Cruising the grocery store isles, I frequently see shelves loaded with bags and boxes of countless types of pasta. An interested shopper could spend half an hour perusing the options. Even someone with less than a dollar can find something as long as they had a few pennies to pay the tax. Pasta is cheap.
The cheap pasta, however, can be doughy and easily overcooks, resulting in an insipid, squishy mess that is only fit for the dog's dish or the compost bucket.
Higher quality pastas are a terrific choice, but can be expensive, with a high carbon footprint- most having been transported from Italy, where all pastas originated hundreds of years ago. Thankfully, there is another way.
Make your own.
I can hear the collective gasps. I know. It's a bit of a chore, admittedly. But if you are organized and committed, you can produce pounds of high quality, nutritional noodles with 0 carbon footprint, that will provide your family with many, many meals.
Step one: Clean.
Yes yes... they never clean on the Food Network. Remember- Food Network is a wealthy behemoth with countless eager minions behind the scenes scrubbing and sanitizing. Even if you don't see the cleaning, you can be sure it's happening. Making pasta will put you -and the pasta- into close contact with nearly every horizontal surface in your kitchen, so unless you want dog hair and dead fruit flies in your dinner, wipe down and scrub everything.
Step two: Make friends with your pasta machine.
Step Three: Prepare your kitchen.
Making pasta is much more fun when everything is laid out ahead of time. Set out a sheet pan covered with clean tea towels dusted with flour along with a container of "bench flour" for dusting worktops. Also, decide how you're going to dry your pasta. My kitchen, which is a refugee from 1934, has very little countertop space. So I choose to hang my pasta to dry it. I have a wooden drying rack in my shed where I dry everything from pantyhose to garlic. If you don't have a drying rack, you can use clothing hangers hung from doortops, backs of chairs, or edges of tables. Those with abundant counter real estate can pile their noodles into loose piles, or "nests", a handful of pasta in each nest. Just lay clean tea towels dusted with flour onto your work surfaces and drop your nests there to dry. Unless you live in the desert, you'll need to allow 24 hours to dry any pasta thoroughly.
Step Four: Clear your schedule.
To enjoy the process of making your own delicious pasta, try to carve out at least 3 hours to complete the job. I find that when I'm distracted and pulled away frequently, I end up frazzled and annoyed. Making your own quality food is your right. Own it. Give it the time it needs.
Step Five: Make your dough.
Remove the dough from the fridge and whack off a piece. Dust it with flour and pat it down as thin as you can, about 3/8", so the rollers have something to grab onto. Roll it several times through the largest setting, folding the dough once or twice. The dough will become smooth and elastic. Run the dough through each setting until you get to the thinnest setting. Lay it out on your prepared tray and dust it lightly with flour. Repeat these steps until you have either worked your way through the dough, or have made as much pasta as you like.
Allow the sheets of rolled dough to dry for 10 minutes or so, until they feel like fruit leather. Roll the ends towards each other. Slice the roll across in the widths you desire. I made Tagliatelle today, which is a "fatter" noodle. Don't worry if the edges are ragged or the ends are uneven. hand-made pasta is a luxury; it's ALL good! You can also use the sheets to make ravioli, or virtually any shape you want. Once you've cut the noodles, slip a long knife underneath and lift up. The noodles will fall over the knife and you only have to drape them onto their hanging rods.
This kind of pasta is delicate, so use care removing the dried noodles. Store in whatever clean bags
you have either in your pantry, or freezer. If you break, drop or otherwise shatter your pasta, fear not. Store those bits in a separate container and use them in soups and stews!
Not only does making your own pasta benefit your family's nutrition, it's also cheap! I made at least 4 meals worth of noodles for .50 worth of flour, and the eggs were free. So that's less than .15 per meal for the starch portion of your menu. That's pennies per serving.