Eat Your Greens: Easy Handmade Spinach Pasta

Sometimes, as a threat, I tell my children that there were times, like maybe in the 1950s, when children weren’t even allowed INTO the kitchen.  They had to PLAY OUTSIDE until dinner was ready.  They did not ever get to help cook, and they CERTAINLY were not allowed to gambol about the cook’s feet or play frisbee with the tupperware lids to entertain the baby.  My children stare at me, slack-jawed and wide-eyed.  Being banned from the kitchen is as bad a fate as they can imagine.

In fact, many evenings when I head into the kitchen to start thinking about dinner, they beat me there, pulling their stepladders up to the counter.  “How can we help?”  They measure as we bake, pile cut veggies onto the tray to roast, push the buttons on the machines.  They find the pots, help set the table, and enthusiastically stir clouds of flour and glops of sauces right onto the floor.

So when my little chefs make a dinner request, I like to indulge them.  The other night my five year old requested stracci di pasta.  Actually, what she said, with a bordering-on-maniacal gleam in her eye, was “Mama, can we make that pasta where we get to cut it up by ourselves WITH A SHARP KNIFE?”  (Sharp knives–even not VERY sharp knives–are exciting to the preschool set.)  Indeed we could.

Homemade egg pasta is actually very easy if you have a pasta roller.  If you don’t, forget it, borrow a friend’s and then come back for the recipe.  We made ours with spinach both for the emerald color and because I want my kids to cook with and eat vegetables on purpose (as opposed to only hidden-in-their foods veggies, which seems to be a trend).  This recipe, like many of my favorites, started its life in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Fresh Spinach Pasta starts with two c. lightly packed spinach leaves blended with two eggs until liquid.  Mix 2 c. flour with 1/4 tsp. salt in a mixer/food processor/bowl then add the liquid while stirring or mixing on low speed.  The dough will be quite crumbly but if it is unworkably dry or sticky you can adjust with a spoonful of water or flour.  Turn out onto a cutting board and knead until smooth.  Cover and let rest 15 minutes.  Cut dough into 4-6 pieces and flatten each into a rough rectangle.  Set your pasta roller to the widest setting and roll the dough through, then fold in half or thirds and roll again to continue kneading the dough.  Do this a few times, then stop folding and start thinning out the dough by running it through the machine on progressively thinner settings.  When your pasta is suitably thin, repeat with remaining dough.  Let your kids cut the pasta into stracci (“little rags”), or fold it as shown and slice into noodles.  (If the pasta seems at all sticky, flour it lightly for this step.)  Pull apart into a pile of noodles and toss with a few pinches of flour to keep the noodles from sticking.  Cook in a boiling pot of salted water for a few minutes, tasting as you go (cooking time will depend on the thickness of your pasta).

We drained our pasta and tossed it into a pan of puttanesca-style sauce: olive oil, garlic, capers, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, and a few more handfuls of spinach.

34 thoughts on “Eat Your Greens: Easy Handmade Spinach Pasta

  1. ceciliag

    This is fantastic, firstly i have a pasta roller, love spinach and adore kids in the kitchen, mine were always cooking and have grown to be great cooks in their own homes.. good job!! c

    1. emmycooks Post author

      Oh good, I can’t wait for mine to turn into great cooks and cook for me! I feel like that might still be a few years off for me, though. When does it happen, around 7 or 8? ;-)

  2. kat

    SO EXCITED!! One of my resolutions is to learn how to make pasta!! Saving this for later! The green is just soooo pretty! Thanks so much for your recipe :)

    1. emmycooks Post author

      If you’re interested, you might ask around. I feel like these are the kinds of things that are hiding unused in people’s basements, along with that still-wrapped fondue set from the wedding.

  3. baconbiscuit212

    I wish I had a pasta roller :-(

    But I love this recipe. And I love how you kept the sauce simple.

    But what I really love? That you have raised kids who will eat garlic, capers, and red pepper flakes. Bravo! The only thing kids should be picky about it quality!

    1. emmycooks Post author

      Oh, wait, hold on there. The “we” who loved the sauce was me & J. :) The kids’ willingness to eat any given thing turns on a dime. Spinach in the pasta? Great! A spinach leaf on top of the pasta? No way! They do like garlic, though, and at least the oldest and the youngest can deal with a bit of spice. Like all of parenting, it’s a work in progress. I congratulated myself when my oldest was an unpicky eater for the first few years of her life, but I have since learned that I have nothing to do with it and everything–and I mean everything–is a phase. I figure that if I just feed them good food for long enough, they’ll come around. :)

      1. emmycooks Post author

        and p.s., I bet you know someone who has a pasta roller they’re not using. Ask around on FB or Twitter, offer a pound of fresh noodles in exchange!

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  5. Just A Smidgen

    I’ve just found your blog through Cecelia this morning:) I’m a follower now and look forward to reading your posts. I learned recently that the pasta names all translate into words that describe their shape, like your “stracci” little rags… I think that is so awesome!

    1. emmycooks Post author

      I have often read that you can roll out pasta by hand. The only thing that seems hard to me is rolling the dough out to a fairly consistent thickness so that all your noodles will cook in the same amount of time. I am sure it can be done if you are patient, though! Let me know how it goes–or if others are reading this who have rolled out pasta by hand, please share your advice with Kaci!

  6. StefanGourmet

    Hmmm, interesting that you use raw spinach. I always parboil the spinach (only with the water that clings to the leaves from washing) first for a bit and then squeeze out most of the moisture with an old kitchen towel. I wonder if there’s a big difference in taste or texture.

    1. emmycooks Post author

      How much cooked spinach do you use in relation to the other liquid? I imagine that getting rid of some of the moisture in the spinach by cooking it would let you use more, and maybe give you a more intense flavor. Is the color you end up with similar? Because I like the color!

      1. StefanGourmet

        If memory serves me right, I used 4 oz of raw spinach that became about 1 oz of spinach after it had been cooked and squeezed dry, with 7 oz of flour and 2 eggs. It produced a similar color. It should be possible to add more spinach to get more color and flavor, but I’ve never tried that. The nice thing about your method is that it’s less work :-) I just remembered that I did add raw basil to pasta once, which gave a good result as well.

      2. emmycooks Post author

        Yum, basil! I’ll let you know if I try the cooked spinach method–and if anyone else tries both, let us know how they compare!

    1. emmycooks Post author

      If you have a roller, it really is so easy. And if you don’t, I wasn’t really being fair above, of course you can still make it–you just need a rolling pin, some elbow grease, and the expectation that it won’t be quite as thin. But a thicker pasta is also delicious!

      1. emmycooks Post author

        That should definitely do the trick! You can make the dough a little more on the pliable side then add a bit more flour as you roll it out. And if the dough is a bit wet (for easier rolling) you might want to hang it on a dish-towel-lined cabinet door to dry for about 30 mins after you cut it, which might improve the final texture. Let me know how it goes!

  7. Little Sis

    We made this last night and it was great. The kids were delighted and it was nice to know that they were busy stuffing spinach into their hungry little pasta mouths.

  8. Leslie Chapman

    I must try this! I am a pasta lover and I have yet to try and make my own. My Fiance has been urging me to try to make it though. Thank you so much for posting this!

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