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Homemade Trials

The Homemade Trials: Pasta!

by Nick

I’ve been putting off doing this homemade trial for a while now, but I was making some fresh pasta over the weekend and figured I might as well put it through the trials. I’ve been delaying on it mostly because I’m pretty sure I know the results (I lose), but at the same time, I’ve been surprised by Homemade Trials before so I figured it was worth a shot.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Homemade Trials, I make a homemade version of a food and put it up against a few (three in this case) different store-bought versions in the categories of TIME, COST, NUTRITION, and TASTE and see who comes out on top!

Let’s dig in and see how I did!

The Line Up

fourpastas_550

It should be noted that I bought all of the pastas that I put in this trial from Whole Foods because that was where I happened to be shopping on this day. I figured this would mostly impact cost, but I still found a pound of spaghetti for about a buck which is the same as cheaper varieties.

Besides my homemade version, I bought the cheapest spaghetti I could find (store brand), an more upscale spaghetti from Italy, and a fresh pappardelle pasta. The fresh pasta is very close to homemade and it was what I was most worried about when it comes to taste.

My Homemade Version

This is about as simple as homemade pasta gets!

Yield
Serves 6.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Homemade Semolina Pasta

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces Semolina flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs

Helpful Equipment

Directions

1) Mix together salt and flour on a clean counter and make a well in the center of the flour mound.

2) Crack eggs and yolks into the center of the well.

3) Using a fork, slowly incorporate the eggs into the flour. Ideally, you'll do this slowly until you have a nice firm dough, but if the eggs escape the well, you can just stir everything together as well as possible.

4) Once the dough is together, start kneading it. It will be a pretty stiff dough. If it is cracking and not holding together, add some water to the dough, but it should be pretty stiff.

5) Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes until it's very smooth, but should be still on the firm side.

6) Cover the dough loosely and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

7) Divide dough into quarters and work with one quarter at a time. Run it through your pasta roller until it reached the desired thickness or you can carefully roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it's the desired thinness. It's very hard to get it as thin as a pasta press will.

8) Once it's rolled, cut the dough into your desired strips or shapes and toss them lightly with flour to keep the strands separated. Cook in salted boiling water until they float. It will take only a few minutes to cook.

Homemade pasta is kind of a lost art and it does take around two hours to do, but to be honest, it’s not as hard as you might imagine.

Basically, you just stir together the flour and salt and then make a well and crack your eggs into the center of the well.

Simple start.

Simple start.

Slowly incorporate the eggs into the flour with a fork until it forms a really sturdy dough. At some point you’ll have to use your hands to shape it into a ball and then you can start kneading it. It’ll be pretty tough to knead but do your best for a few minutes.

Then let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes so it can relax and then continue kneading for about 10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.

This takes some work.

This takes some work.

Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Then cut the dough into quarters and flour each quarter. Use a pasta roller to roll out your pasta to the desired thickness and cut it up!

Artsy pasta photo.

Artsy pasta photo.

That’s pretty much all there is to it! I made homemade pasta a few dozen times in my life now and it seriously gets easier every time I do it.

Anyway, let’s get down to the trials!

TIME

Obviously, my homemade version loses the time category. It takes a few hours to make and store-bought pasta takes minutes to boil. If you are getting really picky here, the fresh pappardelle actually wins because it takes just a few minutes to boil since it’s fresh. The dried pastas will take 10-12 minutes to boil.

In any event, time goes to store-bought!

COST

Screen shot 2013-09-28 at 11.08.07 AM

I was pretty sure I would lose this as well since I used quality eggs and good semolina flour. I wasn’t the worst though. The fresh pasta in the store is ridiculously expensive.

Dried spaghetti is about as cheap as it gets though so that’s the clear winner here.

NUTRITION

Screen shot 2013-09-28 at 11.22.26 AM

I wasn’t sure how nutrition would play out and I honestly thought it would be a tie. I wasn’t exactly right on that though. Nutritionally, there’s an argument for homemade pasta being the worst on the list since I used a lot of eggs which boosts the fat and cholesterol in the pasta. The other versions use water to make the pastas. Even the fresh store pasta uses a mix of egg and water.

For my version though, I like all eggs which makes for a really delicious and rich pasta. Honestly, I don’t think anything in the homemade pasta list is particularly bad for you, but if you are comparing, it’s probably the worst because of the fat, cholesterol, and sodium.

Homemade loses the nutrition category!

TASTE

Not rocket science.

Not rocket science.

Well, as expected, it doesn’t really matter how it tastes if you are just going by the categories. My homemade version is already 0-3.

But guess what… my homemade version killed it in the taste test. Here’s what I learned:

1) Don’t buy expensive spaghetti. There was literally no difference in taste that I could tell between the store brand and the 3x more expensive version.

2) I don’t love the fresh store pasta. I found it to be a bit on the thick side (in the purple bowl above). It wasn’t as flavorful or as tender as the homemade version and is really expensive.

3) Homemade pasta is freakin’ delicious.

CONCLUSION

I think this homemade trial played out about how I actually use pastas. Betsy and I eat pasta once a week probably and I almost always just get some sort of cheap dried pasta. I don’t find it worthwhile to make pasta a lot even though I know it’s really good.

To me, the time category is the most important. I use pasta as a fast meal and so that is more important than the nutrition, cost, or even taste.

But, if I do have the time or if I’m cooking for a special occasion, I love being able to make homemade pasta. It’s kind of a show-stopper and will elevate any pasta dish you make.

Does anyone disagree with this? Does anybody make large batches of fresh pasta and freeze it? Does anyone even make homemade pasta?!

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26 comments on “The Homemade Trials: Pasta!

  1. I am going to try this…i have had a pkg of semolina flour sitting next to my new kitchen aid stand mixer with pasta making attachments for months so maybe the procrastination will finally be over. just a question though…can freshly made pasta be frozen or refrigerated for later use and if so would there be any special instructions for doing so. thanks!

    1. Hey Ginny, fresh pasta keeps really well actually before cooking. After cooking, it breaks down kind of quickly.

      You can keep the fresh pasta in the fridge for a week or so in an airtight container or you can freeze it on a baking sheet in bunches (serving sizes) and then transfer the pasta to freezer bags (airtight) for longer storage. The frozen pasta will keep for months and you can just toss it in boiling water when you’re ready to make it!

  2. I love making homemade pasta. It is more work, but fun to do on a cold Sunday afternoon with the intrepid spouse. Paired with a great bottle of wine, it just can’t be beat.

  3. I recently started making homemade pasta again after getting the pasta attachment for my Kitchenaid stand mixer. As for taste test results from around my dinner table, hands down the best pasta they have ever had. After getting use to how to make pasta it’s very easy now (I was a pro the second attempt). So far I only make pasta the day I am going to eat it but it seems like uncooked pasta will hold up well in the Frig and freezer. I also usually eat pasta once a week.

    Where does everybody get the Semolina flour? I think the only place in the Chicago are to get it is from Whole Foods. This stuff seems to be a rare as gold!

    1. I’ve been using King Arthur “Perfect Pasta Flour Bend” (unbleached enriched flour, durum wheat and semolina). I make a 1/2 batch using just 1 1/2 C of the flour. This makes more than enough for 2 . I freeze the uncooked excess (not enough for a meal). After a couple times there’s enough. I can make a small batch in about an hour (including resting time).

      I use the Kitchenaid pasta attachments and spiral pasta drier.

  4. I’m in the same boat as you…cheap dried pasta on a regular basis for quick meals, but homemade pasta more rarely when I want to spend some time on an extra-delicious cooking project. I almost consider them different foods, because the flavor/texture is so different. The only ‘fresh’ pastas I splurge on in the store are filled ones (ravioli and tortellini). Those are even more time consuming/fussy to make at home, and I strongly prefer the fresh to dried or frozen versions.

  5. I make homemade pasta once in a while. The biggest thrill is the reaction of my kids! ” You made that?” “How does that work?” And then they love to eat it! I guess if it wasn’t a staple of my picky son’s diet, I’d make it every time we eat it. But making it every day is just too much.

  6. I think fresh homemade pasta wins hands down–when you want papperdelle or fettucini. I make it a lot, but with less eggs than you use, and my eggs are less expensive. I absolutely agree on the store-bought fresh pasta–insanely expensive and not that good tasting. I find 00 and semolina flour at our local Italian grocery/sandwich shop and each costs about a dollar a pound. For penne, spaghetti–I’m very happy with the 365 brand which costs about $1.29 per pound here in Annapolis, Maryland

  7. This was a helpful post! I have wondered… I make fresh pasta with some regularity in the winter months and maybe once or twice in the summer. I usually do it when I’m having good friends for dinner, the kind who like to get into the kitchen with you and participate. People love to run the pasta machine themselves if they aren’t the type to do it at home. There are a few special seasonal dishes that I make that I just can’t use store bought, though on a typical weeknight, cheap noodles are a staple. In the spring, it is Mandilli de Saea al Pesto with Peas (Silk handkerchiefs), http://ourwaytoeat.com/2012/06/24/mandilli-de-saea-al-pesto-with-peas/ In the summer it is fresh pasta with raw tomato sauce. Fall: Butternut Squash Ravioli and in the winter, fettuccine or papardelle with Bologonese. I’m really excited to try this pasta recipe from Amateur Gourmet: http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2013/09/pici-or-handmade-pasta-for-idiots.html

  8. I don’t make homemade often but it absolutely ROCKS in the awesomeness category. I’ve done fetuccini, spaghetti, and homemade butternut squash ravioli with sage brown butter sauce. Oh…my…goodness…!!!

  9. Nick, any tips as to how to make this without a pasta roller? I don’t have one and I ain’t gonna be buying one anytime soon…

    1. Hey Arielle,

      Absolutely. I’ve only done it a few times because it’s a serious pain in the butt, but you can just roll out the pasta with some flour, a rolling pin, and some elbow grease. You’ll be sweating though and you probably won’t be able to get it as thin as a pasta roller. Here’s a post where I tried it out by hand:
      http://www.macheesmo.com/2009/04/homemade-pasta/

      Good luck!

  10. Love making my own pasta….know exactly what’s in it! Semolina flour is easy to find even in western ND. My results freeze well and turn out tasty!

  11. I tried making my own pasta a couple times, using the kitchen aid attachment. Probably a slightly different recipe then yours, but I can’t quite remember. Honestly, I really couldn’t taste a big difference.

    My aunt makes all her own pasta, though she uses a recipe that doesn’t rise. She gets the water going and by the time it is boiling her pasta is ready to go in.

    I generally just consider the pasta a carrier for the sauce. I can’t think of any pasta I’ve had that I’ve wanted to eat just by its self, unlike a good bread.

  12. try using eggbeaters to get rid of calories and cholesterol.
    personally i dont care what the final cost is, i have made fresh pasta for 20 years and never resort to store bought unless we cook for a crowd at church or lodge.

  13. I make homemade pasta all the time. I make enough to freeze so I have it the next few times. I really would never eat store bought again if I always had time to make it.
    When I make chicken and dumplings I run the strip dumplings thru the roller and cutter and make enough of those to freeze too. Now I want fresh pasta.

  14. Nick, it seems to me that you are comparing two completely different groups of products here, one group consisting of what you could call lean pasta made just with flour/water and the other would be pasta enriched with a (substantial) amount of eggs.

    I am absolutely sure that homemade pasta is better than the store-bought fresh, but to compare it with lean pasta is just unfair in my opinion – they’re completely different products. For a close analogue I’d say it is like comparing ciabatta and a soft sandwich loaf – both are good, but hardly comparable.

  15. I only make my own pasta when I’m having friends over who love to cook, too, and will help with the rolling, etc. It ends up being a really fun group activity while we snack on cheese and wine, but for a night in it’s never worth it to me. People always find it really impressive to do the homemade stuff and if you’re already putting in some effort cooking for others, I think it’s totally worth it to go homemade.

    You might try a similar, but much more involved, homemade trial. I’ve heard (but never tested for myself) that lasagna with homemade noodles totally kills the store bought stuff. If I’m ever making lasagna, I always make the pasta myself, so I don’t know how a direct comparison would work out.

    Thanks for the fun post!

    1. Hey Sarah! I have made lasagna from scratch before with homemade noodles. It’s really delicious but is quite a process. I can also make a pretty mean lasagna with store-bought noodles and homemade sauce.
      This was my homemade lasagna test though: http://www.macheesmo.com/2011/04/homemade-lasagna/

      I didn’t compare it to store-bought varieties but the noodles were noticeably more tender and flavorful and crisped up nicely in the oven which I liked.

  16. I have to agree with Tadas here when I say I think the comparison isn’t quite fair or equal. I also would’ve liked to see you try this without a pasta roller machine.
    That said I have made homemade pasta. I’ve made our own spiral pasta, using a hand-cranked pasta machine, and I’ve made my own ravioli, which I roll out by hand.
    Time is definitely a factor. We’re a family of four, with the kids being currently 9 1/2 and 7 years old. Pasta is often a very last minute decision for dinner, and I agree with you that this is where store bought pasta wins hands-down.
    When we made the spiral pasta using the hand-cranked machine one thing that also went into it for us was simply cranking out the pasta. It really required some muscles to keep at it long enough to get an entire batch of pasta made.
    Once we did though, and after we made it and were eating it I noticed the biggest difference. Not just was the taste off the charts, but the portion sizes were far more realistic. Normally I can eat a big bowl of pasta, but with the homemade version I noticed that I felt far more full on far less pasta. It was simply much more filling.
    With portion sizes being so out of control in our society I think this is a significant point. Real food, homemade food, fills you up better than store bought.
    After reading Sarah’s comment, I definitely want to try making my own lasagna noodles this Winter.

  17. After tasting the difference between my instructor’s scratch made and the dried pasta, I prefer the fresh. I quit trying to do scratch-made pasta after I had an epic fail in my first culinary class…been thinking about getting back on the horse, now I might.

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