Basic Semolina Pasta Dough and Tubetti al ferro shaped pasta

Recipe and photo contributed by Simona Carini Yield:  2 small servings
Prep Time:  30 minutes Cook Time:  5 minutes

Basic Semolina Pasta Dough and Tubetti al ferro shaped pasta

Durum wheat is called grano duro in Italian. In Italy, ground durum wheat is available in three formats: semola di grano duro, semola rimacinata di grano duro (rimacinata means “ground again”), and farina di grano duro. In the U.S., ground durum wheat is available in two formats: semolina flour and durum flour. The recipe calls for semolina flour.

This is a basic dough that can be used to make different pasta shapes, like the well-known orecchiette (“small ear”) and the tubetti described below. I strongly recommend weighing the ingredients, rather than measuring them by volume. The quantities can easily be multiplied as needed.

Tubetti (small tubes) is the name of a machine-made pasta that comes in smooth and ridged versions (tubetti lisci and tubetti rigati, respectively) each also available in half size (mezzi tubetti).

I borrowed the name to describe a shape I made one day that I was playing with semolina dough. It is a short version of a traditional shape called maccheroni al ferro. It is easier to make than its longer sibling and therefore ideal for beginner pasta-maker.


½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (100 grams) semolina flour of good quality

¼ cup minus 2 teaspoons (50 grams) warm water

Pinch of salt


  1. With a fork, spread the somewhat recalcitrant water through the flour. When there is no more free water, drop the fork in favor of your fingers, then your hands. As you work the crumbly mix, you will see it and feel it come together into a cohesive whole. The graininess persists for a while, but, as your hands fall into kneading — pushing the dough away from you with their heels and then gathering it back toward you — the dough becomes smooth.
  2. Knead the dough until it is smooth and firm, about 10 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic film, and let it rest for 30 minutes or so. (If you find that you cannot shape the pasta until much later, you can refrigerate the dough. Let it come back to room temperature before starting to shape it.)
  3. Shaping the pasta: To make tubetti, we use a thin wooden skewer as a substitute for a traditional tool called ferro (a metal skewer). Click here to see a short video below shows my hand shaping tubetti.
  4. Roll the dough into a thick sausage and cut into 5-6 pieces. Keep them wrapped until using.
  5. Take one piece and shape into a roll ⅜ inch (1 cm) in diameter.
  6. Cut the roll into segments about ⅝ inch (1.5 cm) long.
  7. Shape each segment into a tubetto with the skewer: Place the skewer on the center of the dough piece and press it lightly to make it stable. Pinch the dough lightly to bring the long sides closer together over the skewer, then roll with one hand. The first thing that happens is that a cylinder is formed, then the cylinder gets a bit longer.
  8. Apply enough pressure with your hand on the piece of dough so that it flattens and spreads around the skewer as you roll it, but not so much as to make it stick to the skewer. At the end of the process, you want to be able to slide the tubetto from the skewer without misshaping it. (if that happens, you can always re-roll the dough and try again). Each tubetto is 1⅝ to 1¾ inch (4 to 4.5 cm long).
  9. Flour the skewer often. I suggest you have two of them on hand: while you are using one, keep the other inside the flour bag. When the first one becomes a bit sticky, put it in the flour and take up the other. Also, during use, flour your fingers and brush the skewer before placing it on the piece of dough.
  10. Lay tubetti out to dry. You may want to dust the surface lightly with flour to prevent sticking or line it with a cotton kitchen towel.
  11. Repeat with the other pieces of dough until it is all used.
  12. I let the tubetti dry for several hours before cooking, so it is easier to preserve their shape when I move them. In fact, I usually make them the day before. You can dress the pasta with your sauce of choice.

Kitchen Tips

Once the pasta is made, here is a serving suggestion:

Browned Butter and Parmesan Tubetti al fero

½ tablespoon (7 grams ) browned butter, or to taste
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste

  1. When the pasta is nearly cooked, melt the browned butter in a small frying pan. (The pasta cooking time depends on how dry the pasta is.)
  2. When the pasta is cooked al dente (firm to the bite), drain it, leaving just little cooking water clinging to it.
  3. Drop the pasta into the pan with the melted butter. Stir well, then sprinkle some of the cheese, and stir some more. Plate and sprinkle a bit more cheese on the top. Serve immediately. Makes two small portions (served as an Italian first course).

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