As with pretty much every food purchase I make, it's all about the packaging. Before heading down the plastic free path my purchasing decisions were based on where the food came from, was it organic, did it contain sugar? Let me tell you there was a lot of putting it back on the shelf, especially in the sugar department.
Nowadays my first decision starts with whether the packaging contains plastic or not? Sometimes I have to make a choice — do I purchase it, do I go without, or is it possible to make it myself?
For the most part I will simply refuse but when it comes to pasta I can choose to make it myself, or I can choose packaged pasta.
I tend to chose both as reality is time doesn't always allow for the DIY option. So when purchasing pasta I pick the pasta that comes in a cardboard box. I had been buying one particular brand for years. The reason for choosing that brand was solely based on it being the only brand available that was packaged in cardboard. To my dismay, about a year ago I went to purchase this pasta only to find they had now installed a plastic window on the box! Why, why, why, ? Surely the pictures on the outside was enough to let consumers know what was in the box.
The plastic window tipped me over the edge, it was time to learn how to make fresh pasta.
It might be difficult to find pasta that's not packaged in plastic, but every Italian knows it's not difficult to make fresh pasta. Making your own fresh pasta requires just two ingredients, a bit of muscle to knead the dough, and a little extra time than if you were cooking store bought pasta. You might also want to invest in a small manual pasta maker, not essential but definitely cuts down the work and is loads of fun!
Let's be honest, I wouldn't consider myself to be the best pasta maker, however knowing how easy it is to make, and having tasted the difference between fresh and packaged pasta, when time permits I'll always opt for fresh.
As with almost every meal that's homemade the taste of homemade pasta will have you saying no to pasta in plastic packaging and yes to fresh pasta.
Pasta always seemed like it was a really difficult thing to make so I decided to take a pasta cooking lesson. Do you need to take a cooking lesson to learn to cook pasta? Probably not, but it does help you on your way to making the best, freshest pasta you can!
Now back to the plastic, while at this cooking lesson the thing that stuck with me the most, was the instruction to wrap your dough in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for twenty minutes. I did so reluctantly. I was in a cooking lesson after all, so I was obligated to follow the rules. 😁
However when I made my first batch of pasta at home, I thought: "Italian's have been making pasta long before cling wrap was invented and long before we had fridges, surely this step is not necessary."
The whole reason I wanted to make my own was to reduce plastic, and now I'm being told to wrap my dough in plastic. Kinda defeats the point.
Being one that is not typically defeated, I tried placing the dough in a bowl, covering it and placing in the fridge. From recollection this wasn't great. I tried wrapping in a beeswax wrap and placing in the fridge. The beeswax wrap worked, but you will end up with dough on the wrap so it'll need a good clean afterwards. I've now found an ever better solution. Using cling wrap on the condition that it's compostable cling wrap. And most importantly . . . make sure that cling wrap ends up in the compost. As I always say:
"It won't compost it if you don't compost it."
The pasta recipe below is solid. It doesn't require any changes, and the steps should be followed closely. However, when making the accompanying tomato sauce, feel free to either make your own sauce, or change it up at will. Truth is, when I'm making pasta sauce it's a matter of what's in the garden, what's in the fridge that needs to be eaten and what can I add to spice things up.
As mentioned previously I learnt my pasta cooking skills at a cooking school. And, our instructor was kind enough to share the recipe she was given whilst living in Italy. I've cheekily and shared it with you below!
But before you get started I should mention a few tips we were given: 1. Use a strong flour and 2. Don't use eggs that have been taken straight out of the fridge. The eggs should be at room temperature. 3. You don't need to add the spinach, this recipe is the same as making regular pasta, the spinach makes a great colour and uses up any spinach you might have in the garden.
I should also note that I didn't use regular spinach in this recipe because it doesn't grow in Far North Queensland, so instead I used Brazilian Spinach, which I have an abundance of. I'm sure silverbeet would work well too, though I've not tried it.
Now I am pretty sure that a good Italian cook would want to make their pasta sauce first, let it simmer for the day to intensify the flavour and allow it to reduce. For me, I'm simply trying to whip together a quick dinner and I don't have time for that. So my pasta sauce making consists of adding fresh tomatoes, green onions, roasted red peppers (which I have made and stored in the fridge), a spoon full of homemade paprika (pretty sure I add this to everything because it's so damn good) and fresh herbs from the garden. All the ingredients are placed in my trusty Ninja, pureed and instant pasta sauce. No skinning tomatoes, no chopping (ok if you're adding garlic you might want to give that a quick chop first). It's then just a click of the button wait for it to puree and you'll have an fresh, delicious pasta sauce.
Add the sauce to a small pot to heat and it's ready in an instant. You could also do the sauce first which would give it time to reduce. However, if you're like me the sauce tends to be an after thought and after spending time making pasta all you want to do is pop it in the water to boil and eat your meal.
I did say that I'm not the best pasta maker in the world, for me it's simply a means of avoiding plastic and eating fresh food!
Now that you're ready to take the next step and eliminate more plastic from your kitchen enjoy the pasta recipe below. And remember the more you make pasta, the more of a pasta master you become!
SPINACH PASTA (WITHOUT THE PLASTIC PACKAGING)
prep time: 35 minutes
cook time: 10 minutes
total time: 45 minutes
- 200g flour (approx 1 1/2 cups)
- 2 large eggs (kept at room temperature)
- 1/2 cup of blanched fresh chopped spinach*
Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
- 4 - 6 fresh tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 fresh green onions
- 1 roasted or 1 medium fresh red pepper
- 1 teaspoon of fresh paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
* This can be any variety of spinach, if you don't have fresh you can buy frozen, just make sure there's no plastic inside the packaging, is so choose to refuse the plastic and make your pasta without the spinach.
- Place your flour on a clean surface.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour.
- Crack your eggs and add them into the well of the flour.
- Using a fork, break up the eggs and bring in the flour.
- Once you have enough dough to work with your hand, knead the dough until it becomes smooth, silky and elastic and the surface you are working on becomes clean.
- Wrap the dough in (compostable) cling wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Divide the dough into four piece. Use one piece at a time and keep the rest covered while you're rolling out your dough.
- Flatten the dough with your hands and shape into a rectangle. If using a pasta machine run the dough through the machine on the thickest setting of the machine.
- Fold the dough in half, and repeat the process several times reducing the pasta setting each time.
- Before adding reducing the setting you may want to dust the pasta sheet first, this will allow it to run through the machine without getting stuck.
- Once your pasta dough is ready run the pasta through the other side of the machine to make your spaghetti or fettuccine.
- Hang on pasta rack and repeat the steps 8 to 11 above using all four of the dough balls.
- Cook pasta in boiling water.
Tomato Sauce Instructions:
- Add all ingredients to a Ninja or similar blender and puree.
- Place sauce in a saucepan and simmer until sauce has reduced.
Author Bio - Catherine Anne Earle
Thanks for reading. I'm Cathy the founder of EORTH Australia, an online store that stocks only plastic free products.
I started EORTH after participating in a Plastic Free July many years ago. A few days into the Plastic Free July challenge I soon became aware of just how damaging plastics were to the environment, and although I was conscious of my consumer choices, products packaged in single use plastic and household products from of plastic materials were still very high on my list of purchases.
After lengthy searches for alternatives to plastic products I soon realised that there were a lot of eco stores that sold some plastic free products, but very few really got down to the heart of the plastics issues and said a big hard "no" to selling products that contained plastics — and that is exactly what EORTH is all about.
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Management and was the owner and founder of Sun Peaks Independent News, a community newspaper based in British Columbia, Canada.
After moving back to Australia several years ago I now reside in Palm Cove a beachside suburb in my hometown of Cairns — the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.