Whenever I go out to an Italian restaurant, I avoid pasta like the plague. And it’s not a no-carbs diet thing; it’s an I-shouldn’t-order-restaurant-food-that-I-can-make-at-home thing.
However, I sometimes permit an exception where the pasta is homemade and there is something intriguing or unique about the ingredients or sauce. Those are the only things that make me feel justified slightly better about paying $15 to $25 for a dish that would only cost $5 for me to make at home.
But now that I’ve learned how easy and cheap it is to make your own pasta, I’m not sure I can order pasta at a restaurant ever again.
All you need is some flour, an egg, maybe some fun ingredients – like basil, spinach or sun-dried tomatoes – and an old school pasta-making machine that will pay for itself many times over.
At first, I thought that the manually powered machine might be tedious to use, but I found it to be relatively easy and quick to roll out and cut enough pasta to serve two to four people. And if you can enlist a kid or two, they’ll enjoy cranking dough through the machine and watching it flatten into a pancake and then magically cut into noodles.
And the best part about making pasta yourself, besides it being cheap and easy, is that you can choose what goes in it. In my case, I had purchased an incredibly large bunch of basil at the farmers’ market. Truly, it was closer in size to a bouquet of flowers. After making a batch of pesto and a caprese salad, I still hadn’t made a dent.
So I popped a hearty handful of basil leaves in the food processor, added some flour and an egg, and one minute later, I had pasta dough.
The recipe recommended letting the dough rest in the refrigerator for a couple hours before rolling it out, so I went for a run, showered up, applied for a few entry-level attorney positions, and made a trip to the market for some fresh tomatoes and summer squash to serve with the pasta.
When I returned to roll out the dough, the process became a million times easier once I realized I should divide the initial ball of dough into six segments to separately roll out and cut. Each of the chunks took about 5 spins through the roller to get it thin enough, and then went through the fettuccine cutter.
Then I let the cut pasta dry on a towel for an hour or so, boiled it for a couple minutes, and tossed with fresh tomatoes, lightly sauteed summer squash, fruity olive oil and a smidgen of salt.
Had I known that homemade pasta took only 20 minutes of legwork (3 minutes in the food processor; 17 minutes rolling out and cutting the dough) and still allowed me ample time to get errands, workouts and showers done (2 hours for me to nap the dough to rest; another hour for the cut noodles to dry out), I would have attempted this unfeatlike feat a long time ago.
And thank you, Aunt Yoyo, for passing down your pasta machine!
Basil-Flecked Pasta (adapted from All Recipes)
Original recipe says it serves 2; I say it serves 3 to 4
3/4 c. fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 1/2 c., plus 2 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
1 tsp. olive oil
3-5 Tbsp. water
In a food processor, chop basil until extremely fine. Add 1 1/2 c. flour, and pulse until combined, approximately three times. Add egg, oil, and 3 Tbsp. water, and pulse until ingredients form a dough ball. If dough seems too dry, add another Tbsp. of water, and pulse to combine.
Coat a bowl or piece of plastic wrap with a couple drops of oil. Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap or wrap dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Divide dough into sixths. Using additional flour to coat pasta lightly, run each ball of pasta through the machine or roll with a rolling pin. Continue until pasta has reached desired thinness. Cut pasta into fettuccine-sized noodles with machine or a butter knife.
Separate noodles slightly, and allow to dry on a towel or the counter for one hour.
In a large pot, boil water. Cook pasta until al dente, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
Toss with sauce and veggies of your choice.
If you must know, I sauteed 2 minced garlic cloves with some chopped summer squash in a large pan, added the cooked noodles, 1/4 c. pasta cooking water, 1 more minced raw garlic clove (I like the spicy zing it adds) and 5 campari tomatoes cut into wedges. After letting that all cook together for a minute, I transferred the pasta mixture to a plate, tossed in 1/4 c. of grated Parmesan, and topped it with some thin strips (a fancy person might call it a chiffonade) of fresh basil and a swirl of olive oil.