What does oil do in pasta dough?

Hi Matt - what is the purpose of oil in pasta dough?

Is it to make it softer?

Or to keep it from sticking?



Hi there! Well it's certainly not an essential ingredient. None of the fresh pasta recipe versions I've been taught by my mamma-in-law use any oil at all.

That said, there are some Italian chefs, like Ursula Ferrigno, who like to pop in a tablespoon of (very light) oil with their egg and plain flour mixture, their reasoning being that this makes the dough silkier and a little easier to work with. (See this fantastic recent article on different approaches to dough making.)

Otherwise, the key to keeping the dough elastic, in my experience, is not over-flouring it (i.e. really thinning the bowl's walls before mixing the flour and eggs or water together with your hands. This keeps the mixture moist enough).

The issue of whether to pop oil in your pan when cooking your pasta is a different one. A drop of oil can be useful for stopping very thin long pasta shapes (linguine say) from sticking, however for most pasta it's not required as long as you're using enough water and stirring plenty (and don't forget the salt!).

Hope that helps, buon appetito!


PS: If you haven't tried making fresh pasta yet, start with these guides and/or check out my Pastastic cookbook (this comes with printable fresh pasta guides and exclusive downloadable videos of the same).

Comments for What does oil do in pasta dough?

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What do you mean...
by: Claudine

...by thinning your bowl? Thanks for your interesting and most practical blog.

Bowl thinning...
by: Matt - Pasta Recipes Made Easy

I'm referring to when you create a bowl shape out of your flour and crack your eggs (or pour water, depending on the type of dough) into the middle. See Step 4 on this making fresh pasta page.

After you've stirred this mixture and just before you come to mix the flour and mixture together, it's really useful to 'thin the walls' of the bowl, by removing excess flour (i.e. the excess thickness of the walls).

This ensures your mixture isn't too 'flour-heavy', which can cause it to be dry and inflexible.

Hope that's clear, ciao!


by: Anonymous

Thank you for taking the time to answer.

Tried it... some feedback.
by: Matt - Pasta Recipes Made Easy

Hi again,

Just to let you know that this weekend I tried this idea of putting a little drop of EVOO in my fresh pasta dough.

The result? Super-smooth dough!

As it was only once, I don't want to say for sure that the oil was the reason (as sometimes the dough is more supple than others, that's just life...) but I'll certainly be trying this again to check.

The more times this works, the more sure I'll be that the little bit of olive oil (I used half a tablespoon for a 2-person batch of dough) works...


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