Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
May 1, 2012 04:01 AM

Boxed Pasta vs. Homemade

As per usual I always have the odd thought or two before falling asleep.

Am I missing out on good pasta by being content to throw in store bought pasta? Or would taking the time to make my own be worth it? Any thoughts appreciated.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think it depends on what you're making.
    For some things fresh pasta is waaaay better. For some things, I think dry pasta is actually the way to go.
    Macella Hazan's lasagna is all about showcasing the fresh pasta. So are things like tagliatelle and ravioli.
    But if you're making pasta with olive oil and garlic or carbonara, then I think it works best to go with dry boxed pasta. Similarly, I think fresh pasta would be wasted on a typical American lasagna that's all about the filling.
    I actually saw a list somewhere where they broke down the kinds of pastas that work best for various kinds of dishes. Maybe in CI's pasta bible?
    I've been learning to make fresh pasta and I love it, but it takes some time and some patience and you have to know going in that it's probably not going to turn out right the first time. I highly recommend getting some 00 flour if you do... it vastly improves the texture.

    5 Replies
    1. re: overthinkit

      I appreciate this information. I have wanted to try to make my own pasta for some time now but haven't set aside an evening.

      There is content in one of Lynn Rosetto Casper's (sp?) about when boxes pasta is "good enough" but I can't remember which one.

      1. re: cleobeach

        I'd say there are even times when dried pasta is the way to go. For example, ever time I have leftover short ribs, I make a pasta dish using shredded meat. I would never want that with fresh pasta, since I want the pasta to be good and al dente to support that hefty sauce. Meanwhile, one of the best things about homemade pasta is its daintiness and smoothness, and the ability to make filled pastas to your whim.

        1. re: katecm

          In my experience, I've found it easiest to achieve the perfect al dente texture using homemade all-semolina flour pasta rolled to 7 (on my hand-cranked pasta machine that goes to 9). This results in pasta that's very forgiving at cooking time, much more so than store-bought dried pasta.

          Using AP flour results in a silkier, softer pasta, but you forgo the al dente texture. It's all in the flour.

        2. re: cleobeach

          "There is content in one of Lynn Rosetto Casper's (sp?) about when boxes pasta is "good enough" "


          this is the kind of remark that can send certain types of home cooks into fits. fresh pasta is for good for specific applications, but good quality dried pasta is best for others.

          i have made pasta a few times and while the outcome was excellent, i feel it's not worth the mess and the time. i can buy excellent fresh pasta sheets when i want them and will spend the little bit extra for good dried stuff.

        3. If you are talking about dried egg noodles vs fresh egg pasta, then you will certainly see a difference and it can matter in some dishes as overthinkit suggested. But if you're talking about dried non-egg pasta, your basic spaghetti, penne etc, they are not only dry but egg free which gives them a different flavor and texture. They are the standard choice for many dishes and often it will be specified. (For example, I make a creamy 4 cheese baked dish that uses either shells or penne--if I made it with egg noodles (fresh or dry) it would not work as well.)

          1. I have never made pasta. I assume making it will taste better. I, however, am not going to mess with making pasta. It isn't worth the time and mess to me.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Hank Hanover

              I recently started making homemade pasta. It takes at least 1 hr. I found out that surprisingly, the greatest benefit is being able to flavor the pasta dough with herbs, etc. Now I am hooked!

              Sure it sounds like a long process, but when you make extra pasta noodles to freeze, it really pays off. You end up with a whole stock that you can take out any time and just cook easily.

            2. One is not meant to be a replacement for the other - different ingredients for different applications. With exception, I tend to see olive oil based sauces together with store-bought pasta, and butter based sauces to not overwhelm the delicacy of homemade fresh pastas.

              I agree with the comments from overthinkit and katecm.

              4 Replies
                1. re: nasv

                  Agreed that one is not a replacement for the other, but to use the "elitist" mindthink that any type of sauce is more designed for store bought pasta is an utter fallacy. Pesto is pretty much olive oil based, and like butter, utterly delectable over home made pasta. ANY sauce goes with home made pasta, it's the SHAPE of the pasta that determines which sauce you pair it with.

                  Store bought pasta was and is created for long term storage, little more. With the exception of extruded tubular pasta, almost any shape of pasta you see in a box, you can make at home by hand (with some time and effort, of course).

                  Homemade pasta is about as easy as it gets, folks. 3/4 cup flour, 1 egg, and a few tablespoons of milk or water, mixed together, cover and let rest 1/2 hour, flour your cutting board or counter, then roll it out about the thickness of quarter, cut it , and boil it in salted water for about 8-10 minutes (less if you roll it paper thin, then only 3-4 minutes).
                  Serve it with butter or olive oil, a sprinkling of pepper or cheese, and enjoy.

                  Heavier sauces, like tomato or meat take a bit longer, because you need to shape the pasta, like orichetti shells, or cavatelli ridged shells, to give the sauce something to hold on to. It takes about an hour to an hour and a half, including resting time, but the taste and texture is well worth the extra few minutes...

                  But in Italy, people would think you're crazy in the head to prefer boxed pasta to fresh anytime...

                  1. re: MoziCat

                    Fresh pasta can be wonderful, but I don't prefer it every time. I like the firm texture of a dried spaghetti that is quite different from what I create by hand. Both great, but for some dishes I find the dried to be superior.

                    1. re: escondido123

                      i haven't had a lot of homemade pasta but the texture seems different, softer, maybe because of the flour? and its not just from the faster cooking time. factories have access to oddball flours and semolina that most households don't.

                2. As others have said, they're different, not one better than another. If you want a pasta w/ a bite that holds sauce, use dried. If you want smooth silkier (for lack of a better word), go w/ fresh. FWIW, I love home made pasta, once spent a day making enough for 25 some people. None of them noticed. I haven't bothered making it from scratch for them again since they like the box just as much. So, it might not be worth it to you.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chowser

                    I'm sorry to hear, that can hurt. At least you made it and know how to if you want to make it for more deserving crowd.

                    1. re: Crockett67

                      Thanks. And, I also know how much work it is to do for that many people so I can judge accordingly. I have done home made lasagna, all from scratch, for that many people who have loved it (or were kind enough to say they did...). Live and learn.