Feb 6, 2010

For the Love of Fresh Pasta

Mmmm, Fresh pasta! I would argue that if you haven’t had it, you have yet to experience all life has to offer. What’s the big difference between buying dried pasta and having it fresh? Well that’s like asking, oh I don’t know… what the difference between 12am and 12pm? It’s night and day!!! There is nothing like making pasta by hand. When I am making it, it's almost as if the colors of my world shift to antique hues and the little Tuscan grandmother in me comes alive. Now, I don’t exactly have a Tuscan grandmother, BUT i've spent enough time learning about and eating traditional Tuscan food that I think I do have a little Tuscan fairygrandmother. Making pasta is a labor of love. I think that’s the difference actually. A lot of things taste better with a little love in them… it’s my not-so-secret ingredient. In fresh pasta, you can taste it lingering in every bite.  I have only recently started making it in my own home, but I already feel almost guilty making pasta dishes with the dried variety. I see my little pasta machine sitting there on the shelf as I reach for store bought stuff and I imagine the rejection it must feel. Like how all that puppy in the window must feel when it sees one of the others being chosen and not him.

(see... antique hues!) photograph made possible by roomie

We all know it’s equally fun going out at 12am and 12pm but for different reasons. It’s the same when it comes to fresh vs. dried pasta. They are both great in different circumstances. Obviously… if you don’t have a pasta machine like this one, you aren’t going to be making rigatoni any time soon! But you can make ravioli or fettuccini. Dried pasta is best with your hearty sauces like rich marinara. Fresh is delicate and needs a sauce of the same nature.

One of my closest friends and I collaborated on this recipe.  Often times it hasn’t even hit noon yet and we are throwing around ideas for dinner. Always a good start to the day. When coming up with this pasta, we were thinking fresh & light yet cheesy & substantial. When we had decided on all the ingredients, we knew it was going to be good, but we didn’t know it was going to be THIS good! This is a slow sauce to make, one that doesn’t require a lot of attentiveness and it gets better the longer it cooks. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I salivate at the sound of the ricotta cheese mixing with the pasta and melting into the crevasses. I was so hypnotized by the sound, in fact, that I completely forgot to take a picture of the final result. Forgive me, it wont happen again.

Fresh Rigatoni with Heirloom Cherry Tomato Sauce
serves about 4

Fresh pasta is not necessary for this recipe. Feel free to use dried, it will still be delicious.

To make the pasta I followed the recipe that came with my pasta maker... but any will do. You do not need a stand mixer to make pasta dough.

For the Pasta dough:
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 c. sifted all-purpose flour (sift first, then measure out 3 1/2 c.)
  • 2 Tbls. water
  • 1 Tbls. salt

Break eggs into a glass measuring cup
     Place flour and salt in stand mixer bowl. Beat at low speed and gradually add in the eggs plus 2 Tbls. water. Mix for 30 seconds. Stop and exchange the flat beater for the dough hook. Turn to low speed for about 2 minutes.
    Remove mixture from bowl and place on a clean surface. Knead by hand for about a minute untill it is smooth and forms into a ball.
    This is when you add the dough in small balls into the pasta maker and it comes out in pretty shapes :)

For the Sauce:
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced - use 4 the first time (i say first because you WILL want to make this again) but add in another clove the second time if you would like a stronger garlic flavor
  • 2 cups (more or less) heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 Tbls balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 of a 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese (I used whole ricotta, you could use skim if you want, but whole really is the way to go)
  • 3 oz. goat cheese
  • 2 handfuls of arugula
  • 1/2 c. basil, roughly chopped
  • about a dozen cranks of lemon pepper - I bought this at Trader's (as in Trader Joe's grocery store...we are on a first name basis thanks to my frequent visits). I bought it on a whim and now I add it to everything! Seriously Delicious
In a medium sized pan, pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom completely. Add the diced onion and a pinch of salt and sauté over a medium-low temperature. The slower you cook the onions the more delicious they get. You are not trying to brown them… you just want to sweat them out and make them happy and translucent. After about 5 minutes add the minced garlic. Keep cooking over a low temperature, once the onions become translucent, add the halved cherry tomatoes and another pinch of salt. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and cook for a good while, I’m talking at least 20 minutes, until it is thick and glazed and saucy. Once it has all come together and reached this saucy stage, add the splash balsamic vinegar and turn up the temperature a little bit. Continue cooking until it is reduced and has turned the sauce a wonderful caramelized color. Resist eating this with a fork straight out of the pan… but its okay if your can't.

      (This is right before adding the balsamic vinegar)
You can keep the sauce over low heat while you cook the pasta. Since I am using the fresh rigatoni I made only hours beforehand, it takes about 3 minutes to cook. If you are using store bought pasta, follow the time on the box. Once the pasta is done, save about ½ c. of the pasta water and set it aside. Drain the pasta. In a large bowl, add the pasta, the cheeses (it is important to do this first so the heat from pasta really melts the cheese), the pasta water, the onion/tomato sauce, the arugula, basil, and lemon pepper. Toss all together until well incorporated. I like to have some freshly grated Parmesan to sprinkle on top. I also like to add a little salt and pepper once I’ve dished up my individual plate, but after I’ve tasted it to feel it out.

I had these leftovers cold for lunch the next day, YUM


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