Swirl the homemade spaghetti and arrange them on a plate. Pour a ladle of sauce on top, a bountiful grating of parmigiano, and you're ready to feast on this beautiful, tasty pasta.
Before leaving Edmonton, and since I was going to be away for a few months, I found some time to dedicate to my in laws. It is nice to see the sparkle in their eyes when they talk Italian with me reminiscing about the old times, sharing family stories and funny anecdotes of their life in the Italian countryside before emigrating to Canada. They left a world that is no longer there, that rural beauty is lost, unfortunately, but we can bring it back to life by passing down regional recipes, a traditional way of cooking, our culture.
So what a better way to spend quality time together than to do what we like most? That is, having our hands in the flour, kneading the dough to create bread, pizza, cookies, cakes and of course, pasta. My father in law's specialties are bread, a pizza dough that he lets rise twice, and delicious lemon cookies: pillowy soft, just enough tangy and perfectly round. My mother in law is renown for her chocolate zucchini cake, some traditional Italian sweets and homemade pasta noodles. Together, and like most Italians abroad, they are amazing at preserving and canning: tomato sauce, apple sauce, jam, pickles of any sort. Sometimes, with the help of other Italian friends, they also make sausages, ricotta and other cheeses.
I feel at home when I'm with them, and my mind fills with loving memories of helping my great grandma, and my grandma making pasta dough. We shared the wood board and I always had a tiny corner space where I could knead my little piece of dough, trying to steal their moves with my eyes, learning and enjoying myself along the way. I feel fortunate to have had some time with my great grandma, and even more fortunate with my grandma, as they both lived well into their nineties.
In our house and my in-law's house we both have a stainless steel pasta machine (nothing fancy, the one with a handle, a knob and just a couple attachments) and pounds and pounds of flour in the pantry. Today we are creating in their basement kitchen, as most Ital-Canadians have two kitchens. One reason being that when both husband and wife are cooking, their wills are much too strong and they are better off cooking separately, but mostly it is for the reason of quantities of food, and I mean quantity! We had a busy, creative morning making fresh pasta. The house filled with chatters, confident gestures, whiffs of flour, and in no time we created pasta noodles and lasagna sheets that my mother in law froze, and that will be at our disposal for our Lasagna Sundays 😉 .
After making the pasta noodles I went back home with my precious bounty 🙂 . With spaghetti noodles done, the idea was to make a quick, tasty tomato sauce, that we call sugo, and share a pleasant lunch with my sweet half. In winter times it can be hard to have fresh basil at disposal, and even the dry one was gone, so I opted for oregano. I made a yummy sauce sautéing plenty of minced garlic in abundant extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and a generous pinch of chili flakes (peperoncino). The smell coming from the pan was delightfully pungent and sweet at the same time. I couldn't wait to do the "scarpetta" test (i.e. scooping the sauce with a piece of bread). Mmmmm, is all I can say, and in Italy you know people enjoyed their pasta when they are cleaning the sauce in their plates with some good bread.
Fresh pasta takes only few minutes to cook, the rule in general says it is supposed to be ready when it floats on the foamy surface. We like, and recommend, always eating every kind of pasta (fresh or store bought) al dente, it tastes better and it is better for you, being more digestible. Another recommendation for pasta lovers and pasta eaters: always coat your pasta in the pan where you cooked the sauce, or in a bowl, before plaiting it. In case of homemade noodles, since they're more delicate, better tossing them gently in a big bowl with part of the sauce, and leave some sauce to put on top. Homemade noodles absorb more sauce, due to their rough texture.
Plaiting was fun, swirling the spaghetti with a big wooden spoon and arranging them nicely on the plate. One more ladle of sugo on top, a bountiful grating of parmigiano reggiano, and we were ready to feast on the pasta.
Nothing can beat fresh homemade spaghetti noodles with a simple, tasty, oh so good tomato sauce! Better yet is the next day, fry it up in a pan, the pasta gets these crispy bits and the sauce intensifies, and when you ask any Italian about homemade spaghetti they will share this note with great enthusiasm and passion 🙂 .
What are your experiences making fresh pasta? We'd love to know!
Song of the day: "Tu Vuò Fà l'Americano", Renato Carosone.Print
For the pasta dough:
- 2 cups flour
- 2 eggs
- water, if needed
For the sauce:
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 can San Marzano tomatoes d.o.p., puréed
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- pinch of chili flakes
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 tsp oregano
- Parmigiano Reggiano
- Put the flour in a bowl or on a wood surface and make a well in the middle where you'll crack the eggs. Slowly mix the eggs and flour, adding a tiny bit of water only if needed (if you feel the dough too hard). Knead the dough for a few minutes until it is smooth and uniform in color. The dough should feel soft at the touch. Now cut the dough in slices, sprinkle them with a little flour and pass them a few times through the machine, turning the knob from 1 to 5 (thicker to thinner), until you have nice smooth sheets. Let the pasta sheets rest and dry a while on a tablecloth. Afterwards cut the sheets with the right pasta cutting attachment.
For the sauce:
- In a large skillet heat the extra virgin olive oil, sautée the minced garlic with the chili peppers until golden brown, add the tomatoes puréed, the oregano and the salt. Stir and let simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes, or until desired consistency, stirring once in a while.
- Cook the pasta in plenty salted boiling water, for about 8 minutes, drain it and toss it gently with half the sauce in a big bowl.
- Plate the spaghetti, add some more sauce on top and dust plenty of parmigiano reggiano on top.
- Serving Size: 4 servings
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