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Is Homemade Pasta Worth the Trouble?

spinach and pumpkin pasta drying

Yes, yes, a hundred times yes from me.

It’s good, good and good.

♥  You get to use real eggs, which makes pasta not just empty calories but a decent protein and nutrient source.  If you use wholemeal flour and vegetables in it as well, it can be super food. Who ever thought spag bog could end up a superfood?

♥  You get to use ethically produced eggs and locally produced and/or organic flour and avoid packaging and food miles and the energy costs of processing and storage. And with some flour and an egg or two in the house, a near empty pantry and a teeny herb garden, you can make something so enticing that takeaways or a quick trip to the supermarket lose their lure.

♥  You get to eat something delicious even if it’s just cooking for one after a hard day when boiling water is about the extent of the energy left in the pot. Or if it’s five unexpected teenagers staying for dinner.  Or if it’s a dinner party with a friend’s new partner who just happens to be a five star chef.

Nearly four years ago I found a pasta machine at a garage sale.  I had been making pasta from scratch before that but rolling it out with a rolling pin, which meant that lasagna and ravioli were much more likely than spaghetti or tagliatelle.   I wrote at the time that “I’m not sure at all whether it will be a stayer.” But it has.  It has joined my (short) list of loved kitchen stuff, along with my pressure cooker, food processor, maca cracker (and a tortilla press has joined since then too, but that’s another story).

Mine has no brand name on it and a dodgy handle that looks like it isn’t original.  This post was inspired by a comment from Katie on the last post asking if I know how to choose one.  I’d love your thoughts.  Do you have one you love? Or know what to look out for to avoid?

There are hundreds of pasta recipes on the internet, and I really use just one varied in a few ways – just whole egg, plain flour (preferably high gluten but any will do), a little olive oil, a pinch of salt, knead to make a soft dough, rest if possible (but it works anyway), fold and roll several times to laminate if possible (but it works anyway), roll out thin, cook in boiling water for just a couple of minutes.

I have just a few tricks perhaps worth sharing:

  • Fast, simple pasta is still way better than bought dried pasta, and it can be made in literally 5 minutes.  Skip the resting, laminating, drying, fancy shapes – just blend, knead, roll, cook.  It isn’t going to impress the chef, but it works fine.
  • A bit of extra effort and you can impress the chef: an egg yolk or two along with the whole egg and it’s a bit richer, rest the dough for an hour or so before rolling it out and it’s a bit more elastic, laminate it by folding it and taking it through the pasta machine a couple of times on each setting and it’s more al dente.  The kids won’t notice but the Masterchef judges might.
  • Flour the bench, the machine, your hands, the pasta dough. Toss the rolled and cut pasta in flour and if you are cooking pretty well straight away you don’t need hang it up to dry.
  • Get the water really boiling before you put the pasta in, and have the sauce ready too. It cooks in two or three minutes.
  • Fresh, home-made pasta is wonderful just tossed with olive oil, finely grated lemon rind, garlic, and maybe some olives or cherry tomatoes or chopped parsley or basil.  Or some cooked pumpkin and crumbled feta.  “Sauce” doesn’t have to be fancy.
  • If you are drying it, a broom suspended between the bench and a shelf, or a clothes horse, or a baby gate all make good drying racks.
  • Blend cooked vegetables with the pasta dough to make rainbow pasta. Silver beet, spinach, pumpkin, carrot, beets, sweet potato all work really well.  If you use high gluten flour, you can add quite a lot and the pasta is a bit more fragile but it works.
  • It goes a long way.  One egg and half a cup of flour makes pasta for two. We had a pasta night at the community centre a while ago, where everyone brought a sauce, and I made pasta for thirty with a dozen eggs and it was eminently do-able.
  • It’s very easy to make a double batch and freeze some for when even five minutes of pasta making is beyond the call of duty.  It cooks really well from frozen.  Just dry the pasta enough so that it isn’t sticky (not too long or it goes brittle).  Twirl it up into little nests like in the photo, freeze the nests in a single layer, then when they are frozen you can pack into a container or bag and take them out as needed.

spinach and pumpkin pasta for freezing

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Casey Lewis December 12, 2015, 10:42 am

    Do the frozen pasta swirls post well internationally in care packs?

  • Linda December 12, 2015, 12:30 pm

    You have fresh pasta at the markets. And line caught tuna.

  • Peggy December 12, 2015, 5:36 pm

    Lovely article, fresh pasta is so, so worth it. I used the same Olympia pasta maker for 30 years but have recently switched to an attachment for the old Kenwood mixer. The geriatric pasta machine is still as good as the day I found it on sale at Myer, the pasta maker is what wore out 🙂

    If I don’t feel like waiting for the cut pasta to dry a bit before ‘nesting’ I just toss it in more flour; makes the water a bit murky when cooking, but the pasta stays separated.

    Have you tried making pasta with chickpea flour? I find it is a fine line between too sticky/eggy and too dry/brittle when making the dough, but so tasty it is worth the hassle. Good with just butter and lots of cracked pepper.

  • Lynn December 12, 2015, 6:07 pm

    Yes yes a hundred times yes from me too. We have an atlas pasta machine, works like a dream. It replaced our cheapo model that died quickly after purchase. We were certain that we would continue to make our own so splurged. Very reluctant to use shop bought now. Tell me when you make your nests how do you stop it from sticking together? May be we rolled ours a little too thin?

  • Linda December 12, 2015, 6:15 pm

    Hi Lynn, I think it has to do with drying rather than thickness. t’s just a matter of drying it just enough – too little and it’s sticky, too much and it’s brittle. Goldilocks right!

  • Linda December 12, 2015, 6:20 pm

    I haven’t tried chickpea pasta. What a good idea!

  • Nadja December 12, 2015, 7:06 pm

    Very timely! Planning a school holiday pasta-making playdate with a neighbour and our kids, and testing her electric vs manual machines. Used to make pasta by hand but cheap machine died and it all seemed a bit hard. Keen to get back into it. Love the broomstick tip – will save my tabletop 🙂

  • Helen McWilliam December 12, 2015, 7:54 pm

    Hello Linda, I’m loving Witches Kitchen appearing again in my in-box! Thank you. Linking garden to kitchen is sooo inspiring. Now we have some rain and I’ve had a little time on my hands I’ve been back in my vegetable patch and harvesting: cucumbers with all sorts of leafy greens & herbs. I now look forward to using such abundance in creative ways – inspired by your great ideas. Helen

  • Nana Chel December 13, 2015, 8:00 am

    I have made my own pasta a couple of times and covered the kitchen in flour as a result. I haven’t made any for a while but bought some from the farmers’ market recently and it was so much better from store bought pasta so I am determined to give it another try and persevere….mess or no mess 🙂

  • Katie December 13, 2015, 12:00 pm

    I’m really pleased to hear that a basic one is all you need. I haven’t ever attempted to make pasta by hand – only pizza bases and bread etc.
    I love meals that I can make out of next to nothing when I really don’t want to go to a shop. I also find it really rewarding when I have made or grown most of the ingredients. We are eating a lot more vegetarian meals lately and I have a favourite recipe which is just pasta, garlic, lemon juice and peas so it will probably bet ten times better with fresh pasta. I don’t like having lots of gadgets – I’d prefer a few that are multi function. My cheap food processor is not very good so I will look for a better one that comes with a pasta attachment. Thank you for a great post.

  • Meg December 13, 2015, 5:39 pm

    Linda, thank you. You continue to be an inspiration.

    On the strength of what you’ve written, I climbed up on the chair and dragged out the pasta machine….that I’ve never used…that I’ve dragged around for so many years I can’t even remember where it came from.

    I suddenly feel like pasta. I think the home grown garlic, home grown spinach, chilli from the freezer, and grated lemon from the freezer with possibly a fresh tomato, parsley and black olives….

    Now to find a recipe….

    (while I remember to ask…sourdough starter…ideas?)

  • Linda December 13, 2015, 6:34 pm

    Hi Meg, I’d go with that collection without a recipe – garlic, lemon, olives, parsley, or tomato, garlic, chili, olives, or spinach, lemon, garlic olives. Any combo actually, except maybe not tomato and lemon together being as how they both fill that acid niche. Sourdough. Yes. How can I get starter to you?

  • Krankywitch December 13, 2015, 7:00 pm

    In our home, pasta was the first thing any child learned to make, as soon as we were big enough to work at the bench while sitting on the stool.
    I swear by the Marcato brand – the original manufacturer.
    A tip for all – when we make pasta nests to put away for another day, we cover a baking sheet with a clean tea towel and give it a good sprinkling of fine semolina (sometimes labelled semolina flour), then sprinkle the nests too. It speeds up the drying, stops them sticking to themselves and each other, and when you drop them into the boiling water, the semolina falls to the bottom leaving your water clear rather than cloudy with flour.

  • Fiona December 13, 2015, 9:27 pm

    I have always made Jamie Olivers 12 egg pasta as we had chickens and lots of eggs so I would make it and freeze it in batches. Now that we are temporarily in the suburbs it is more of a luxury item but I still do not buy it as I like the pasta to be a bit of a hero not just a sauce holder.

  • Anonymous December 17, 2015, 12:40 am

    It’s so good to see you back posting again.

    I use my Aldi pasta machine regularly and it’s great. I find an easy ratio to remember for pasta making is for every cup of plain flour to add 1 whole egg, a little salt and a tablespoon oil. Knead together. If too stiff add water a teaspoon at a time until the right consistency. Nettle pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce is one of my favourites.

  • Yvonne December 17, 2015, 12:42 am

    It’s so good to see you back posting again.

    I use my Aldi pasta machine regularly and it’s great. I find an easy ratio to remember for pasta making is for every cup of plain flour to add 1 whole egg, a little salt and a tablespoon oil. Knead together. If too stiff add water a teaspoon at a time until the right consistency. Nettle pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce is one of my favourites.

  • Meg December 17, 2015, 6:00 pm

    I ended up with plain lemon rind, garlic. The next night I added anchovies and olives, red onion, red pepper….You’re right, tomato didn’t attract me and now I know why. The spelt flour (wholemeal was all I had) was dryish but that made it easy to work with. I used some of my chilli oil rather than plain olive…(chilli from freezer into olive oil about a month ago).

    I’m in Adelaide, and I’m not sure how quickly I could get a starter from you…next day delivery bag? But not in this heat (42 degrees here today…the chooks have the fountain running, bushes to sit under, but insist on standing on the concrete next to the house, so I keep wetting the concrete…)…next time we are in NSW (we visit Laurieton regularly) make the trip further?

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