September 24, 2008

Pasta love

I am back.
School started again, we are four graders now, a busy time at work, new rules and forms that i am learning, possibly looking for a new job starting January, fighting the blues (funny thing, blue is not my favorite color, but definitely the blue hue is around me a lot, sometimes more than i like it or can handle it), all these together kept me away from posting. Not enough time, not enough motivation, but now hopefully i am getting the hang of it again, enough to make time for the blog as well for more exciting cooking.
We still ate these past weeks, i kind of cooked, most of the time because i had too. And this shows big time. You know that saying that you have to cook with love and when something tastes really good the special ingredient is love and passion? I believe that's sooo true. At least in my case the food is not the best when i am lacking the excitement. I either burn the food, forget to add something, add something else twice, and so on.
There were still some good meals, nothing too pretentious, but i have some pictures for them. Then, i have been shopping last weekend with Clara at a wonderful Italian shop where we found so many wonderful things, which will be part of some future posts.
I am sorting now thru the pictures took in the last 3 weeks. There will be probably 2-3 different posts, because some have a recipe, some don't.
Let's start with my zucchini ribbon salad, the Greek pasta salad and the homemade fresh pasta.
The zucchinis (2 green and 2 yellow) were too fresh and good looking to cook them. So, i sliced them lengthwise on a mandoline, made a balsamic reduction (which i tasted about 15 times, until there was only half left to drizzle over the salad), added some toasted pine nuts and shaved some peccorrino cheese on top ( after i took the picture, honestly). It took only a couple of minutes to make, but it was soo good.

The Greek pasta salad was for dinner one of the nights when i didn't really feel like cooking. I used some colored rottini, with tomato and spinach flavor, feta cheese, red bell pepper, cucumbers and tomatoes, green olives and Kalamata olives, olive oil and about 1-2 tablespoons of rice vinegar. It was light and quick to made, and also quick to disappear.

And now the homemade pasta. Cristina is guilty of getting me so nuts about making pasta and craving it so badly. She is the one who started making all different shapes, and tell you the regions where they come from, and how the simple combinations are actually the best, that she got so many of the girls from the RC forum to start making their own pasta. That's when i got the pasta machine and i think it is one of the most precious things in my kitchen. So i started making pasta with Clara.
First time, before getting the machine, we made cavatelli, and i am sorry i cannot find the pictures anymore, which means we'll have to make them again. Clara had so much fun rolling the dough and then pull with her fingers, plus she was proud she helped cooking the dinner. It was clear how this pasta tasted so much better then any other before. Next, i bought the machine and i could say just like she said, that i have never had a better pasta in my life than the fresh fettuccine and the capellini (angel hair) we made at home. It tasted so good, it had a bite to it, the texture from the semolina flour is so different from the dry pasta i used before... It is even a pitty now to drown them in sauces, or maybe at least not in the store bought sauce anymore.
We had the capellini with just parmesan, lemon zest, butter, and pepper (no picture now, but sometime again this coming week), or with some fresh tomato, roasted garlic, basil and parmesan. I cannot wait to make the carbonara and so many others which i am sure will taste ten times better with the fresh pasta. Not to say about the spinach pasta that is on the list, and also some raviolli or tortellini, we'll see.
The first pasta dish is fettuccine with a sauce made with onion, garlic and fresh tomatoes, some italian herbs and shaved cheese.

The second pasta dish i made a while back, but i thought to add it here, is made with cremini mushrooms, thyme and cognac, and some grated parmesan cheese. I made the pasta dough using dry shiitake mushrooms, which i turned into a powder and replaced 1/3 of the flour in the pasta dough recipe with the mushroom powder.

Until now, i was lucky to find pasta flour in my supermarket, it is a mix of flour and semolina. But last time, i didn't find anymore, so i used half all purpose flour and half semolina flour.
The recipe for the pasta dough is very simple:
2 1/2 cups pasta flour (or half and half all purpose and semolina)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil
about 2 tablespoons water
I mix the ingredients in a bowl (tried to mound the flour on the and knead them for about 5 minutes, until the dough is elastic and smooth, not sticky anymore. I wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes. Then, divide the dough in 4-6 pieces, and work with one at a time, the rest staying under the plastic wrap so it wouldn't dry out. Each piece is flattened to about 1/8" or 3-4 mm, then dusted with flour and put it through the pasta machine according to their instructions (i start at 6, put it twice at this thickness, then go lower one step each time, and put it twice thru 2). I don't have a drying rack, so i either put them on hangers or lay out on a cookie sheet dusted with semolina flour. Be careful to keep the strands separate, otherwise they will stick together and not dry out as they should.


Mike said...

That fettuccine looks great! I love homemade pasta - there is something amazing about the silky texture. Pappardelle is probably my favorite.

Cristina said...

minunate pastele voastre feleor !!!

Roxi sa treci pe la mine ca mai am un premiu :-))


white on rice couple said...

Bravo for your pasta love! I want to join your club and eat and share pasta dishes!

roxana said...

Thank you Mike, i like the thicker pasta better, too. I think is holds more sauce.... But then again depends on the dish, the angel hair was good, too.
Cristina, o sa trec imediat. Si multumim inca o data de inspiratie.
White on Rice couple, thank you for visiting and your comment. It is a compliment itself, besides the good words you had to say, this is truly a good Monday. Could i jut say what big fun i am of your blog, the gardening, teh cooking, the travelling, the pictures.... aaaah, if i could be like that when i grow up.....