I have a confession. I forgot it was National Pasta Day today. And I profess to be a pasta addict? Pasta obsessed?
My girlfriend in Edmonton asked this morning if she could give me a shout-out on her personal Instagram page (uh, of course), especially because it’s National Pasta Day. I panicked. How did I not know this was National Pasta Day? I guess I still have a lot to learn. (What else is new.)
I wondered what I would post. My favorite pasta dish? Easiest? A fan favorite? None of those seemed right. And to be honest, if I had to pick one, I couldn’t. I mean, I grew up addicted to my mom’s macaroni and cheese, and it will always comfort me, but I’ve had so many wonderful pastas over the course of my life, (especially this May as I ate my way through Italy) how could I pick just one? After all, that’s one of the reasons we love it so, it’s soooo versatile.
When we moved out of Toronto, we moved to (what was then) a suburb filled with many Italians. I learned what a ‘cantina’ was, and whenever a husband would say ‘do you want to see the cantina?” and the wife would inevitably groan and say ‘no she doesn’t’, I quickly replied ‘pleeeease yes’, to the chagrin of the wife. Down the stairs I went to see hanging cured meats, fresh cheese, jugs of wine, and enough pasta stored up for the winter. In case we all get snowed in for the next 6 months, of course. I could happily eat my way through winter in any one of those cantinas.
One of my Italian friends in particular spoiled our family in the pasta area, “So I made ravioli with a cream sauce, but if you don’t want that because it’s too rich you can have the gnocchi tomato sauce one, oh and i found pesto laying around so I made that too”. I often made trouble for her, insisting she made too much, and yet somehow, there weren’t a lot of leftovers. (Although she did insist we leave a little so that everybody could have lunch tomorrow and she didn’t have to make them something else).
There was always access to fresh pasta at the grocery stores in and around Toronto, but of course, when I moved here, that was not the case. So, as usual, I decided one day to make my own pasta. I had no idea it was going to be so easy. Don’t be mad at me for saying that, but it’s true. I made a simple egg noodle recipe up and off we were, rolling dough. I highly believe in child labor, so up my then 9-year old daughter went on the counter, rolling and rolling lovingly until it was all done. We made a light sauce with oil, butter, garlic, and tomatoes.
I was in love. Again.
I’ve been making pasta ever since. I don’t make it often, because the rolling can take some time and I am in no way as fast as the chefs on cooking shows who seem to make it all in under 30 minutes. And it’s definitely not something I make for a crowd. But for a cozy table of six or eight people, you betcha. It can’t be beat.
If you don’t want to make your own pasta, or don’t have the equipment, just use regular pasta for this, or perhaps find a local store that sell fresh pasta; it will elevate this sauce in ways you only dream of.
And this sun-dried-tomato pesto sauce isn’t too shabby either. My husband actually was never a big fan of it, claimed it was ‘too rich’ for his taste, but when I made it today, he said it was perfect. Maybe the spinach in the pasta calmed the strong flavors of the pesto down? I don’t know, but I do know that you should probably try it more than once and figure it out for yourself.
Every day should be pasta day.
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 4 TAB (about) warm water
- 1 cup cooked and pureed spinach, thoroughly dried
Combine flour and salt in a food processor, blend 5 seconds to combine. Add eggs, spinach, and water. Using the pulsing method, blend until moist dough forms, adding more water if necessary (it all depends on how well you removed the excess water from the spinach).
Gather dough to a lightly floured counter. Knead until smooth and pliable, adding more flour if necessary, about five minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes. Cut into six pieces. Cover again with plastic wrap.
Flatten each piece with your hand. Set pasta dough roller to the widest setting (mine is number 1). Roll through 3 times. Adjust machine to next narrowest setting, and repeat, rolling 3 times. Continue to roll until you’ve achieved the desired thickness. (For example, my numbers range from 1 as the widest to 8 as the thinnest, and I usually stop at 5) .
Hang rolled dough on pasta drying rack or lay on well floured surface. Let stand until the pasta dries a little, this will help with cutting, about 30 minutes.
Change attachment on machine to desired pasta (I used fettuccine for this). Run through machine, using flour if dough is sticky. Let rest on floured surface, lightly covered, up to four hours.
Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta until just tender, about 2 minutes. Remember, fresh pasta takes a fraction of the time to be ready. Drain and set aside.
SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO
- 1 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup fresh basil or 1 TAB dried
- 2 TAB pine nuts, toasted
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 onion, sliced (optional)
- 6 slices cooked bacon or pancetta or prosciutto (optional)
In food processor, add sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan, basil, pine nuts, garlic and combine. With machine running, gradually add olive oil and process until smooth paste forms.
In a small skillet, heat 1 TAB olive oil. Cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes, and then add cooked bacon/pancetta or prosciutto just to crisp a little.
Reserve about a cup of cooking liquid from your pasta. Add the sun-dried tomato mixture to the skillet along with enough cooking water to thin out the sauce to your desired consistency. Add pasta and serve immediately.