got to have real, homemade pasta every night, up there, in their pasta-maker having castles. In Italy, I’m sure.

Now I have a pasta maker, but sometimes, you just don’t want to get down all the gear, and you just want some FREAKING PASTA. This is me, like, all the time. I’m a pasta maniac.

So at times like this, the solution is Orechiette. It means ‘little ears’. Side note: I have freakishly small ears so making orechiette does make feel a little self conscious. Orechiette can be made entirely by hand–all you need is eggs, flour and a little bit of time. Less time if you have a boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, small child or dexterous puppy that can lend a hand. Or paw.

To start: Make a pasta dough [see instructions in this post]. When it’s done resting, split it into 4 pieces. Cover the other three with plastic wrap while you work with the first one, on a floured surface.

OrechietteInProgress2Roll it out into a long strand, like when you were making a snake out of playdough as a child.
Snap little pieces, about the size from your last knuckle to the tip of your pinkie finger.

Place this small piece of pasta dough on your surface and press down on it with your thumb.

OrechietteInActionBlurryThen, continuing to apply downward pressure, also gently push your thumb away from you.

As you do this, the pasta will hollow out, curling over itself and creating a little shell shape–something like a tiny ear (Why do you keep staring at the side of my head!)

OrechietteInProgress2The number one piece of advice about making orechiette? Don’t worry too much about what they look like. They’re not pretty (Okay, I get it, I’ll tuck my ears under my hair). They are delicious. And they hold thick sauces amazingly.

As you keep rolling, it will get easier, and you’ll start to devise strategies to make them as even thickness as possible. But even the lumpy ones you do at the beginning are homemade pasta, no pasta maker needed. No castles or flights across the Atlantic either (sadly).



Once you are done rolling out the orechiette, simply boil them in salted water as you would any pasta–when they start to float about, they should be ready.

Orechiette work best with thick sauces, so they can hold pockets of it inside their tiny orifices. The sauce I made here was a simply saute of yogurt, olive oil, red pepper flakes, lemon juice and mixed with fresh parsley at the end. It was a perfect summer dinner.


  1. I’ve never made pasta without the pasta maker, yours turned out great. This is inspiring, love the photos.

  2. Patty Squirell says:

    Sounds and looks delicious! I will try this definitely!