Thursday, July 29, 2010

Christ on a Croissant! That is some good Pasta!

Yes I did just say that. Mario Batali, I am gunning for your job.  Run fast and quick in your little orange crocks to JFK, and catch the next flight back to Italy my friend.  For years I have loved you, and your calf high socks. I have wondered how amazing you must be, to be able to dress that way, you obviously have food authority. But my dear Mario, the secrets out… My pasta. IS. GOOD. Not like, hey, good job, Whit!  More like “Ballzangna. This is wonderful!”

Kids, Mom has found her calling. When you love carbs like I do, it is natural to feel the way I feel about pasta.  It’s the greatest and best food in all the land.  I will say it. I could eat pasta for dinner every night. (Obviously I practice restraint otherwise I would look like the side of a barn) But seriously, eating pasta is like a big hug.  It’s like you worked a long hard day, walked in the door and your grandmother is there to give you a big ole hug.  On a plate, I mean….  Anyway, before I get into the details, you have to meet some people who were instrumental in helping me find my calling.
I mentioned her to you before, but it’s time you properly met my girlfriend, Suzy.  

Without her, none of this amazing culinary skill would have come to fruition.  She is a racy red 10 speed 5 qt. Kitchenaid Mixer and she completes me.  She purrs at all of my jokes, doesn’t talk back, and knows what I want her to do without asking me stupid questions. Recently, Dad felt that Suzy was lonely and needed a friend to help her out in the kitchen, so he bought her Gonzo.  Gonzo and Suzy are like 2 peas in a pod.  He’s the gun in her holster. Bonnie and Clyde of the kitchen.  I could go on for days but it would get rapidly less funny so we will leave it at that.
Dad.  You may have heard of him as he has many names.  The man, the myth, the legend, the hair. This, is Dad.

He will answer to any of the follow: Brian, Abraham, Brian Abraham, Glorious Hair, Resident Jew, or Dad.  He’s there in my kitchen, eating my scraps and tripping me up.  He’s washing my dishes, grating my parmesan, pouring my wine, and setting my tables.  He’s burning my mushrooms and and buying me Gonzos for my birthday.    You may wonder why we are calling him Dad when he obviously is too young to have sired this prodigy. (I spelled that progidy for about 4 rounds wondering why the word was underlined…yea, right, prodigy..)  So back to why we call him Dad.  See, a lot of our friends refer to us as Mom and Dad, I am not sure if I started it or if they did, but regardless, don’t ask questions. (Fine I started it, as a derivative of Sugar Daddy.) Just run with it.  Trust me when I say that none of us want to know what the world would be like without Dad, so Three Cheers for Sugar Daddy! (insert evil laugh here)
Christ. Ona. Croissant! Have I told you how good this pasta was?!?  I fear I have ruined my life, because when I don’t feel like cooking, I make pasta and my zippy good tomato sauce. Now dried pasta is going to taste like jarred pasta sauce. The last time I tried to use jarred sauce, I spit it out. The sodium practically did a river dance in my mouth. Not a good river dance. Like a “you are drunk and doing toe touches” river dance. Therefore, in the last year and a half, I haven’t even LOOKED at jarred pasta sauce.  And after you know how to make mine, you won’t either.  I do feel weird about telling you this recipe.  I feel protective over these recipes I make up and I worry someone’s going to steal them and not credit me one day if they publish it and then they will be a babillionaire and I will be all poor saying “What the flip, this is MY ZIPPY SAUCE?!?!?” (DID ANYONE WATCH TOP CHEF LAST NIGHT? SACRELIG!) Anyway, the only people who read this here blog are my friends and I don’t think they are going to publish a cookbook anytime soon. So I should get off my worry rock and make your life better by telling you all these recipes!  Now you know I get anxiety about sharing my creations.  It’s a growing trust I am building with you here.  I will make you a promise that if I use someone else’s recipe, I will tell you who it belongs to.  I will only claim what is mine. (WHO WAS THAT? THAT GOT A LITTLE TOO SERIOUS IN HERE.)
And I am back. I was momentarily possessed by a serious monster.  Pasta. Zippy Sauce. First off you should know that I checked about 22 different pasta recipes before I settled on one.  Do you know what is in pasta? Eggs and flour. Sometimes water.  What the hell was I stressing about?  I was all “Well it’s the first time and I want it to be special?!!?”  This is not my virginity we are talking about here. Its pasta, so put on your damn apron and mix some eggs and flour.  I cannot tell you how paranoid I was about picking the wrong recipe. How funny?  So naturally, when I stress and am trying something new for the first time, I go to my best gal, Martha Stew.  She has never let me down, and even when she was temporarily detained she still knew what was up! (Lemons.) So without further ado Martha’s basic, probs can’t mess it up pasta. I got this out of my copy of Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook. If you don’t own this, Good Heavens BUY IT. (shameless free advertisement for Martha in hopes that she discovers me and makes me her bia)
  • 2 cups Italian "00" flour, substitute all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
    • I hear a lot about this “00” flour.  It is supposedly the best of the best for pasta making, it’s just hard to find. Don’t stress, it’s not worth it. AP flour worked like a charm for me.
  • 4 large eggs
  • Pinch of Salt
Making pasta by hand? I’m sorry. Have fun with this down here.
Crack eggs into well, and beat lightly with a fork. Gradually bring small amounts of flour into the well, and incorporate into eggs using the fork. When most of the flour has been incorporated, use a bench scraper to fold the rest of the flour into the dough quickly. Once all the flour has been incorporated, knead the dough on a clean surface lightly dusted with flour until it is completely smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover dough with an inverted bowl or a piece of plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.
            Making pasta with a Suzy / Gonzo? YEAS.
Sift the flour into your Suzy’s bowl. Throw in that pinch of salt.  Make a well out of the flour and pour your ALREADY beaten eggs into the well. Some people say to start out with the paddle and switch to the dough hook. I just used the dough hook because the mound of dishes in my sink were astronomical at that point. Turn Suzy on slow speed for say, 4-5 minutes or until all the dough balls up around the dough hook.  Take it out, knead it for a few (2 minutes), wrap it in plastic wrap on the counter for MINIMUM 30 minutes or up to 1 1/2 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator. 
You may be wondering why it says to knead for 10 minutes in the “by hand” recipe and only for a few in the mixer recipe.  Well, Suzy takes a lot of the grunt work out of it for you.  No need to murder the gluten in your pasta dough, just knead it until its elasticity seems to feel right.
After the pasta had rested I took it to the cutting board.  You should cut your pasta in to equal, palm sized portions to work with. Keep the portions you are not working with covered with clean kitchen towels.  This is important because you don’t want your dough to dry out.  With a floured cutting board, roll out your palm sized pasta dough portion until its about the size of your hand.  Run it through the thickest setting of your Gonzo roller once as it is, then fold the dough in thirds, rotate 90 degrees and put through the roller. Do this step 3 times. (you will see the dough come together really well by this third round. Should feel very smooth and elastic) Then move the setting on Gonzo to the next thickest setting, run it through twice. Following, run it through the following settings once until you achieve your desired thickness. (I stopped at 4 away from the thinnest)
If you are rolling out by hand, make sure you have a well floured cutting board and keep flour on hand if your dough starts to stick. Continue to roll the dough out by rotating it clockwise 90 degrees after each few rolls to keep a uniform shape.  I don’t know how long this will take you because I didn’t do it this way, but I should think it would take you about a fortnight.
Once your dough it at its desired thickness, go ahead and pass it through you Gonzo cutter attachment, or cut it yourself with a nice sharp knife.  After you’ve cut your pasta, make sure its all separated.  In order to keep it from sticking, dust it in semolina flour or corn meal to keep it from sticking to itself.  Make a nice little birds nest out of the bunch on a baking sheet until ready to use. Then take your second piece of palm-sized pasta dough and repeat the above steps! If you want to dry it out, leave it there over night and then store it in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.
 (sorr about the no make up, it was the day after my birthday...)
WHEW I am tired just telling you about it!  It goes a lot faster than it sounds like it, and trust me it is worth it.  Now onto the star of the dish, my zippy pasta sauce.
I actually have never written this one down either (can you tell I’m an eyeball cook?) So here is hoping I can quantify this properly for you. 
2 cans of diced or whole stewed (whichever you prefer) ORGANIC tomatoes.
Don’t mess around here. Get the good stuff.  If you can find San Marzano great! They are not everywhere so no biggie if you can’t just get the best quality you can find.
1 can of ORGANIC tomato sauce. 
(if you can get the same brand as the diced or whole tomatoes this works well, as they are usually from the same farm or crop and they have the same flavor profile.)
2 sweet onions
            (Vidalia, or any other sweet variety)
2-4 cloves of garlic.
Depends on how much you like garlic. I love it.
1 teaspoon Crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon Cayenne
1 tablespoon Dried oregano, basil, thyme mixed
1 ½ teaspoons Garlic salt

Finely chop the garlic and onions and simmer on medium low heat in olive oil until they are soft and turning slightly translucent.  Add the diced or whole tomatoes.  If they are whole, break them up with a wooden spoon.  I like my pasta chunky, so I leave the diced ones as they are if I’m using those. Let those simmer until they start to smell sweet (10 minutes, maybe.) Add the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.  Then add the dried herbs, crushed red pepper, garlic salt, salt and pepper and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring every now and then.  If the sauce looks too thick you can add some of the pasta water before mixing with the pasta. (I always do) If for some reason it looks thin, UR DOIN IT WRONG.  Cook it longer.

Always mix the pasta in the sauce before plating it. Don’t just pour sauce on pasta, it’s illegal to do it. Give her a good mix in the sauce pan before dishing her up!  

(sorr its have eaten... we were excited...)
I dare you to make this and not have someone fall in love with you. I dare you.

Go ahead, charm the panties of someone with this! Mario Batali, I was kidding before about what I said, about you running to JFK to catch a flight. I like you, don’t go.  You have red hair and you make good carbs too.

Happy best meal of your life!



  1. First time reading your blog and I have to say it was this post's catchy header that got my attention on foodbuzz!
    I have tried making pasta three times now and the last time, once I got started I realized I had bought the wrong pasta attachment. rats. Anyway, I'll spare the gory details but just wanted to say thanks for inspiring me to try my hand at homemade pasta again.

  2. Thank you Kimberly! I really hope you try again, nothing tastes as good as fresh pasta! Let me know how the next attempt goes! Thanks for reading :)