Thursday, July 08, 2010

Fresh Pasta and Tomato Sauce

It seems that June just flew right by us (as I say with every month, it seems...), and especially since Matt and I were very busy during the weeks (baseball, movie screenings, birthday surprises - I'm not complaining by any means!). But  being so busy meant either grabbing food on the go, cleaning up leftovers, or just putting together quick meals. We hardly grocery shopped in June, and it really feels like I haven't cooked in ages! Well, aside from the bread, that is. And we've recently returned from a nice vacation at the cottage, so my plan for this week is to cook and bake like no body's business!!

So, to start out the week, for dinner Monday night I got really inspired to cook something delicious and somewhat labour intensive (working from home has its advantages, especially when work is slow...). I couldn't think of anything better than fresh pasta in a home made tomato sauce, accompanied by a loaf of ciabatta (0f course!) - a whole Italian night.

I pretty much knew the basics of making a tomato sauce, but just to see what else was out there, I searched online for a recipe.  But after much looking, I couldn't one that really spoke to me. I then remembered the collection of cook books I have on my shelf, and in particular, one I received for Christmas from my brother, Jeff, and his wife, Christine, "How to Cook Everything" the website is very good, too!). I should have known to go there first, because of course, it had exactly what I was looking for, including how to roast the tomatoes and turn into a sauce. So that's exactly what I did!

First, I cut and seeded the tomatoes, then roasted in the oven with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Next, I sauteed up some onions in butter and olive oil with a dash of red pepper flakes (for a bit of a kick) until golden brown, then combined both the tomatoes and onions in a blender. I added a bit of tomato paste for a more intense flavour, and also some of the reserve tomato juice I had after draining the seeds. I then let it sit in the fridge while I moved on to rolling out the pasta.

I love making fresh pasta, even if it can be a bit frustrating. And yesterday was no different, but the end result was well worth it. I have made the pasta several times for the ravioli I make, so I feel pretty good about getting the consistency of the dough right, but this was the first time that I used the pasta cutting attachment for the pasta roller to make spaghetti noodles. It was a bit frustrating, since I think I rolled the dough too thin, and the cutter didn't separate it entirely. I probably also made the mistake of making the dough too early, because after I made the sauce, most of the noodles had stuck together. Grr...! At that point, I was about ready to through in the towel and just used packaged noodles, but I thought I'd come that far, may as well go all the way. So, I balled up the dough again and rolled it through again, this time making them not as thin, and also remembering to toss them in corn meal afterwards. This helps the sticking, plus, the dough doesn't absorb any of the extra, as it would with plain white flour. This really made a difference (again, I've learned a lot through your mistakes!).

I should point out that at the time of the second rolling, most of Toronto lost the power (hence why the photo appears a little dark). This wasn't a big issue, other than the fact that my air conditioning no longer worked, but I feared that if it stayed out too long, we wouldn't actually get to enjoy the dinner I have worked so hard to make. It wouldn't have spoiled, mind you, and we could have enjoyed it the next night, but that's not the point. My mouth was already salivating for the pasta and sauce! Luckily, I had done all the prep work before the power went out, and thankfully the power was restored around 7pm, so dinner was saved after all!

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