If you have never undertaken the task of making your own fresh pasta, you are missing out on some seriously delicious stuff! It’s incredible how much better the taste and texture of homemade pasta is from the boxed stuff. Now, I’ll admit I don’t take the time to do it very often, but when I do, it’s soooo worth it. I feel like I get a little taste of Italy right in the comfort of my home. (A trip to Bella Italia is on our someday list, but not for quite a few years!)
For today’s Frugal Friday installment, let’s talk about the cost of our food. This is one of the most feasible changes we can make in our quest for frugality. Everyone needs to eat every day, but we have a zillion different choices of what to eat and where to buy it, so our food costs are in no way a fixed expense. This is great news, frugal readers!
This brings us to…fresh pasta! We all know the general rule: homemade is less expensive than processed, precooked, store-bought. Pasta is no exception. Yes, you can buy your boxed spaghetti, penne, and rotini for super-cheap as well, but making fresh pasta is usually even more inexpensive. (Flour, eggs, water…all rather affordable, no?)
And, like most homemade foods, the taste of fresh homemade pasta is FAR superior to any boxed variety. Trust me on this one. Actually, don’t just take my word for it. Try it yourself!
EASY FRESH PASTA RECIPE, adapted from www.thekitchn.com
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour (plus more for rolling out pasta)
Mix flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the middle. (You can also do this directly on your clean table or countertop. It’s not my preferred method, but either way will work.) Add eggs to the well, whisk eggs with a fork, then begin gradually incorporating them into the flour. If not all of the flour mixes in, that’s okay.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Fold dough in on itself several times (I just kind of squish it together), and as it firms up, you can begin kneading. It should not have many air bubbles when kneaded and will become smooth and elastic.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap to rest for at least 30 minutes. After resting, divide dough into four equal sections. Roll out each section of dough to desired thinness. I use a rolling pin or my hands to get it thin enough for the pasta machine, then roll it through the machine a couple of times.
Pasta Machine Magic
*Important: this may sound very anti-frugal, but I heartily recommend using a pasta roller! You can do it by hand with a rolling pin, but it’s frickin’ hard work! I only tried hand-rolling it a couple of times, and for days afterward, I was feeling soreness in muscles I didn’t even know I had. (Pasta dough isn’t pliable like yeast bread dough, so even if you’re a seasoned bread baker, it’s not the same.)
Anyway, I caved and bought this pasta machine. It cost around thirty bucks, and the ease of rolling out pasta dough is totally worth it. My kiddos have fun helping me roll it out, too! The older one is actually a pretty good little chef’s assistant. Mini COD is more apt to stuff giant blobs of dough into the pasta machine than to actually form noodles, so I try to designate a bit of dough just for him.
Once you have thick strips of dough, set your roller to the widest setting and crank the strips of dough through it to flatten them. Repeat until all dough pieces are the same thickness, then tighten the setting on the roller to roll your dough thinner. (The recipe I’m using recommends a lot more rolling than I would do. I usually just roll it on the wide setting and then on one or two narrower settings. It turns out fine, but maybe not to a gourmet level.)
After you have thin strips of dough, move the crank to the other side of the pasta machine. Mine just has two options: fettuccine and spaghetti. Decide which type of pasta you want and pass each strip of dough through slowly to create noodles. Lay the noodles out on a pasta drying rack or waxed paper.
Some pasta machines have more sophisticated settings. My machine doesn’t make ravioli, for example, but I find it pretty easy to do your own. You can simply leave the dough in strips at the desired thickness, spoon a bit of desired filling onto the dough, lay the other strip of dough on top, and pinch the edges together.
After you have your noodles, toss them with a little flour and lay them out to dry. If cooking the fresh pasta right away, cook as you normally cook pasta (add to boiling, salted water). But since this pasta is freshly made, it only takes a few (4-5) minutes to cook.
This dough is great because it can also be refrigerated or frozen! So you could make up a big batch when you have some extra time and then just pull the pasta out of storage when ready to cook. You get a somewhat fancy meal without a lot of fuss that way.
I’ll be honest; I don’t go the fresh pasta route very often. The majority of the time, we still eat our noodles from a box. Since Junior and Mini COD eat pasta about once a day, it would be tough to keep up with demand by making homemade noodles. However, I have dreams of rolling out my perfect fresh pasta each week, making my own spinach ravioli and fettuccine. Eventually I’ll get there, but for now, it’s a special-occasion kind of meal.
Have you ever made your own fresh pasta? What foods are frugal yet luxurious to you?