Saturday, January 17, 2015

Homemade Pasta

So, college boys invaded the inner sanctum of Wednesday evening dinner club last week.

Not just any college boys, but C’s son and his buddy.  As you can imagine, the conversation was quite lively and entertaining and, at some point, turned to generations.   I know a little bit about this subject.  There were two distinct generations (possibly three since one of us — not me — is on the cusp between a Boomer and an X-er) sitting around the table and it was interesting to hear their spin on the popular research.   I will tell you this, it is widely believed that the Millennials are a very literate generation, highly influenced by world events and not afraid to speak-up and act on what, to them, is right and just.  I was quite impressed with how these young men articulated their points.

The tuition is working…brought a little tear to my eye. And I got to participate in a generational case study, even though the data was quite limited!

What we did have in common was quite clear…we all devoured the HOMEMADE pasta that C served.  Homemade pasta is a total treat and it doesn’t need to be gussied up with a fancy-schmancy topping so C served it with a simple tomato sauce.  Marcella Hazan — the cookbook author who changed how we prepare Italian food — offers a delicious 3-ingredient version:

2 cups tomatoes, with their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
5 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled and cut in half

Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.  Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

On Wednesday, the sauce was the co-star and the pasta, of course, was the leading lady.  Like Arancini, making homemade pasta is a labor of love but so worth the effort.  

Homemade Pasta

To make plain pasta dough, make a well in the middle of three cups of flour and add three eggs and a little salt. Using a fork, gradually incorporate the eggs into the flour (not all at once!) from the middle working your way out. When pliable, knead the dough until it is a bit elastic and somewhat shiny and bounces back easily when poked. 
Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for 15 minutes. My grandmother used to put the dough in a bowl and cover it with a towel…both methods keep it from drying out.
Cut off ¼ of the plain dough, sprinkle it with flour and run it through the pasta machine on gradually thinner settings several times. When running the dough through on the thicker settings, fold it over three times before running it through the pasta machine each time.  To make the pasta you want, pick a setting and run the dough through the pasta machine on that setting.  
Let the newly formed pasta dry for a bit.   

Cook the fresh pasta in 6 quarts of boiling salted water (the rule of thumb is 6 quarts of water for each pound of pasta).  Fresh pasta cooks quickly so in about 1-3 minutes, it will be ready to plate with your favorite sauce.   If you are freezing, sprinkle the pasta with more flour and store in the freezer in freezer bags.

My dear grandmother used to make homemade pasta and that’s her Regina Macaroni Machine you see over there, to the right….she bought it in South Philadelphia, Giunta Brothers at 11th and Christian Streets, shortly after she arrived in the United States in the early 1900's.  The wonderful wooden case you see in the background was lovingly made by my grandfather to preserve her newly acquired apparatus, now my cherished treasure. 

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