Pasta Dough? More like Pasta, Doh!
I’ve been craving good Italian food lately, but instead I thought perhaps I’d attempt to make some myself. When I was 25, I had planned to utilize my dual citizenship capabilities in Europe and move to Italy. I had spent some time there a few years prior and literally fell in love with the lifestyle. Here in the U.S. (definitely CA) there’s a constant need to be busy. Always on the go, driving through for our coffee, dinner and banking; rushing off to the next big thing. Lots of focus on making more money, buying more “toys” and bigger houses, and rarely taking the time to enjoy life’s little blessings. Having the opportunity to stay with different families in Italy and be shown around many cities by incredibly gracious locals who immediately treat you like a friend was a culture shock in the best possible way. I was able to experience first hand how they buy fresh ingredients EVERY MORNING for that day’s food only, prepare every meal from scratch with love, and then spend quality time sitting at the table with friends and family while enjoying such deliciously fresh food. Yes they work hard each day, and students study multiple languages at once in school, and Milan is a huge fashion mecca and business epicenter… but at the end of the day they remember that the people you care about in your life hold the most importance. It’s not about the hussle bussle of searching for success so much as taking the time to appreciate good food and wine, life’s beauty, and close friends and family.
Although I made the decision to remain here in the states, I try to find ways to keep with my ideal lifestyle even in the midst of our fast-paced daily routine. The easiest way I’ve found is in our food. Yes of course I make sure to squeeze time out of each busy, work-filled day to spend with my daughter, but preparing lunch or dinner from fresh organic ingredients seems to be the best way that I can appreciate a simpler way of living (and my favorite times are when I can incorporate both together by cooking WITH Ryley). With that being said, once I got into my head that I wanted Italian food, I had to look up a recipe for homemade pasta. Emeril has an easy one (although I ended up needing twice as many eggs to work in all the flour). I also scoured the internet for stores nearby that might sell a pasta machine, and it turns out they all do… online. Target, Walmart, Macy’s, etc. 3-5 days’ wait for shipping, but nothing In-Store (what? Doesn’t EVERYBODY need a pasta machine?). Unfortunately, I truly hate getting something in my head and not being able to have it, so I went for the pasta anyway. Although it’s better to use durum semolina flour for texture and flavor, I couldn’t find any so I bought unbleached all purpose flour. Following directions seems easy enough, yet (as my pics show) I have not yet mastered the whole kneading-the-egg-into-the-flour-well thing. I asked Jeremiah to take a nice picture of me being so cool making my own pasta dough, and he ended up capturing the moment I gave up trying to block the cascading waves of egg yolk running toward every edge of my cutting board, threatening to wash my entire counter in sticky yellow chaos. Perhaps I need a bit more practice. I also realized that it will be so much better when I get my pasta machine since I’m not entirely a fan of the fat shoelace noodles that came out of my pot after boiling (I could’ve sworn I rolled them as thin as humanly possible).
I have tons of whole spinach leaves because of my juicing, so I searched The Pampered Chef website for a pasta recipe that included spinach and found Orecchiette with Spinach, Sausage, and Tomatoes. The recipe actually comes from the cookbook 29 Minutes to Dinner, Volume 2 ($14.75), and both volumes are full of awesome meals. It seemed like the concept would work even though I was planning to make fettucine-like noodles instead of buying orecchiette. I almost always use ground turkey instead of sausage in my sauces because it’s more lean (or chicken sausage links when I want slices), but since I knew the flavors would be so simple and exposed in this recipe I chose to stick with the hot Italian sausage. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog you know I just can’t leave things alone, so although the recipe is ridiculously simple I had to add every herb I could think of to build my trust in the dish. I added onion powder, seasoning, and more crushed red pepper to the sausage while crumbling it with my Mix N Chop ($10.50), and then crushed extra garlic (more garlic is always better!) and added salt, pepper, oregano, savory, marjoram, and thyme. I snipped fresh basil leaves and threw those in along with the spinach, and just now realized as I’m typing that I forgot to top the pasta with the fresh Italian parsley that apparently got left in the fridge. Doh!
Jeremiah said he liked it, even though my noodles were so huge they looked like unraveled small intestines. The dish seemed a bit salty overall, and I blame the fact that I added salt to the boiling water. I’ve never added salt to boiling water (usually do a little olive oil for flavor) because I almost never add salt to my food in general. But, since Emeril said to do it, I got scared that my fresh pasta noodles would stick together so I threw salt into the pot – and perhaps it soaked into the dough a bit because they came out with a slightly salty taste. I also put a little salt in the meat/tomato mixture because it said “salt and pepper to taste,” but I should’ve thought about the fact that we love lots of pepper but not much salt and just skipped it. It’s okay, once I topped it with coarsely grated parmesan cheese and poured a glass of wine to complement, it became a complete meal and wasn’t a total disaster. Even Ryley ate the noodles, which is generally the highest compliment I can receive. But I will say I REALLY can’t wait for that pasta machine…