Drying pasta

I’ve been making a lot of fresh non-egg pasta for years, with just semolina and water, no salt or oil. Most of it is fettuccine made with an Atlas/Marcato pasta machine. The question I have relates to slow drying methods. If you just hang it up on one of those pasta racks, the noodles will curve and get more brittle, because they dry too quickly; the shrinking outer surface has to deform or crack because the core remains damp. Also, if left on the rack’s rods, the outer surface at the bend dries faster than the part touching the rods. Again, the shrinking part cracks to relieve the physical stresses. Understood.

I read somewhere where a fellow buried fresh pasta in coarse salt, sealed the container and dried it that way, but have no details. So far, the best method here, with the current humidity in the room around 22%RH, is to briefly dry the separated noodles on a rack, so the cut edges dry a bit. In one to three minutes, they get laid flat on a food-grade plastic screen, inside a metal box dehydrator, on shelves. The dehydrator is turned off.

When the humidity gets very high, near 90% RH, the pasta rests for 2 hours so the outer surface and inner part of the pasta equilibrate moisture. After that, the dehydrator, basically a metal box, gets opened and allowed to vent for a couple minutes. Then, it’s closed up and allowed to get humid again. Rest>vent/dry>repeat. This works ok, as the noodles have wonderful texture cooked, but they still are prone to slight curving.

Sure, I can make nests, but I’ve seem homemade artisanal pasta in neat, flat, straight strips. I’m wondering how they do it.

We’re not talking about high volume commercial methods, with controlled drying rooms and extruded pasta. There must be some slow-dry method which keeps the noodles flat. Pasta making is typically done during the cold, rainy months when being indoors is a blessing. The lack of oil and eggs means the pasta can store for long periods, if dried. The product remains superior to commercial pasta, even the bronze-die, low temperature stuff.

Anyone know how to dry pasta slowly and flat?

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Every fresh pasta I’ve ever dried for hoefully extended shelf life will almost ALWAYS curl/bend or crack, for the reasons you mention. There’s a youtuber, Alex, who did a whole series about making dry, extruded pasta and the challenges of really drying it. His main takeaway: This is a commercial, industrial practice and simply can’t be reasonably replicated by the average, or even above average, home cook.

Here’s his whole series on it:

fwiw, I’ve had the most success letting them dry on a pasta rack/over the back of a chair/draped on coat handers. They will curl. Some will break. After about 24 hours, I packed them, gently, in the biggest tupperware I had, and they kept nicely for several weeks. My partner did spinach fettuchini and got similar results, though after about 2 weeks, she noticed mold on the last portion of it and pitched it. It will never EVER by totally dry like commercial pasta, where its shelf life is years.

Making fresh pasta is relatively easy enough that, if we want it, we’ll take the time to make it an hour ahead, or a day or two (wrapped up tight in plastic wrap, it will keep in the fridge in a dough ball for a many days. We just cut enough off the ball and roll that out while the water boils.) And if we’re doing something that’s better with dried pasta, like cacio e pepe or carbonara, we’ll just use commercial.

I can’t suggest tweaks to the drying procedure, but have purchased dry pasta containing eggs for half a century. If you fear fresh eggs, you could use powdered whole eggs.

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I’ll respectfully disagree with part of that statement. I’ve dried pasta and had it last for several years, sealed in a silicone-gasketed box. This involves three variables: 1. The pasta must be thoroughly dried at low heat and low humidity. (A dehyrator gets used here.) 2. The dry pasta must be sealed tightly to avoid absorbing moisture from the air. 3. The pasta must have no egg or oils to go rancid. (This can be overcome by thorough drying and sealing airtight with oxygen removed. There are several ways to do this. )

Here, the final dry is done in a dehydrator, when the ambient humidity is under 20% at 85°F. By this time, the pasta will not deform further because the water content is very low and the noodles are hard.

I’ve watched Alex’s videos and they’re a lot of fun! I also have a good idea why he fails, or, at least, have a dichotomous chart to find the solution. Extruded, commercial pasta is a different animal. There is, are ways for the slow drying of pasta from roller-type cutters, I’ve seen it sold by small-scale producers. Maybe I should read labels and contact some of these folks, see if they’ll share their secrets. I’m really curious about the hermetically-sealed, buried in coarse salt method.

Her are some examples of what’s happened lately:

Pasta dried too quickly because I forgot to turn off the dehydrator fan during one of the cycles …Doh!:

This was still much less brittle and curly then when I tried drying on a rack. Rack drying/open air drying doesn’t work right now. With wood stove heat, the humidity is around 20–22% RH, and that results in too quick a dry.

With a much slower drying method, including resting periods in a closed Stainless steel dehydrator (a box), the final product is looking like this:

It’s much straighter, with essentially no breakage. Some of the bends are just from laying the pasta down in a less than perfect way. Some curling is likely due to the sides touching the mesh dry a bit slower.

I should mention that, as a scientist, I’ve access to a lot of gadgets. I’m using a Thermo-hygrometer to keep an eye on what’s going on inside the “box”; a remote probe lets me know when it’s time to vent or rest.

Maybe a layer of parchment paper, above and below the noodles, will help equilibrate the dry. next time!