A Very Cheap, Completely Homemade Meal Even Beginners Can Do

cookingI really like eating pasta with meat and tomato sauce on top. I’ve discovered over time that I can literally make the entire meal at home from scratch (including the pasta!) and it only costs a dollar or two to feed the entire family. Even better, a person who prepares this for a date can really impress – just casually mention that the pasta was made from scratch. Here’s all you have to do.

What you need
4 cups flour
8 eggs
2 pounds tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced (just cut it into near-paste)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground beef or Italian sausage

You’ll also need a blender and a strainer with small enough holes so that tomato seeds won’t pass through it. A rolling pin is also needed.

Make the pasta Take the four cups of flour and pour it in a pile on the countertop. Make an indentation in the top of it so that the pile looks like a cup. Crack all eight eggs into the indentation. Mix this all together until it gets elastic and sticky throughout. Sit it off to the side and let it rest for half an hour. You can also color it if you like – add a couple teaspoons of your tomato sauce (made in the next step) to make some nice red-orange colored pasta.

Make the sauce Rinse the tomatoes off. Cut off the skin off of each. Put the tomatoes in a blender and puree them for just a bit so that it’s very juicy and pulpy. Run this through the strainer, and squeeze the pulpy part so that as much thick juice comes through the other side as possible without any seeds going through.

Cook the meat while putting the juice on to a boil. Before it reaches boiling, add the onion, the green pepper, the garlic mince, the oregano, and the salt to the juice. When the meat is finished, add it to the sauce and let it simmer.

Cook the pasta Toss a bit of flour on the table and roll the pasta dough out as flat as you’d like (I like it quite flat) and cut it into strips, whatever dimensions you like. You can also cut it into squares … let your imagination run wild with it. If you roll it really flat, you may have to roll only parts of it at a time.

Start a pot full of boiling water with a few healthy dashes of salt in it and a drop or two of vegetable oil (optional, but it helps with sticking). When the pasta is all cut up, pour it in and let it boil until it begins to float (about five minutes or so).

Put some pasta on a plate, put some sauce on top, and serve. Delicious pasta made completely from scratch in your own kitchen without that much work – and even better, it produces a big hearty meal for not much money.

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  1. Wow. Who knew you could make fresh pasta so effortlessly? I always thought that you’d need yeast to make it rise, like bread. Man, was I wrong!

  2. mary says:

    Cool article but I take exception that it would cost $1 (or even $2) to make this. I think it would cost about a dollar just to buy the tomatoes!

  3. briana says:

    My husband and I tried to make the pasta last night, and it was a miserable failure! The dough was far too sticky and made a huge mess. Any ideas on what we did wrong? Can you revise or update to add any missing steps or tips on how to correct if the dough is too sticky?

  4. Trent Trent says:

    I typically grow my own tomatoes, so honestly I have little idea what grocery stores charge for them.

    As for “sticky” dough, once the dough is made and you’re about to roll it, keep adding flour to the surface of the dough pile. If it sticks to your pin, stop and cover it with more flour. You almost can’t overdo it.

  5. Thoglette says:

    The dough was far too sticky and made a huge mess.

    As stated, add more flour! Eggs and flour are always variable, and recipes are just a starting point.

    I’ll add few more comments
    a) fresh pasta swells up a lot when cooked.
    b) fresh pasta cooks very, very quickly – have your sauce ready to rock and roll
    c) you don’t need a pasta machine – use a piece of dowel to roll really thin. Dust with flour, roll up and slice into thin ribbons.

    Again, practice makes perfect (sorry!) Or just had form little “cups” around the dowel or a finger – pasta pesano!

    On tomatos – these are a seasonal vegetable. Buy when cheap and pleantiful! They are best, vine ripened and warm from your garden or balcony. With basil.

    If they need skinning, drop in boiling water for about 10 seconds – this loosens the skins.

    If you have no tomatos (canned or fresh) just dress your pasta with good (cannot emphasise this enough) olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper.
    Dump the drained pasta into a skillet in which the oil etc has been heated. A touch of chilli or sausage is allowed! Add shaved hard vintage cheese (pecorino etc)

    If you’re in a dairy area, use browned butter with sage or cream and bacon. Yum!

    I’ll add another dish – cheaters’ gnocci. Mash cooked potatos with enough flour to make a dough. Roll into a long thick pencil shape, slice into segments, press with fork (for tradition) and cook in boiling water until they float.

    Das Thog

  6. gabe says:

    The oil in the water actually does very little to keep the pasta from sticking (cause it’s not really an issue). But, rather, it keeps the bubbles (formed by the starch in the flour and the water) from piling up on one another and “boiling over.” This is only really an issue when too small of a pan is used (which I almost always use).

  7. matt says:

    I agree about the oil comment above, plus adding oil has a negative effect on the sauce sticking to the pasta! it’s almost always better to drain your pasta, run cool water over it to prevent further cooking, and then warm the sauce and pasta together on the stove.

  8. Gayle says:

    I’d like to shop with you Trent. By my calculations it is at least a $7 meal if you just figure $3 for the meat and $4 for the tomatoes not to mention the other ingredients. The fact that flour eggs onions etc is probably already in the house does not make it free. And Farmer’s market prices and store prices around here are roughly equal, the difference being in the quality. Of course feeding 4 people for $7-8 is better than 1 person at a restaurant.

  9. Jon says:

    This looks like a nice recipe. I’ve been pondering how hard it would be to make home-made pasta, and it looks pretty easy.

    I’ve started rinsing my noodles in cold water after they cook and that works very well to prevent them from becoming sticky.

  10. Sarah says:

    We loved the sauce – nice and simple. When tomatoes came into season, I doubled the recipe and wanted to freeze some; but we ate it all in a couple of days (on store-bought pasta). I need to try again before the tomatoes disappear from the farm stand.

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