This morning started the way I love weekend mornings to begin: Melody Gardot singing “If the Stars Were Mine,” me dancing around the kitchen with my coffee, and fresh-baked cinnamon rolls in the oven. La vie est belle.
About me: I love to cook. This seems to be an anomaly in this day and age, or at least in my peer group. Cooking is a lost art, demoted by families everywhere as one of those tasks somewhere above laundry but below just about everything else on one’s to-do list. But I am on a mission to encourage people to cook more for themselves. It is so much more affordable than take-out, better for your waist-line, and believe it or not is a relaxing way to unwind. I intend this blog to be a useful resource for those who want to take back their kitchens and make healthy, home-cooked meals. My motto is: Nothing packaged, nothing processed. Just real, wholesome food. It really isn’t that difficult. I promise.
My first project: homemade pasta. You will never be able to eat pasta from a box once you have had it fresh. There really is a world of difference. You are probably saying to yourself “I would never have the time to make fresh pasta.” But you are so wrong! It is so ridiculously easy that I can’t believe it took me so long to try it.
I have made pasta dough about a dozen times in the last few months, and each time you make it you get a better sense of how it should look and feel. You can experiment with different flours (I happen to like a 50/50 ratio of all-purpose and semolina flours), and you can add things like fresh herbs or even spinach to give the noodles an extra kick.
The best part about cooking for yourself is that you can control the ingredients. I am allergic to eggs, for example, so I make an egg-free pasta with olive oil and water. The dough comes together quickly, takes 20 minutes to rest and cooks in about a minute. You can make a big batch and freeze it so that when guests come you simply plop it in the water, but it is so easy to make that I always just make a fresh batch when entertaining. People never fail to ooh and ahh, thinking that I have gone to all kinds of trouble to cook for them, and this never fails to elicit a great bottle of wine in gratitude.
My basic pasta recipe (vegan)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients and knead dough for about 10 minutes until elastic. You can add flour or water as needed to get the right consistency, which you will be able to determine by feeling it. After the third time making the dough I was able to really get a sense of how the dough should look and feel to easily move through the roller (if you’re using a pasta roller).
Let dough rest for 20 mins. (During this 20 minutes I usually get my sauce together. Because the pasta cooks up in about a minute, you will want your sauce to be all ready to go with the hot pasta.)
Cut dough into 4 equal pieces. Process one piece at a time through pasta attachment or use rolling pin to roll the dough as thin as possible and cut into desired shape (long, rustic strands are best here). I have the pasta attachment for my KitchenAid mixer, but Italian grandmothers have been rolling out this dough by hand for centuries. It turns out great either way. Drop strands into lightly boiling water for 1-2 minutes (closer to one minute, usually). Serve immediately with any kind of sauce. (serves 6)