Homemade Pasta

>> Sunday, February 26, 2012

January and February have been such busy months.

We've almost been out of town more than we've been in town, which is really rare for us. Luckily they've all mostly been fun trips, but regardless, they still get you out of routine, change your pace of life, and overall make things feel a bit unsettled.

Since January 1st, Archie and I together have been gone for four trips, and Archie has had 2 trips for work. It's been cutting into my blogging time (and cooking time), so things are a bit crazy.

I also started Weight Watchers in January, which has overall been a really great thing. It has taught me a lot about food in general, which I thought I knew, but didn't! It's been a really slow process for me - because my body thinks I have the metabolism of a 60 year old, not 29 year old, and it's really unfair. Especially when your husband does it too and the weight just FALLS off of him. I know that men obviously lose weight easier, so I'm trying not to get discouraged, but really!! I run everyday some weeks in training for another half marathon, and gain weight - he does nothing but the long runs on Saturday and loses 3! ha. :) Overall, I feel healthier, and my clothes are fitting more loosely, so that's what is really important!
As I promised, I wanted to give you guys the recipe for my homemade pasta that I learned in Florence. The pasta is so good! And it's really and truly the easiest thing - you can even make a big batch and dry it for later. The recipe does call for "00" flour, which my friend Jen found for me at a local Italian market - but you can also use semolina flour, which can usually be found in grocery stores. The "00" just makes it a bit lighter.

The biggest tip to remember with this pasta is to roll it out super thin. Probably thinner than you think, and you'll be okay. I've made this (with Jen) since I've been home, and we didn't roll it out thin enough, making the past a bit thick. Which is okay when you're having a bit hearty meat sauce, but maybe not so much if you would be pairing it with something lighter.

You also can cut the pasta into whatever size you want - thinner for a spaghetti/angel hair and thicker for fettucinni or thick cut pasta.

Home Made Pasta

Ingredients (Per Person - just multiply the ingredients by the number you will be serving):
100 grams of flour (3 1/2 ounces)
1 large egg
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1. Measure out the flour using a kitchen scale if available and sift onto a large work space.
2. Using your hands, make a large "well" or circle in the middle of the flour - pushing it all out to the sides.
3. Crack eggs into the middle of the well and drizzle the olive oil on top.
4. Using a fork, begin to beat the eggs until yolks have broken up and SLOWLY begin to work in flour into the egg mixture. You only want to get a little bit of flour at a time, and beat until each addition of flour is completely worked in.

5. As mixture gets thicker, continue to beat in more flour until you are unable to use a fork because it's too thick.

6. At this point, begin to use your hands and incorporate the flour, kneading the dough to mix in all flour.
7. Continue to knead the dough working it with palm of your hand, down towards the counter. Flip the dough around and fold the top half over pushing again towards counter. You want to use this same motion to knead the dough. Continue kneading for about 10-15 minutes or until dough is completely smooth - NO cracks left in the dough.
8. Form the dough into two large balls and wrap in plastic wrap, leaving out to sit for approximately 15 minutes.
9. At this point, roll your balls into large flat discs until about 1/4" thickness - very thin. If you need to break your balls into smaller more manageable balls, that's fine.

10. Fold the pasta over on itself in about 1" folds. Cut the pasta to desired thickness, and unroll from folds.

11. Place pasta in boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes or until al dente. Really watch it, because it will cook pretty fast.

12. Serve with your favorite sauce and enjoy!


Hearty Italian Meat Sauce

>> Sunday, February 5, 2012

I'm mostly posting this recipe because my mother's been begging for it...

And I'm a slacker....

And I have good intentions... I really do!

But then I've been getting home from work exhausted, force myself out for a run, make dinner and crash!

So, sorry mom! I'll do better this time. I promise! :)

I made this with her when she came for a visit for 24 hours back in November. She was on a quick layover on her way out of the country to visit my sister, and we had to savor every minute we could get. I, unfortunately, couldn't get off work, so we really only had the evening together. I wanted to make it count - so of course the thing that I wanted to do together was cook. I wanted to get our hands together in the kitchen, one of the places that means the most to me, in order to enjoy every minute with her. I hadn't seen her since my trip to Italy, and the best way to tell some of the stories of the things we did is not over the phone, but in the reliving of what we did. The sweetness of the tomatoes and licorice smell of the basil brought me right back to the middle of Florence and the Centrale Market. It was the best way to let her know exactly what happened on the trip and for her to even experience a tiny piece of it herself - at least from my perspective.

That night, we made the meal together, talked and laughed, and moved out to the back patio with Archie. He made us a fire in my fire pit, and we sat at my little vintage patio table, savoring each bite, knowing we only had a little bit of time.

The meat sauce itself is so simple - using fresh ingredients from the Centrale Market when we were in the class in Italy. And even though I don't have a Centrale Market close by, I have tried to preserve the freshness as much as I can - basil from my back yard, meat from the local butcher, all adding up to make such tastiness, and causing there to be even more memories surrounding my yummy little Italian meat sauce.

P.S. - I apologize for the pictures of the final meat sauce not being so great - by the time the meal finished cooking it Italy, Jen and I were supposed to be on a train 10 blocks away in 20 minutes (plus meeting up with our husbands!). I'll work on getting a better picture. :)

P.P.S. - The fresh pasta (made by hand!!!) recipe to come shortly. You'll be surprised at how easy it is. No pasta roller needed!

Italian Meat Sauce (By: Chef Giovanni, Florence Italy) - serves 6

6 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 cloves garlic
1 red onion
1 tsp chili pepper flakes
1 lb good quality ground beef
1 lb Italian pork sausage, casings removed (I used the sweet kind since there was already a kick from the chili pepper)
2 cups red wine
1 lb. can whole, peeled tomatoes
1-2 whole basil leaves per serving (approximately 6-12 leaves)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Chop onion into small diced pieces and mince garlic

2. Place olive oil in pan and heat up. Place the onion, garlic and chili flakes into the heated oil and continue cooking until caramelized.

3. Place the pork sausage and ground beef into pan. Mash with a fork until all pieces are broken down, and meat is cooked through. DO NOT DRAIN!! I know.. weird, but don't do it.
Fresh from the butcher!
4. Add the 2 cups wine (plus another little drizzle if you like the taste ;) ), and allow to reduce by half - about 10-15 minutes depending on how high your heat works.

5. Drain juice of tomatoes into the pan and crush the whole tomatoes with your hand, creating pieces of smaller tomatoes. You can use a fork to make any a little smaller if they are still too big. Place basil in pot. Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Serve with fresh, warm, homemade pasta!