Fresh pasta, homemade noodles, stirred into soup, smothered with butter, or covered with chicken and gravy. This is my comfort food.
Growing up, we didn’t have homemade noodles. I think most kids raised in the ‘Burbs in the 60’s and 70’s (and probably much later, but I was already “grown up” by then, though I do use that term quite loosely) figured Wonderbread and Spagettios and any convenience foods were among the finer things in life. I’ve since been exposed to good old fashioned country cooking. It’s true, it does take a little longer to make your own bread, noodles, etc. rather than rip open a cellophane bag. But I’d rather take the time to knead dough, rather than jumping in a car to make a quick trip to the grocery store several times a week. Anyway, up here, there are no quick trips to town. It’s a day, often a two day, ordeal. I imagine at the end of the day, the “convenience” foods don’t save that much time, or money (which for most of us, still translates to time, doesn’t it?).
Whatever your reason or excuse to make Homemade, try to come up with a good one. It’s worth it. There really is no comparison between fresh and the old store bought bags. It’s like trying to rate a home grown, vine ripened tomato against one you got from the grocery store. You know the difference.
I thought making noodles would be really difficult, but it is so easy. They take minimal time to prepare, use a bare minimum of staple ingredients, and the result is incomparable to “store bought.” I still buy packaged noodles and keep them on hand for quick fixes and casseroles. They are pretty cheap. But they are just not as good.
Here’s a basic recipe for egg noodles. Depending on how you cut them, this recipe can be used for spaghetti, linguini or fettuccini, wide lasagna noodles, and broad noodles for soups or to be cooked in broth then smothered with gravy.
There are no big secrets here, no fancy tricks of the trade. I make the dough a couple hours ahead of time, keep it tightly covered with plastic wrap for one hour, then roll it out on a lightly floured surface as thin as I can get it with my rolling pin. I have a nifty pasta press/cutter. I love it, and for really fine stuff like spaghetti and angle hair, it’s worth using because it can get the dough finer and more even than I can with my rolling pin. Problem is, it makes a big mess, and often times it is easier to have a second person (Forrest to the rescue!) crank the wheel while I feed the dough. For the most part, rolling in out on the counter is easier, creates no more mess than making bread, and the results work just fine for our tastes and needs.
Here’s the one trick I can share: for cutting the noodles, I use a pizza wheel. I’m rarely very particular about exact size, so I can just roll the wheel back and forth, slowly inching my way across the dough, and with each pass, slice another row of noodles…
So, are you ready? It’s really easy, I hope I have not made it sound like a big deal, because it is not.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
An eggshell of water, more or less
In a bowl, mix together the flour and salt with a fork. Crack in the eggs and mix well, again with your fork. Work the fork to make sure the egg is evenly distributed in the flour. Then slowly add water, just enough to make a firm dough. You can start with your fork, then switch to your hands. The dough should be smooth, not sticky. Knead it for a minute or two into a small, tight ball. If it’s sticky, and a bit more flour; and if it’s too dry, a little more water. Cover this ball tightly with plastic wrap. It will not rise like bread. Let it sit for about an hour.
Then remove the plastic wrap and roll the dough out on a floured surface. You don’t want to use so much flour that it dries out the dough, but do make sure you have a good dusting of flour beneath your dough and on top of the counter so the dough does not stick. Before cutting the noodles, I let the dough sit out for another half or full hour, if I can wait. This dries the dough out just enough to help keep it firm when you cut it, and also helps “unstick” it from the counter top.
So, after a little wait, I use my pizza wheel to cut the desired sizes and shapes. Again, if you wait a half hour or so for the cut noodles to dry out, they will be easier to handle, but I rarely wait, and it works just fine. I use a lightly floured spatula to gently lift and remove the noodles from the counter. You can throw the noodles right into your soup or broth or boiling water. Stir them occasionally so they don’t stick together. Up in this elevation, no matter how thin I cut them, they do take between 5-10 minutes, and longer, to cook. In lower elevations, I’d guess you’d need less time. I don’t find they get as soft and mushy as store bought noodles do if you over cook them, but they are tough and chewy if you under cook them. So keep an eye on them while cooking, and test for doneness.
If you’re using these noodles for lasagna, you do not need to pre-cook. And if you make more than you need for your recipe, or want to make them ahead of time to keep on hand, they dry wonderfully. This recipe makes probably enough for four hearty, generously sized servings. For our family of three, I usually only throw in 2/3 or ¾ of the cut noodles into the pot. The rest I leave out on the counter for an extra hour or so to dry out a little more, then pile the noodles loosely in a zip lock bag, take out most of the air, and keep them stored on the freezer door. Then I can through them into soups, broth, etc. whenever I want.
Hope you try and enjoy!
(Sorry, no pictures of the final product, the flash on my camera suddenly died, though it was mighty tasty chicken and noodle soup last night…)