Homemade pasta consists of only three essential ingredients: flour, water, salt (and optionally eggs). Whilst you can make pasta using all-purpose flour, using an authentic fine pasta flour makes a huge difference to your pasta making experience, and you’ll be able to the taste the difference in the finished result as well.
Top tip for flour grade choice: As a general rule, fine pasta shapes such as vermicelli and spaghetti work best with fine flour such as 00 grade. For bigger, more robust pasta shapes like penne or conchiglie (shells) use a course semolina flour or a blend with some course flour in it. As always, everyone develops their own favourite recipes so be brave, experiment and have fun!
Which is the best pasta flour grade to use?
Ideally you’re looking for pasta flour that contains around 10-15% protein to make sure that there’s enough gluten to stretch the dough without breaking it, and to give the pasta that perfect density and bite. Any “00” grade or “0” grade flour will work, but for best results I suggest that you go for a good Italian brand like Napoli Antimo Caputo (Amazon). I think that using a traditional flour like this makes the whole pasta making process much more authentic and enjoyable.
Adding semolina durum wheat flour to pasta dough
Most people prefer their homemade pasta to have a somewhat rustic texture, so for that you’ll also need to add some semolina durum wheat flour, which has been used for generations in Italy. For the best results to start with, just mix a small amount of semolina (Amazon) with your real Italian, finely ground type “00” pasta flour (Amazon). Pasta dough recipes call for varying amounts of semolina flour, and some recipes are even 100% semolina based. Using semolina for dusting your work surface also adds wonderful texture to the outside of your pasta. In summary, be sure to get some semolina flour if you’re serious about homemade pasta!
Recommended flour for homemade pasta
My personal favorite semolina and one of the best pasta flours made from semolina out there. I recommend this flour if you want to make homemade pasta that tastes good and has that authentic, rustic texture to it.
My favourite type “00” flour, imported from Italy. A very finely ground flour that is high in protein and can be used for both pasta and pizza dough. Mix 2/3 of this with 1/3rd’s of Antimo Caputo Semolina for a wonderful textured, rustic pasta.
This American semolina durum flour surprised me a lot – it’s very easy to work with and does great in both 100%, 66/33 or 50/50 mixes with type “00” flour or even all-purpose flour. This 4-pack comes at a very low price compared to some of the imported Italian semolina’s.
Protein and gluten in pasta flour – the science behind the perfect pasta dough
Choosing a flour with the correct level of protein is essential when making pasta. A high amount of quality protein in the flour will make it easier for the gluten to develop, which will result in a flexible yet shape-retaining, strong dough.
You can use these flours for making pasta
- ✅ Semolina durum wheat flour: 12/13% protein, great for pasta with a bit more texture. Preferably mixed with type “00” for the best results with most types of pasta shapes.
- ✅ Soft wheat type “00“: 12/13% protein, a softer wheat milled with a very fine texture. A great choice if you want pasta with a more smooth texture. For best results choose a type “00” that is specifically made for pasta / pizza (these are the same).
- ✅ All-purpose wheat flour: At 11/12% protein, all-purpose flour works OK for pasta, but will need a bit more kneading to achieve a stronger gluten network. Again, you can combine with semolina durum for a more traditional rustic pasta texture.
- 🚫 Cake or pastry flour: Low amount of protein and gluten. Should be avoided when making pasta. It can work with a lot of effect but really, it’s not worth it.
- 🚫 Strong bread flour: In my experience strong bread flour doesn’t make great pasta. Protein and gluten levels are high but strong flour only tends to work with thicker pasta like lasagne. I find that strong flour almost has too much protein and makes the pasta sticky and too dense.
In summary, and in reality you can use any mix of “00”, semolina and all-purpose flour to make pasta. Only got all-purpose flour in your pantry? I’ve used it plenty of times and it is still 100x better than store bought dried pasta. My go to recipe with all purpose flour is this: Mix 3 large eggs with 2 cups of all-purpose flour. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and about a teaspoon of salt.
A higher amount of protein also translates to more gluten strands which are also of a higher quality. When kneading the dough, you’ll be able to reach a higher level of elasticity without the dough breaking when being stretched out. The result are thin pasta sheets that don’t show any signs of breakage. The higher amount of high quality gluten strands in the flour, the level of elasticity that the dough can reach is higher.
Flour with a lower protein amount results in a softer dough. When making a fluffy cake, you choose flour with a very low amount of protein. Your dough should be easy to handle and remain in shape when cooked, hence we opt in for a flour with 12-13% protein as shown in the list above.
Recommended pasta science & recipe books
If this interests you at all, I really recommend you to read the book “Mastering Pasta – The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi and Risotto by Marc Vetri.
Pasta and its ingredients, from start to finish – wheat, gluten, protein, flour – Vetri explains it very clearly.
Different types of pasta flour
Semolina durum wheat flour
Semolina flour is protein-rich and high in gluten. Its a popular choice when making pasta for its stronger bite and more coarse grind. High in protein and gluten, it’s a great choice for making pasta dough with a more golden color.
Semolina is most commonly used as all-purpose flour. Semolina can be recognized by its distinctive yellow color, which comes from the endosperm of hard durum wheat. In general semolina flour consists of 12-13 percent protein and has a low elasticity and higher plasticity than most flour that is used for pasta.
This makes semolina flour a great choice when making extruded pasta such as penne, as the shape of your pasta will not start to change as soon as it has been extruded. Pasta from the store get their golden color from the semolina flour.
Type 00 flour
Type 00 is mainly referred to as flour for pasta & pizza. Type 00 is a The Italians use a grading system for the coarseness of their grind. From coarse to fine and as the Italians like to call them: tipo 2, 1, 0 and 00. Type 00 pasta flour is a favorite choice of flour when making pasta and you want to achieve a smooth texture and softer bite.
If you want a rougher texture to hold sauces better, mix it 50/50 or 25/75 with semolina durum wheat flour, all-purpose flour or bread flour.
The type 0, 00, 1 or whatever number has nothing to do with the kind of wheat used in during the milling process. Both soft and hard wheat can be used for type 00 flour. What you are looking for is hard wheat type 00 pasta flour. The flour I mentioned above are all specifically made for pasta, both the Caputa type 00 and their semolina flour, as well as the Bob’s Red Mill semolina.
The Italian milling company Caputo sells type 00 pasta flour on Amazon and is my favorite choice. The main problem is the delivery times, so it can be worthwhile looking around for a local retailer as well to get your hands on it.
Can you use all-purpose flour for making past? Yes! The protein (around 11-12%) and gluten in all-purpose flour is quite comparable to the flour that is traditionally used for making pasta, both type 00 and semolina. The difference is the amount of prep-time, especially the mixing and kneading.
Making pasta dough will take a little bit longer as the kneading and mixing generally takes more time to optimize the gluten network and reach the desired state of your dough.
You can go all-in with the AP flour, but adding either some semolina or type 00 flour will definitely improve your pasta in taste, texture and bite.
What do you want to achieve with the dough?
Pasta dough should be quite elastic, but also retain its shape when left alone. When molding, folding and kneading the dough shouldn’t get dry, brittle or get any cracks.
As this will become quite a long guide about choosing the best pasta flour, I will will divide this guide in several paragraphs. I will begin by explaining what types of flour are available on the market and what types of flour can be used best to make fresh homemade pasta. I will also show several brands of pasta flour that I have used over the years that have proven to be perfect for making pasta. This guide is perfect for those that are making pasta by hand, as well as those that are using a pasta maker.
Different types of pasta flour
There are two different types of flour that are most commonly used when making homemade pasta. The first type is semolina flour, which can be found in most pantries at home. This is an all-purpose flour most people use for a lot of things. Semolina flour is the way to go when you are making pasta at home, but there are a few things you need to know about it first.
Before you continue making your own pasta, you have know that there are different types of semolina flour. Don’t worry, I got you covered here.
Double Zero or 00 Flour
Americans categorise their flour in a different way than the Italians. Americans tend to sort the flour by their intended purpose, take bread flour or pastry flour as an example.
Italy has come up with a classification of flour types, based on the fineness of the grind. Italy has classified their flour in three different types: 1, 0 or 00. These numbers indicate how fine or coarse the flour has been ground. Where type 1 is a very coarse kind of flour, type 00 or “double zero flour” is ground into a much more fine flour. Type 0 flour can be best compared with all-purpose flour, and is between the coarse grind of type 1 and the finer grind of the type 00 flour.
You might ask “Why is it important that I use type 1 or type 00 flour for my pasta?”. The answer is that there will be quite a taste difference when you use type 00 flour for your pasta in comparison to using type 1.
Another reason that you should choose double zero flour is that the flour contains a high amount of protein and enough gluten to help the development of the dough’s plasticity and elasticity when it’s being molded into your pasta dough. More about that in the paragraph about protein and gluten.
Does this mean that buying either semolina or 00 flour for your pasta will automatically settle for the best flour for pasta? Sadly, the answer is no. While I recommend that most of the time you should definitely choose type 00 flour when you are making pasta at home, just because a label says the flour is type 00 this will not mean that this is the perfect flour for pasta. As mentioned before, the type 00 indicates the fineness of the flour.
Other properties of the flour play vital roles in its usefulness, such as the percentage of protein and the gluten strength. Luckily there are different vendors that produce and sell type 00 flour with the right amount of gluten strength and protein percentages that are considered as the best when making fresh pasta. In another section of this guide, you’ll find a more in-depth explanation of protein and gluten strength in flour.
What is the best pasta flour?
There isn’t a straightforward answer for this, as different situations may call for different types of flour. However, as a thumb rule I advise that if you going to make pasta is that you choose type 00 (or double zero) flour that is intended for pasta. This last bit is very important, as not every type 00 flour is perfect for making pasta.
Not every double zero flour contains the same amount of protein that is needed for making pasta. Certain types of flour that get produced with the intention of making pasta with it contain the best composition of proteins and gluten so your pasta dough will be both malleable and will retain its form once it has been shaped into pasta.
Where to buy 00 flour for pasta?
You can buy pasta flour both online and local. Both Caputo and Bob’s Red Mill are available for sale online.
Refer to my recommended pasta flour at the top. All three brands are quite common and also sell a collection of other types of flour. Since I haven’t explored homemade bread etcetera I don’t know the quality of their other types of flour, but I can definitely recommend their type 00 pasta flour.
In the table at the start of the page you can find the three types of flour that I most commonly use when making fresh homemade pasta. These are the three best types of flour for homemade pasta that I have come across. I also give a quick explanation what flour is most suited for different types of pasta and textures, as this depends on the flour as well.
Best flour for vegan, eggless pasta
Vegan pasta contains no eggs. Making vegan pasta at home isn’t difficult at all, and there are even specific flour types that are best suited for making vegan pasta. When making regular pasta you use eggs and a finer flour, since the eggs will ensure that the flour will bind together.
When you make eggless pasta, you want to use a more coarsely ground type of flour for your pasta, since you use water instead of eggs. The water isn’t a strong enough binding agent for the fine type 00 flour so want to use a flour that is more course such as a good quality type 1 flour.
All-purpose flour does the job for vegan pasta dough just fine, but if you want something better I suggest using semolina flour, which does the job of holding the water and flour together perfectly. I have experimented with combining all-purpose and semolina flour for homemade vegan pasta, and this works great if you use a 50/50 distribution.
Protein and gluten in pasta flour
Protein and gluten play a vital role in the way that the flour can be used. Knowing more about these two components will give you a deeper knowledge about flour in general, not just when it comes to choosing the perfect combination for pasta flour. In the following paragraphs you’ll get to understand the way protein and gluten have an have an influence on the way you can use the flour.
Pasta Flour – Elasticity and Plasticity
These are the two basic principles that you have to understand: elasticity and plasticity. The gluten in pasta flour has two properties, it is both elastic and plastic. When the dough is elastic this means that the dough can be stretched and that it will bounce back into, making is easier to knead. Plasticity means that the dough can be molded into a shape and that it stays put.
The right combination of plasticity and elasticity is the key to perfect pasta dough. This is achieved by having the right amount of protein and gluten in your flour. It will be easy to knead, will roll smoothly through your pasta roller without breaking apart. To achieve this however, you don’t just need the right combination of gluten and protein; you also need to knead the dough long enough so the dough can develop a strong gluten network.
The importance of Protein and Gluten
The smaller the amount of protein is present in the flour, the softer the dough will be. A good example are fluffy cakes that are made with flour that possess very little protein in comparison to other types of flour. If there is more protein in flour, the dough will be harder and “stronger”, which is great if you want to achieve a more chewy product.
If you are interested in learning more about the core elements of flour, I can recommend reading the book ‘Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi and Risotto’ by Marc Vetri (Amazon). In this book Vetri clearly explains the concept of the protein and gluten in flour, which is more than just a basis for making pasta; it will come in handy a lot of times in the kitchen. This book has taught me to utilise flour on a whole different level than I did before, and if you are keen on making the most out of your handmade pasta, this is one of the books you should definitely beside your other cookbooks.
So do I NEED special flour for my pasta?
Short answer: no, you don’t need a specific kind of type 00 flour that has been ground to a certain fineness under the seventh full moon of the year (let’s hope that this doesn’t exist). You can make very tasty pasta with all-purpose flour that you can probably grab out of your pantry right now. However, this doesn’t mean that you should always stick with all-purpose flour.
Once you start experimenting with different types of flour you’ll understand that pasta made from different types of flour can be very different from each other. You can make very smooth pasta with type 00 flour or pasta with a more coarse texture when you use a flour made from a more coarse grind. When preparing some pasta recipes, pasta with a more coarse texture can be a good thing, as the sauce will stick on the pasta a lot easier.
Personally I tend to stick to type 00 flour as I prefer the smooth texture on my pasta, but there have been enough occasions where type 00 flour wasn’t anywhere to be found in my pantries. When you are just starting out with making homemade pasta, you should look for a type 00 flour with the right amount of protein. Use my quick pasta flour buyer’s guide if you want to make it as easy as possible for yourself.
Pasta flour F.A.Q.
What is the best flour for pasta?
Either semolina or type “00” flour is the best choice for homemade pasta. You can mix these for varying results that are more suite for different types of fresh pasta.
Can you use regular flour for pasta?
Yes, you can use regular all-purpose flour for making homemade pasta. For the best result it is recommended to go with either semolina or type “00” flour.
Can I use olive oil for pasta dough?
It’s best not to use olive oil when making pasta dough, save it for the pasta itself. The olive oil will make the pasta dough brittle and more prone to cracking if it dries. If you are set on using olive oil, be sparse and add about 1 teaspoon for each cup of flour. Especially when using your hands, pasta flour mixed with olive oil doesn’t make a great pasta dough.
Have any questions regarding choosing the right flour for your pasta or what type of dough is best for a certain type of pasta. Feel free to add a comment and I will get back to you!