Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Basic Pasta Dough And Simple Tomato Sauce

I have been meaning to post about this for a while - like I-lived-in-a-whole-'nother-apartment-while-ago.  When I have time I make my own pasta.  The dough is super simple, and it just takes a little crafty work and voila - you have fresh pasta that just makes you feel proud that you  have made it.  And no - you don't need a pasta maker, a rolling pin works just fine.  Once you learn how to make the dough, the possibilites are endless.  Since I have gotten so many fresh veggies, I thought it would be a great time to share the recipe.

Ingredients for Basic Pasta Dough from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, makes 4 (12-inch square) sheets of dough:
3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large bowl, mix 3 cups of the flour and the salt.  Shape a deep well in the middle of the four - it should look like a volcano.  In another bowl, beat the eggs, then beat in the oil.  Slowly pour the egg mixture into the center of the flour, stirring it into the flour.  Keep incorporating the eggs into the flour until the mixture gets too stiff to mix with a fork.  Switch to your hands and add enough flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to mix it together into a sticky dough.
Once your dough has come together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface.  Work the dough by pushing all the sides into the middle, then bringing the bottom over the top and down, in a repetitive motion.  With a steady flow of motion, this should take about 8 to 10 minutes of kneading.  You'll know your ready when the dough feels somewhat elastic and it no longer cracks and crumbles while being handled.  It will also take on a bit of subtle shine.
Dampen a clean kitchen towel and wrap the dough in the towel.  Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Unwrap the dough and with a scraper or knife, cut into equal quarters.  Roll the first piece into a ball, flatten it with your hands, then roll it out into a 12-inch square about 1/8-inch thick, keeping the work surface and the rolling pin well floured.  I rolled mine out until I could see the counter top coming through.
At this point you can make whatever shape of pasta you want - lasagna, fettuccine, spaghetti, ravioli squares, etc.  On this day I made fettuccine, so I go out a ruler and a pizza cutter and went to town.  Karen even suggests folding into thirds and then cutting, just make sure the dough is well floured.
Flour a large rimmed baking sheet well.  Once pasta has been cut, gently place in baking sheet and let rest, stretched long, to dry.
To cook the pasta, boil a large stockpot of water with salt.  Start tasting the pasta after 5 to 7 minutes (or shorter if you made thinner pasta).  It should be soft and visibly cooked in the middle.
To go along with the pasta I came up with this sauce to use up my heirloom tomatoes and my quarter of an onion.  The quantity is based off the two leftover tomatoes I had, but you can easily double or triple the recipe.  I had read about Smitten Kitchen's tomato sauce with onion and butter a while ago and thought I would give it a whirl using fresh tomatoes.

Simple Tomato Sauce, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, serves 2:
-2 heirloom tomatoes (you can use any fresh flavorful tomato)
-1 clove garlic, peeled
-Quarter of a large onion, peeled
-2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
-Salt to taste

First cut tomatoes into large chunks, about 2 by 3 inch pieces.  Place all the ingredients into a medium sauce pan and cover over low heat.  Bring to a simmer, and then reduce it to the lowest heat so it is just barely bubbling, still covered.  Cook for about 40 minutes or until droplets of fat separate from the tomatoes.  Stir every ten minutes or so and break the tomatoes down using a wooden spoon against the side of the pan.
Once the tomatoes are broken down, uncover and raise the heat so it comes to a strong simmer.  Cook until the tomato sauce has thickened to your liking, about 10-15 minutes.  Disgard the onion and garlic clove.  
Place the sauce over your favorite pasta or eat it by the spoonful - it is hard to resist.

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