Last week we had an especially dreary few days with rain and winds sweeping through Charlottesville, dropping our temperatures into the 30’s and 40’s. It was the kind of weather that had me wearing my scarf while sitting behind my computer at the office, drinking hot tea every hour while thinking about thick stews and hearty casseroles. This dish popped into my head several times, the memory of silky pasta laced with tomato sauce prepared and frozen at the peak of summer causing my mouth to salivate and my belly to warm.
It is the hearty, homey, comfortable meals that I crave when the air temperature transitions from brisk to downright cold. Unlike the summer months, when we'd rather be lazily sipping vino verde on the back deck while munching on a quickly assembled salad, Brian and I spend a significant portion of Winter in our kitchen, not minding the extra heat the stovetop produces in order to simmer a pot of soup for hours or the labor required to roll out thin sheets of freshly made pasta for a pan of bubbly lasagna. With chilled darkness falling well before we leave the office, our kitchen is a welcome source of warmth waiting for us at the end of each day, providing a space for us to pour energy into meals that will warm our bodies from the inside out.
Fresh pasta is one of those luxurious-sounding meals that seems as if it should be impossible to make at home, in the amount of time allotted for dinner preparation in busy lives. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. Requiring only 30 minutes of rest in the refrigerator before being passed through a pasta machine, the dough can be made in a mere 10 minutes' time. Your sauce can be simmering with whatever additions you've chosen to enhance it with as you turn the crank and catch the golden sheets of floured dough, fold them carefully and cut them into your desired shapes. After a quick dunk in a pot full of boiling water you are ready to garnish the silky strands with whatever mixture has been simmering on your stove, filling the air with the pungent aroma of tomatoes, garlic and herbs, or perhaps the sweet smell of browned butter and sage.
I assure you that, although fresh pasta requires more time and attention than opening a box of dried linguine to dump into boiling water, it is completely, totally, undeniably worth the effort. We'll be making it often these next few months, so I'll be referring back to this recipe in future posts, I'm sure. It can be used for any shape of pasta desired.
from The Naked Chef Takes Off, by Jamie Oliver, pg. 98
- 1-2/3 cups bread flour
- 1-2/3 cups semolina flour (if unavailable, bread flour will do)
- 3 large eggs
- 8 egg yolks
Because this recipe is so egg-y, I recommend using eggs as high in quality as you can find. Ours came from Double H Farm outside of Charlottesville.
- Place both flours on a clean work surface. Make a well in the center of the flours and add the eggs and egg yolks. Break up the eggs with a fork and slowly bring the flour into the well, incorporating the flour and the eggs until a dough starts to form. [I am AWFUL at this part, and always get egg all over my counter. Jamie says you can make the dough with an electric mixer or food processor, which I will try next time]. Knead with your hands until a smooth, silky and elastic dough forms. ** Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Remove your dough from the fridge and divide into 4 pieces, putting three of the four back in the fridge. Flatten the smaller dough ball into a disk and dust with flour on both sides. If you have a pasta machine (they are only about $40, I have one made by Atlas) run the dough through on the widest setting possible. (you can also roll out by hand with a rolling pin, but I've never tried it.) Fold the dough in half and run through the machine again, repeating this process several times on the widest setting to get an evenly textured sheet. Flour each side of the dough. Step your machine down to the next smallest setting and run the dough through. Repeat, flouring the dough each time you step down the setting on your machine until you get the pasta to 1-2 mm thick (#6 on my machine...).
- Cut pasta into desired shapes.
**NOTE: The dough will be very wet at first, when all of the flour is incorporated with the egg. Start to knead, coating your hands with flour every minute or so to prevent the dough sticking too terribly. if after several minutes the dough is still very wet, add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, kneading well after each addition until the dough achieves a smooth, elastic consistency. It should take about 10 minutes of solid kneading, total.
Pappardelle with Spicy Sausage Ragù
- one batch of Fresh Pasta (recipe above)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, removed from cases and cut into bite-size pieces (ours is fro Double H Farm, outside of Charlottesville)
- 3 cups of homemade tomato sauce (recipe below) or your favorite jarred sauce
- parmesan for shaving over top
- Cut your sheets of pasta to 12" lengths. Dust with flour on both sides and fold in half. Cut into thirds, so that you wind up with strips of pasta about 12" long by 1-1/2" wide. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in nonstick skillet. Add sausage and brown for 2-3 minutes. Add onions, garlic and red bell pepper. Saute' for 8-10 minutes, until onions are translucent and sausage is cooked through.
- Add tomato sauce to pan and heat through. While sauce heats, boil pasta until al dente, 5-6 minutes. Drain.
- Serve pasta with a heap of ragù and shaved parmesan on top.
Homemade Tomato Sauce
I realize that tomatoes are out of season nearly everywhere at this time, and that most of us are left with pink, grainy globes that only resemble Summer's favorite fruit. This sauce can also be made with high-quality, canned, whole tomatoes.
Also, this recipe is approximate. No tomato sauce is ever exactly the same and should always be tweaked according to your tastes.
- 3 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, or (2) 28-ounce cans peeled, whole tomatoes
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3-4 tbsp fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, basil or any combination) or 1-2 tbsp dried
- salt and pepper, to taste
- After peeling the tomatoes, crush them with your hands into a large bowl, reserving the juices and seeds with the crushed tomatoes.
- In a medium-sized saucepan (3 quarts) heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until tender and translucent. Add the herbs and cook mixture for an additional 3-4 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 30-60 minutes, until the desired thickness is achieved.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
The sauce will keep up to 1 week in the refrigerator, or up to 6 months in a tightly sealed container in the freezer.