Monday, March 23, 2009

Fresh Home Made Pasta, and a sausage sauce

About a year ago I made a goal for myself that I wanted to learn how to make fresh pasta. I know it isn't hard, and its so worth it, but for some reason I just never got around to doing it. Friday evening, I finally settled into my kitchen and rolled out my very first batch of fresh pasta.
I had searched all over the Internet and finally asked many friends for assistance in finding a recipe that they knew would work- I was given on that combined 1 3/4 flour, 6 egg yolks, plus one full egg, a teaspoon and a half of olive oil and a teaspoon of milk. The quantities were great- and I liked the fact that it used milk in it- many of the recipes I found didn't, and I felt as though the milk would add something to it. So I measured out my flour, and shaped it into a mound on my wooden cutting board, with a well in the center as Ive always seen it done. Then I mixed together the wet ingredients and started to pour them into the well. First mistake-my well was by NO means large enough. I ended up with a bit of a mess-the liquid spilled over the side and the idea of mixing the flour into the liquid from the inside out completely fell apart. So instead I did everything in my power to keep as much liquid on the board and mixed from there. Not the most elegant approach, and dough, flour and egg ended up in a lot of places that it shouldn't have- but it worked. I had also read that having water on hand to add is a good idea to ensure that you get the dough to the right consistency- but then I also heard that just running your hands under water and then kneading from there would add in a fair amount of water. I chose that method for fear of adding too much water other wise. So I kneaded the dough for about 10-15 minutes, until it became smooth, texturally consistent and dough like. Then I mounded it into a ball and let it rest for about a half hour.
I had purchased a pasta rolling machine a while back, so I was excited to use it for the first time- while the dough was resting I set up the machine, fastened it to my table, and read the directions. I have to say-the directions weren't very helpful- but piecing together what I'd read online and what the pamphlet said, I got it together. I cut the dough into eight slices, then, using the largest setting on the machine, I rolled the dough through the wheels. Then I rolled it through again and again using smaller and smaller settings until I got to the thickness I wanted. Occasionally I found that small holes would appear in the dough after the first roll through, but then if I folded the sheet in half and passed it through the machine the next time- the holes would disappear. I'm not sure if those holes were because of a mistake in the dough-or if those just happen. If anyone knows-please share-I'm very open to critique. After I had rolled out all 8 pieces, I then ran them each through the cutter end of the machine. It has two settings- spaghetti and fettuccine, I chose the latter. I ended up with a small bowl full of strands of fettuccine-it actually looked delicious.

I decided that I wanted to make a sausage sauce for it, not quite a Bolognese because I wanted a little tomato in it, but not quite a general red sauce. I started off by heating a pan with a little olive oil, and then adding lots of chopped garlic, red onion, red pepper flakes, a little salt and lots of parsley to the pan. Once the onions were a bit translucent, I removed the sausage from the casings, and broke it up in the pan so it would really incorporate the rest of the flavors. After the meat had browned a bit, I added about a 1/4 of a cup to a 1/3 of a cup of red wine, cooked out the alcohol and added some fire roasted tomatoes that I had in my cabinet. A little more salt, a bit more parsley and I had a tasty sauce.

I boiled the pasta for about 10 minutes, drained it, and added a few tong fulls to the sauce. Unfortunately I had made enough sauce for just me, but the pasta was enough to feed at least family of four. After mixing the pasta with the sauce for just a few moments I tonged a portion of it into a big bowl, topped it with some chopped parsley, basil and fresh mozzarella.

I have to say-this was one of the most delicious, comforting meals I've had in a while. The pasta was beautifully fresh and tender without being mush, the sauce had a slight kick to it from the fresh pepper flakes, and the fresh herbs really made it feel like it was straight from the garden. I love pasta, and though I don't allow myself to have it often- this was a great way to celebrate Friday on a cold evening.

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