Pasta dough gone wrong? Here's how to fix common issues.

Written by: Sarah Ubertaccio



Time to read 12 min

Mastering the art of making perfect pasta dough is a journey filled with trials and triumphs. From selecting the right ingredients to achieving the ideal texture through mixing, kneading, and resting, every step plays a crucial role in crafting pasta that's both delicious and satisfying. However, along this culinary adventure, you're bound to encounter some common issues that can leave you scratching your head. Fear not! 

In this guide, we'll delve into the world of pasta dough troubleshooting, addressing common problems and offering expert solutions to ensure your pasta-making endeavors are a resounding success.


The best and easiest way to ensure your pasta dough turns out well is to start with the right ingredients and the right quantity of ingredients. In this section, we breakdown some common questions regarding pasta dough hydration levels, ingredient ratios, and proper measuring techniques.

What’s the best ratio for pasta dough ingredients?

For most pasta doughs, you want to aim for 55-57% hydration level. For example, for every 100 grams of flour you’ll want to use 55-57 grams of eggs or water.

Keep in mind that certain shapes may benefit from a lower or higher hydration level. For example, if you’re making orecchiette or busiate, you’ll want to aim for a lower hydration level, around 48-50%. This is because these shapes need to be really stretched and pulled. The lower hydration level makes them a bit tougher and resilient. For pasta shapes formed with a pasta rod (or ferretto) this is especially important. If the dough is too wet, it will stick to the rod when shaping.

Below are a list of shapes that are better with 48-50% hydration level:

  • Orecchiette
  • Busiate
  • Foglie d'Ulivo
  • Maccheroni al Ferro
  • Fusilli al Ferro
Pasta Making Essentials

How should I measure my pasta dough ingredients?

Many American recipes will list ingredients in metric cups, instead of by weight, which often leads to inaccurate results. 

Different flours have different weights. Your one cup of 00 flour is not the same as my one cup of 00 flour unless perhaps we are using the exact same kind of flour and the exact same measuring cup. Even the way you measure the cup (Is it packed? Is it leveled off? Or is it a heaping, loose cup?) can lead to differences in the actual quantity of flour used. This is why professional bakers measure in weight – because baking requires precise measurements that the metric system doesn’t provide.

Although the class Italian recipe for pasta dough–1 egg for every 100 grams of flour– is a good starting point (and easy to remember), it doesn’t always lead to consistent results. That’s because eggs vary in weight. The average egg weighs 55 grams but that’s just an average: some eggs may weigh 5-10 grams more or less than that. For more information about how eggs affect your pasta dough, check out this article: The Science Behind Eggs in Your Pasta.

The most accurate way to get your ingredient ratios right is to weigh them. Get out the kitchen scale and weigh your flour and your eggs or water. Check out our Basics Pasta Dough, Two Ways guide which includes recipes with weight measurements for both Fresh Egg Pasta and Semolina Flour-and-Water pasta.

Once you get the hang of how the dough should look and feel, you can start to play around with adding other ingredients, or making an all-yolk dough.


Once you have your ingredients prepped and measured out, it's time to start mixing your dough. This is another crucial step in making pasta dough, as the first few minutes are when you have to gauge if the dough is too wet, too dry, or just right.

How do I remedy a pasta dough that's too dry?

This likely means that your wet to dry ingredient ratio is skewed more towards the dry–meaning you needed less flour or more eggs or water. But it could also mean that you just haven’t kneaded the dough enough. Here’s how to distinguish between the two.

During the first few minutes of mixing your dough, it will feel a little bit dry and shaggy. You’ll notice that there are some really wet and sticky spots and some really dry spots. As you continue to knead, the dough should start to come together to form a ball. If after a few minutes of vigorous kneading, it’s still shaggy and not coming together, then the issue is likely due to not enough moisture.

This is where you can call in emergency services and add a little water. The amount of water you add depends on how dry the dough seems. Start by wetting your hands with water and using your wet hands to knead the dough. Knead for 30 seconds more before wetting your hands again.

Another trick is to use a fine mist spray bottle to spritz the dough with water. Similar to the method above, you’ll want to knead in between spritzes to give the dough time to absorb the moisture.

Only add as much water as needed to get the dough to come together and become workable. Remember: as the dough rests, it will continue to hydrate and become more pliable. Make a note of the ingredients you used and how much you added of each so you can adjust for the next time.

If your pasta dough is too dry...

Make sure you’re following the 55-57% hydration ratio.

If the dough feels dry during the first 3 minutes of mixing, spritz it with a little water or wet your hands and continue kneading.

To prevent your dough from picking up dried bits of flour and dough, clean your pasta board or work surface once the dough has formed a ball.

How to remedy a pasta dough that's too wet

In this case, the ratio of wet-to-dry ingredients is skewed towards the wet!

Similar to the protocol above, you’ll want to mix the dough for a minute or two to see how it comes together. Again, it will be shaggy – sticky in some spots and dry in other spots – during the first few minutes. If after a couple of minutes, it’s sticking to your hands or your board, you’ll want to sprinkle on a pinch of flour (about a tablespoon to start). Continue kneading until the flour is incorporated, then make note of how the dough feels. Is it still sticking to your hands and board? Add another sprinkling of flour and repeat. If it’s not sticking, continue kneading without adding any more flour.

One of the “dangers” of a dough that is too wet is that often times you don’t know it’s too wet until it’s too late. It’s easy to knead an overly-hydrated dough, so you don’t always have a strong signal that’s something’s out of balance. After it rests, it may become even stickier, making it hard to pull back the plastic wrap or roll it through your machine.

If this happens to you, you'll need to sprinkle more flour on your dough as you roll it through the machine.

A hand is kneading pasta dough on a wooden surface. We see that the palm of the hand has some dough stuck to it.

If your pasta dough is too wet...

Make sure you’re following the 55-57% hydration ratio.

If the dough feels wet after the first 3 minutes of mixing and kneading, sprinkle it with a tablespoon of flour and continue kneading for 30 more seconds. Repeat until the dough no longer feels sticky.

If you notice your dough is sticky after its rested, keep some flour nearby for the rolling out process. Divide the dough into quarters, flatten it out, and sprinkle with a little bit of flour before rolling through the pasta machine. As you go through each setting of the pasta machine, sprinkle with more flour until the dough doesn’t feel sticky. Allow the sheet of dough to dry for a minute or two before shaping.

When to start over?

If you’re 10 minutes into kneading and your dough still isn’t coming together and it's impossible to knead, it’s probably best to start over. After a certain point, the ingredients can start to dry out making them unworkable. This is why it’s crucial to get the dough balanced in those first few minutes.

Start fresh and you’ll be much better off the rest of the way!

Pasta Making Essentials


Now that your dough has come together, it's time to knead! Kneading is an important step in the pasta making process as this is how the gluten network is formed. Kneading helps the flour bind to the eggs or water, creating a strong bond that will allow your dough the stretch and hold its shape more easily.

How do I know if I’ve kneaded my pasta dough enough?

Kneading pasta dough is true labor of love. Unlike certain bread and pastry doughs, it requires a lot more physical effort and time. That’s because pasta requires a strong gluten network (for holding its shape when cooked), and that gluten network is formed by extensive kneading!

When I first started making pasta, I would often under knead my dough. I thought that once the dough had formed a ball, I was done. But in fact, pasta dough is needier (or shall I say “kneadier?”) than that. Not only do the ingredients need to come together to form a ball, but they must be worked and stretched in order to form the proper gluten strands that result in pliability and elasticity – two fancy words that just mean the dough is able to be rolled out and shaped.

So do you know if your pasta dough has been kneaded enough?

Most recipes say to knead the dough for 15 minutes. This is a good ballpark number and can help you gauge things in the beginning, but there are also physical cues you can look for. The section below outlines these signs.

A hand is kneading yellow pasta dough on a light wooden surface.

Your pasta dough has been kneaded enough when:

  • It’s homogenous in color. You shouldn’t see any streaks of flour.
  • It’s smooth. “Like a baby’s bottom,” some folks say. But if you’ve never felt a baby’s bottom, then what you’re looking for is zero grittiness or bumps.
  • It’s tacky, but not sticky. It should feel like Play-Doh: moist but not sticking to your hands or board when you touch it.
  • It’s bouncy. When you press your finger into it, the dough should rebound–a sign that the gluten network has been fully formed.

Can I over knead pasta dough?

This is a less common issue, mainly because most folks are exhausted after 15 minutes of kneading pasta dough. However, it’s a question I do see come up during my pasta making classes.

In short, you can’t really over knead pasta dough. That said, kneading the dough longer than you should doesn’t help the pasta dough and could lead to other issues, such as a dough that’s drying out or sore forearms.

Look for the cues above to know when your dough has reached the right consistency and is ready for the resting phase.


Letting your pasta dough rest is the final stage of the pasta dough process. During this phase, your the gluten network you formed during the kneading phase has a chance to relax and loosen up, which will allow you to roll out the dough without it bouncing back.

Why does pasta dough need to rest?

Pasta dough needs to rest for two main reasons: hydration and relaxation. (Chances you are, after kneading the dough, you probably need a little of each of those too!) Hydration occurs when the flour and eggs or water are given time to fully combine. You’ll notice that after your dough has rested, the dough is little bit more humid and moist. This hydration process is what helps the strong gluten network you created while kneading to relax. When the gluten relaxes, the dough will become stretchable and will hold its shape. If you tried to roll out your pasta dough without resting, it would spring back.

A hand is poking straw-colored pasta dough in the center. The dough is resting on a light wooden surface.

How long should my pasta dough rest for?

For a standard four-person pasta dough, let it rest at room temperature for a least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. If you aren’t rolling the dough out within 2 hours, put it in the fridge to prevent fermentation. After refrigeration, let it sit out at room temperature for an hour before rolling out.

If you’re making a small batch of pasta dough (a two-person portion), you might be able to get away with less rest time. For larger batches of dough, you may need more rest time.

How do I know when the pasta dough has rested enough?

To test if your pasta dough has rested enough, press your finger into the dough. If it springs back, let it keep resting. If it holds the imprint, the gluten has relaxed enough and is ready to be rolled out.

Pasta Dough Troubleshooting FAQ

What's the best ratio for pasta dough ingredients?

For most shapes, following a 57% hydration level will give you a perfect pasta dough. This means for every 100 grams of flour, use 57 grams of water or eggs. Adjust with more flour as needed once you start mixing.

How should I measure my pasta dough ingredients?

For the most accurate results, use a kitchen scale and weigh your flour, water, and eggs in grams.

How do I fix a pasta dough that's too dry?

Wet your hands with a little bit of lukewarm water and continue kneading to incorporate. You can also use a fine mist spray bottle to spritz your dough. Only add as much water as is needed to get the dough to become workable.

How do I fix a pasta dough that's too wet?

Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of flour on your dough and knead to incorporate. The dough should feel tacky, but no longer stick to your hands or surface.

How do I know if I've kneaded my pasta dough enough?

The dough has been kneaded enough when it is smooth, supple, and homogenous in color. It should bounce back when you press a finger into it.

Can I over knead pasta dough?

Not really. However, kneading the dough for longer than is necessary may cause your dough to dry out.

Why does pasta dough need to rest?

The resting phase is important for gluten relaxation. During this time, the gluten network that was formed during the kneading stage relaxes, which helps the dough become stretchable and hold its shape.

How long shoud pasta dough rest?

At least 20 minutes. Your dough may need to rest for more time if it's a large batch.

How do I know when my dough has rested enough?

To test if your pasta dough has rested enough, press your finger into the dough. If it springs back, let it keep resting. If it holds the imprint, the gluten has relaxed enough and is ready to be rolled out.

Practice Makes Perfect

Pasta-making is as much a science as it is an art, requiring precision, patience, and a keen eye for detail. By understanding the nuances of ingredient ratios, mastering the art of mixing and kneading, and appreciating the importance of resting, you can overcome any challenges that arise along the way. Armed with the knowledge gained from this troubleshooting guide, you're ready to embark on your pasta-making journey with confidence, transforming humble flour and eggs into culinary delights that will delight your senses and captivate your taste buds. So roll up your sleeves, dust off your rolling pin, and let the magic of homemade pasta unfold in your kitchen!

Have a question about pasta? Contact our pasta hotline!

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Sarah Ubertaccio

The Author: Sarah Ubertaccio

Sarah Ubertaccio is the founder of q.b. Cucina. She has been making and teaching pasta for over five years. Her favorite pasta shape is garganelli.
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