Make or Buy? Dried, Fresh Gourmet, and Homemade Pasta

We rely on dried pasta from the store for the majority of our pasta dishes, saving the homemade version for special occasions and dinner parties. But fresh pasta is so good! Could it be easier to whip up on a weeknight than we think?

Putting dried pasta from the grocery store up against fresh pasta made at home really isn't a fair comparison, so we thought we'd make this one a three-way contest. We'll keep the dried pasta since that's what most of us cook most often, but add in fresh (or freshly frozen) pasta bought at a gourmet shop. Our favorite comes from Dave's Fresh Pasta in Davis Square outside of Boston, and their prices seem both reasonable and representative.

Find It! Dave's Fresh Pasta in Davis Square, Somerville, MA

For the dried pasta, we'll use Barilla-brand linguine. For the homemade pasta, we'll follow our recipe for three-egg fresh pasta (recipe available here). All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery. In the homemade cost, we don't account for the cost of salt or other typical pantry staples.

COST BREAKDOWN

Based on our subjective experience, a pound of dried pasta gives us roughly eight servings and a pound of fresh pasta gives us about four.

Barilla Pasta Linguine
TOTAL: $1.49
PER SERVING: $0.19

Dave's Pasta Fresh Egg Pasta
TOTAL: $3.75/pound
PER SERVING: $0.94

Homemade Pasta
2 cups flour: $0.38
1/2 teaspoon salt: $0.00
3 eggs: $0.55
Makes about a pound of pasta

TOTAL: $0.93
PER SERVING: $0.23

TIME BREAKDOWN

Barilla Pasta Linguine: Prep Time - 0 minutes; Cook Time - about 9 minutes

Dave's Pasta Fresh Egg Pasta: Prep Time - 0 minutes; Cook Time - about 3 minutes

Homemade Pasta: Active Prep Time - about 20 minutes; Total Prep Time - about 50 minutes; Cook Time - about 3 minutes

CONVENIENCE

No matter which way you cut it, making homemade pasta takes a bit of time. It's not the kind of thing we are every likely to make on a weeknight after a long day of work. But if we have a little extra time - if we're not quite so starving or maybe on a weekend evening - making our own pasta is totally doable.

Also remember that fresh pasta freezes very well, so it's very possible to make a big batch every few weeks and freeze portions for quick weeknight meals.

TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS

Fresh pasta, either homemade or bought in a gourmet store like Dave's Pasta, is really incredible stuff. It's chewy and soft. Sauce clings to it, making every bite flavorful. The majority of dried pasta just pales in comparison.

You'll find similar ingredients in both fresh and dried pasta (except for the eggs). As with any do-it-yourself cooking project, the advantage of making your own pasta is that you have control over the exact ingredients going into your pasta: free-range eggs, higher-quality flour, and so on.

MAKE OR BUY?

If cost weren't an issue, we'd probably buy batches of gourmet fresh pasta and freeze them for all our weeknight meals and dinner parties. This would be the best of both worlds, both convenient and super tasty. But, alas, we can usually only afford to buy fresh pasta on special occasions.

It would be an interesting experiment to commit, for just a few weeks, to making big batches of homemade pasta and freezing it in portions to see how convenient this ends up feeling. If we can make enough in one afternoon to see us through a month of pasta dishes, that might give it an edge over dried pasta.

OUR VERDICT: For the time being, dried pasta will continue to rule the weeknights and homemade pasta can have the weekends.

Do you make and freeze your own pasta for weeknight meals? Or do you rely on dry pasta for most meals?

Related: Make or Buy? Crackers

(Images: Peapod and Faith Durand)

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