Posts Tagged ‘cooking class’

Homemade Fresh Pasta

May 22, 2011

There are certain things I just won’t cut corners on. I won’t make cookies from a box, bag or anything that says “break and bake.” I won’t ever buy marinara sauce from a jar. And I certainly wouldn’t dream of buying a pre-made cake.

But, before you think I don’t have a full-time job, multiple hobbies and a life outside the kitchen, let me tell you what I DO cut corners on. I will, every once in a while, buy a pie crust (my grandmother would cringe). I have been known to buy jams from a jar, salsa from a jar and – gasp – dips from a jar. But the one shortcut I did every week, every Thursday, without batting an eyelash, was buy fresh pasta. That is, however, until I went to Italy.

When I experienced a cooking class outside of Varenna with the talented Moreno, I had a new outlook on Italian cooking. Much like the view I have on cooking, Italians enjoy making the food as much as eating it. And, the more steps of the process your hands touch, make or mold, the more love you can put into the dish you will serve your loved ones. Dear Moreno made pasta from scratch. No attachments to mixers. No crank machines. Just his hands, a rolling pin and a few simple ingredients.

I would be fooling myself (and overestimating the size of my kitchen) if I thought I could make pasta with a rolling pin. But it did inspire me to make pasta. After all, I call it a sin to not make your own gravy, so why would I buy fresh pasta?

Step one was a pasta maker, and I was lucky enough to get one from my parents for Christmas. I couldn’t wait to try it. I searched back for Moreno’s recipe which had semolina flour (and I couldn’t find it anywhere) so I looked up a few recipes online for all-purpose flour. I cleared a Sunday afternoon, got out my machine, and went to work.

I would be lying if I told you the first time it was perfect – in fact, it was far from. The dough just didn’t feel right in my hands (sign one) then the crank number the recipe called for made the pasta feel too thin (sign two). But, it gave me enough hope to try again.

Four times, and four recipe alterations later, I finally got it. The perfect pasta noodle. While I am still mastering tagliatelle, I think ravioli might be a natural progression. However, anything more complex, I am buying from the store!

A few tips when you make pasta:
1. Don’t cut short kneading the dough. If you don’t do it for at least 10 minutes, the dough won’t be right. You will be tired, and wonder why, but you feel it in your hands when the dough takes form.
2. Don’t forget to let it rest. It needs this time after being needed for so long. At least for 3o minutes.
3. Don’t be afraid to use flour once the noodles are made in order to separate them.
4. Go into the process knowing you will tweak your recipe many times before finding one that works.
5. Allow yourself at least an hour for the process (if not a little more).
6. It tastes better and is much more fun if you make it while sipping red Italian wine and listening to Italian music.

I would love to give credit to someone this recipe but I used one I found online and changed it so much, I don’t even recognize it anymore. So, I suppose I should credit myself (although there surely are many duplicates out there).

So in Italian fashion, when I make pasta, the whole meal tastes of the love I put into it. I recently revisited my pistachio cream pasta the time I finally nailed my noodle recipe. It was almost like a different dish – a dish entirely made from scratch. No shortcuts. But lots of love.

HOMEMADE FRESH PASTA
Serves 2-3

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, plus one egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon olive oil
½ Tablespoon warm water

Put flour on a marble, wooden or smooth countertop and create a “volcano” and create a well in the center. In a bowl, mix the eggs, salt and olive oil. Pour the egg mixture into the well and slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs, pulling flour from the area around the well. You might have to add the yolk in multiple phases in order for it to fit in the well without spilling over.

As things begin to get incorporated, keep kneading (even if your well breaks) and add the water if necessary. This will be messy, but keep going! Once you have the mixture in a ball form, begin kneading the dough. Fold it in have and press against the counter. Start a timer and knead for no less than 10 minutes and you will see your dough begin to take shape.

Once your 10 minutes is up, cut your dough in half to form two little balls. Put them in a bowl (or two separate bowls) and cover with plastic wrap. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

If you are using a crank machine, take the first ball and press onto the counter to push into a flat pancake. Make sure your pasta maker is on the widest setting (mine is 7) and crank the dough through. Keep flour on the dough to keep it from getting sticky. Keep changing the setting every time until you get the thickness you want (for mine the perfect thickness is level 3). Then, crank it through the cutting side, keeping it floured and you have fresh pasta! This pasta can also be frozen, I am told, but I have yet to do it.

The flour with the well of egg mixture in the center.

My husband demonstrating how to knead the dough!

The balls of dough after they have been kneaded.

Passing the dough through the pasta press.

Cutting the pasta. The last step!

Dinner!

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Sugared Walnuts

November 24, 2010

There are certain foods out there that scare me. The thought that I could prepare those ingredients, master that technique or turn out a complicated dish will sometimes prohibit me from even trying. My mantra as of late is “we can always get take out,” so I have been trying to go outside my comfort zone a bit more than usual.

I am actually embarrassed to say I have never made risotto. Me. Italian my marriage. A love of Italian food. A carbaholic. It is remarkable, really, that a rice could scare me so much. Until, that is, I saw Moreno in Perledo, Italy make it (still working on the Lake Como cooking class blog post, I promise!).

He made it look easy. Truly, the main ingredient you need is a bit of patience. He said you want to “mantecare,” which apparently means to “make creamy.” Add broth. Stir. Add broth. Stir. Seemed simple enough, as long as I could hold off waiting to eat it until it reached perfection.

So, in my seasonal cooking spirit, I tried a roasted butternut squash risotto with sugared walnuts from Cooking Light. Now that I have mastered how to butcher a butternut squash (if you need help, go here! It sure helped me! http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_peel_and_cut_a_butternut_squash/), I thought I would try this, and was anxious to taste the soft, rich risotto paired with sweet and crunchy nuts.

Oh. My. Goodness. This recipe alone is a reason to get over my resistance to risotto. Yes, it takes long, well over an hour, but the wait was worth it. It is so rich and creamy, and the nuts cut the richness with a perfect sweet crunch. I almost felt myself transported back to Italy where I truly fell in love with risotto. I could hear Moreno telling us to “mantecare” while we sipped our wine and watched in awe, all the while breathing in the sweet and salty smells of a strawberry balsamic risotto. Nothing could compare to Moreno’s technique and end result, but this risotto came as close as I have ever been since.

So, be brave, carve out some time, eat a snack to tide you over, then stir away. You will be glad you did!

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO WITH SUGARED WALNUTS
Serves 8

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 ounce pancetta, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/4 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1/2 cup chardonnay
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lemon thyme or 1 1/2 tablespoons thyme plus 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until toasted, stirring twice. Place nuts in a bowl. Drizzle butter over warm nuts; sprinkle with sugar and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Toss well to coat.

Combine squash and 1 tablespoon oil, tossing to coat. Arrange squash in a single layer on jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until squash is just tender. Remove from pan; stir in garlic. Set aside.

Bring broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add pancetta to saucepan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Add onion; cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next. Continue until the risotto is cooked (hint, you may need more chicken broth like I did!). Stir in squash, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Top with cheese and nuts.

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Mousse

February 15, 2009

So, last night was Valentine’s day and my wonderful husband cooked me dinner – carbonara, my favorite! So for dessert, I made a chocolate mousse with whipped cream and raspberries. I will admit, I read this recipe and saw no cream and hardly any sugar and became a bit nervous, but it was amazing! VERY rich. This recipe is credited to Williams-Sonoma, from my chocolate class last week. It makes enough for 4, but I split it between two wine glasses and we just about finished it all last night!

1/4 lb bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces
3 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs confectioners’ sugar

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over but not touching barely simmering water in a saucepan. Heat, stirring, until the chocolate melts, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and continue to stir until the butter melts and is incorporated.

Separate 1 egg, placing the white in a large bowl and adding the yolk to the chocolate. Quickly whisk in the yolk, fully incorporating it. Repeat with the remaining 2 eggs. Remove the bowl from over the saucepan and let cool to lukewarm.

Add the salt to the egg whites. Using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the whites until stiff peaks form, then beat in the confectioners’ sugar. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate, being careful not to deflate the whites.

Spoon the mixture into individual glasses. Cover and refrigerate until very firm, 6-24 hours.


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