I did it! I made pasta from scratch in class today and honestly – it wasn’t that hard or tricky. After these upcoming classes of Italian food and pasta making (per our instructor we will make pasta practically everyday of the Italian section) I am hoping to perfect the process. It only took this one class to give me the confidence to make pasta at home. If you want to make it at home, I highly recommend you either have a friend demo or find video on the Internet that will show you the process. Technique is important, but easy to learn.
In traditional Italian cooking, the difference between fresh and dry pasta is simple. Dry pasta is made from flour, water, and salt. After the dough is made and pasta cut – the pasta is hung on drying racks until all the moisture has evaporated. Drying pasta was originally more popular in Southern Italy, where it is warmer, to prevent spoilage and extend shelf life. Fresh pasta, more popular in colder Northern Italy, uses eggs instead of water to moisten the flour and make dough. After the dough is rolled and shapes are cut, this pasta must be refrigerated or used immediately since the raw egg can spoil. There are exceptions to the rule, like the dried egg noodles you find on supermarket shelves today.
There is a common misconception in the United States that fresh egg pasta is superior to dried Italian semolina pasta. There are some parts of Italy that have no fresh pasta tradition at all, and pasta is always made with flour, salt and water only. What is true, is that certain sauces compliment certain types of pastas. In Italy, a general rule is that smooth sauces are served with long pasta, and pastas with indentations or holes compliment sauces with solid bits of vegetables or meat in them. However, there are exceptions to the rule. When all else fails, remember that regional cooking plays a big role in Italian cuisine. Select a pasta type and sauce from the same region. Remember, preference is purely subjective.
Nutrition Facts: Cooked, 1 cup serving
Homemade Fresh Pasta vs. Dry Pasta
- Calories: 184 – 224
- Protein: 7.5 gm – 8.2 gm
- Total Fat: 2.5 gm – 1.3 gm
- Saturated Fat: 0.6 gm – 0.2 gm
- Cholesterol: 58 mg – 0 mg
- Total Carb: 33 gm – 43.8 gm
- Sodium: 118 mg – 1 mg
- Fiber: 2.8 gm – 2.6 gm
Note: This comparison is with white pasta, not wheat. More to come later on whole wheat pasta.
The Good: Pasta is a good source of Thiamin, Folate, Manganese and Selenium. Store-bought dry pastas have these nutrients in an even higher amount due to enrichment. Homemade pasta using grass-fed omega 3 enriched eggs can up the nutritional value even more. All pasta is low is total fat and saturated fat. Dry pasta is low in sodium and cholesterol. Fresh pasta is lower in carbohydrate and calories per cup after cooking than dry pasta.
The Bad: Homemade fresh pasta with egg is higher in cholesterol and sodium than dry pasta. It also has 1 gram additional of total fat. We all know the other bad – alfredo sauce (yikes!).
Dry pasta is the healthier option if you are watching your cholesterol and sodium intake. However, you could half or quarter the sodium in homemade pasta recipes to cut the amount to a reasonable level. Interestingly, fresh homemade pasta is lower in calories and carbs cup for cup when cooked and would be better if you are diabetic or watching calories. At the end of the day, the amount of cholesterol here is negligible if you make pasta night meat-free since proteins are the primary source of cholesterol in most diets.
Pasta on its own is a low fat, healthy carbohydrate. The foul is when pasta is loaded up with sauces that are high in sodium and/or fat. Other additions to pasta like ground meat and sausage have the potential to add significant amounts of sodium, cholesterol and fat. Keep pasta simple and healthy by tossing it with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, steamed or roasted vegetables, and grating a small amount of Parmesan Reggiano on for flavor. Or use a moderate amount of lean protein and a basic homemade tomato sauce (jar tomato sauce can be loaded with sodium and sugar). A little adornment can go a long way. Italians focus on using the freshest, seasonal ingredients and simple combinations to highlight those ingredients. This maximizes flavor and minimizes calories. Recipes to come soon.