Store-bought noodles are nonnegotiable in our pantries, but homemade noodles? They are something else—earthy, chewy, and ridiculously fun. So grab an apron and let us show you how to Make Your Own Noodles. We’ve got glorious recipes, expert tips, handy guides, and so much more.
Most noodles begin as nothing more than flour and water (and often a little salt). How much water you add, or the hydration of the dough, is the single most important factor in noodle—and most dough—making. But how much is too much or too little or just right? Is there a universal ratio? Can I eat ice cream for breakfast? Answers abound (always yes to the last one, by the way).
Hydration is the amount of moisture in a dough and it’s usually expressed as a percentage of the flour. For instance: Let’s say a dough recipe calls for 100 grams of flour. 100% hydration means there’s just as much water as there is flour by weight: also 100 grams. 80% means there’s 80 grams of water. And on and on—see how that works? Hydration is common language when it comes to making breads (sourdough-style breads are typically between 70–90% hydration), but it’s useful in the context of other doughs as well.
For many noodles, the magic number is 50%, meaning 2 parts flour to 1 part water by weight. A 50% hydration dough starts off feeling the slightest bit dry, but after a good knead and a little rest, it’s smooth, pliable, and Play-Doh-like. Some authors helpfully refer to it as “earlobe soft.” (Your hand is moving up to your ear to check right now, isn’t it?)
Memorize this number and a whole world of possibilities open up. With this basic dough you can make a slew of noodles—like Korean sujebi, Chinese jian dao mian, and Japanese udon. Roll the dough into a sheet, cut out circles, and you have dumpling wrappers. Use semolina flour instead and you just made fresh pasta, Southern Italian–style. Add yeast and you can make a bagel (okay, fine, you also have to shape it and boil it and bake it, but still!). A 50% dough can be a lot of things.
If you needed another reason, a final nudge, to please get a digital scale, well, I just gave you six. But seriously: Using cups will result in measurements that are inconsistent (your cup of flour might be more tightly packed than mine) and downright odd (like “½ cup plus 1 Tbsp”). But with a scale? Fewer dirty dishes and a dough you can count on, every single time. You can scale it up, down, and sideways without any hard math. As a rule of thumb, a dough made with 100 grams flour and 50 grams water makes 1 serving.
Armed with this knowledge, there’s nothing holding you back from making noodles from scratch. The only hard question: Which one will you make first?