Several months ago, I was watching this wonderful documentary by the author, Michael Pollan. It was called “Cooked”. The major focus of this documentary was to remind us of where our food comes from. It showed how bread is originally made and how processed and unhealthy food has become and how readily this is accepted in our world. It reminded me to go back to my roots and take the time once in awhile to make our food from scratch.
I’ve made a strong effort to integrate mostly real food in all of my daily eating, but in our world, that can be a challenge. What about pasta? It’s so cheap and easy to take off the shelves and boom…you have a simple meal for your family or when company arrives. Yes, processed food absolutely has a place in our lives for convenience. However, when you go to a restaurant that makes pasta from scratch everyday, what is the difference in taste? I notice the softness and freshness in texture. When we are cooking freshly made pasta on our own, it’s important to let it rest after we’ve worked the dough into a ball, for at least 30 minutes to allow the gluten to work it’s magic! Depending on your resources, you can use the hand cranked pasta machine or you can use the KitchenAid attachments with your KitchenAid. I recommend the KitchenAid highly, because it is faster and easier. You can even work the dough using the dough hook with your KitchenAid mixer, but I choose to work the dough by hand. I promised an elderly restaurant owner in Italy, whom I met, that I would always do it this way. It makes me feel as my ancestors felt as they worked hard and poured love into what they were making for their loved ones.
If you decide to make spaghetti or linguine, make sure you buy a pasta drying rack. There are several of them available on Amazon. If you decide not to purchase that, you can use an ironing board and lay it across to dry it on there, or you can put a brook or large stick between two chairs and dry it on there. Make sure you dry the spaghetti for at least 15 minutes before you cook it, or it will stick together when you put it in the boiling water. I went to a restaurant that did that and it did not make for a fantastic meal.
Also, when you make your sauces for pasta, make sure there are a few flavors in there to give it some body. You can make the basic tomato sauce, but add some mushrooms and/or meat to give it that full flavor. If you are a vegetarian, cut the mushrooms into small pieces and add other vegetables that you love, to give it that full bodied flavor. When you are making a rich sauce such as a cream sauce, add a little brightness to it, to give it a more complex flavor. My recent recipe with the homemade spinach ravioli…I added lemon zest to the cream sauce as well as the filling. It’s such a simple ingredient, but added such a savory, complex flavor to a rich dish. The next three blogs, I will share recipes for spinach pasta, squid ink pasta and lemon saffron pasta.
I love making simple sauces as well with many vegetables. I always search for the most colorful vegetables that I can find to add to the vibrancy and overall taste factor. The fun part about making your own pasta is that it allows you to explore your creativity. Let’s color our pasta with real food…let’s make it red, green, black…whatever your heart desires. The rich flavors, creamy, fresh consistency of each bite will be worth the extra muscle for the people that we love!