Fresh Pasta

Well, it’s true what they say: fresh pasta really IS easy to make and it tastes fabulous! I finally bit the bullet and bought a stripped down, hands-on pasta machine (the kind you crank) about two months ago and have finally gotten around to using it. I’m glad I did because pairing the fresh noodles with some fresh tomato sauce made dinner a special occasion last night . . . and it was a Wednesday!

What makes this fresh pasta sauce so easy is you can whip it up in a food processor so you really can’t get it wrong. I also purchased a new food processor since the previously owned machine had trouble keeping it’s hat on (and I couldn’t find a replacement). I briefly glanced through the owner’s manual and vaguely noticed “caution! blades sharp!” when putting the machine together, but I promptly forgot last night as I washed it for the first time. The upside? I got to use my nifty sushi band aids (lovingly purchased for me by my sister). No worries, I didn’t cut myself to the bone or anything, but it was definitely a bleeder!

Okay, so here’s the down and dirty recipe that is a combination of several recipes: Jamie Oliver (he was my starting point), Mario Batali (he’s the real Italian after all) and Tyler Florence. There are several ways to do this and here’s mine:

In a food processor, pulse together two cups of flour and three eggs, along with one to two tablespoons of olive oil. Add more flour if the mixture feels too sticky, but you want it to come together like little grains of sand. Dump that out onto a floured countertop and knead the dough together until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Some recipes called for wrapping the dough in plastic and resting it for 30 minutes but I started rolling mine right away. This was my first attempt, so maybe I’ll see if letting the dough rest before rolling improves the texture. I was just too impatient!

Cut the dough into manageable rectangles and run through a pasta machine 2-3 times at the widest setting. Double your dough over on itself and start running it through the machine at smaller and smaller settings until it is very thin. You want the dough to be very thin because thick pasta dough tends to be gummy and chewy. Blech.

I cut my pasta dough into tagliatelle size pieces with a knife, nothing precise at all. And because I had some fantastic fresh tomato sauce (recipe below), I cooked the pasta quite quickly in boiling salted water for about 2-3 minutes and was transported into an Italian heaven.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

2-3 T. Olive oil
2-4 garlic cloves, chopped (depends on how garlicky you like stuff!)
1 t. red pepper flakes
4-6 large, fresh tomatoes (skins removed)
handful of basil leaves, chopped
1 swig good quality balsamic vinegar

Over medium-low heat, saute your garlic cloves and pepper flakes in the olive oil. Be careful not to burn the garlic. With your hands, crush the fresh tomatoes (preferably from a friend’s garden!) over the skillet. Turn the heat up to medium and cook the tomatoes for about 10 minutes, crushing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon or potato masher to the desired consistency. Toss in the basil leaves and swirl in a good swig of balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

I made this tomato sauce a few days in advance, but you can definitely use it fresh. Saute up a bit of Italian sausage, add the desired amount of tomato sauce and a bit of pasta cooking water, then finish with the fresh pasta noodles. I like to add my noodles in my sauce right before they’re finished cooking, so they can soak up all the yummy tomato sauce at the end. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.