Nobody's Little Mrs.

Tag: pasta

Sunday Cooking with My Mother

Almost every Sunday during my childhood my mother made fresh pasta. She’d pull out the wooden board–handmade by my father for that specific purpose–and within minutes flour, egg, and water would turn into fresh dough. She would knead and re-knead it, let it rest. Then she cut it, rolled it out, cut it into smaller pieces and soon the table would be lined with tiny orrechiette, or cavatelli,  fusilli, or tagliatelle.

When I moved out on my own, my father made me a pasta board, knowing how much I loved to cook (and to eat homemade pasta). But, unfortunately, the only action my board ever saw was the rolling out of pre-made pizza dough purchased from the market! Life just seemed to take over and my parents visits never seemed to include enough time for a homemade pasta lesson.

It’s taken a while, but I finally managed to get that lesson from my mother and put my beloved pasta board to proper use. 

There’s no better way to spend a chilly winter Sunday than cooking with my mom. For now, enjoy these photos from a great afternoon in the kitchen. I’ll soon be sharing the proper recipe for my mother’s pasta dough.

Buon appetito!

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In the Kitchen: Perfect Pasta Sauce

Perfect Ingredients: Simple Tomato Sauce

leather apron by Crate & Barrel

Growing up in an Italian household, I have come to consider the most perfect form of comfort food a simple dinner of pasta and a salad. I could literally have some form of pasta as a daily meal without ever getting bored. Of course, homemade pasta is ideal, though not necessary. What is essential however, is homemade sauce–and it’s much easier than you might think. 
There are endless types of sauces to suit any palate, the most basic of which is a simple tomato sauce with basil. The ingredients shown here are what you will need to achieve a delicious sauce of your very own in just a few steps. 
As I was never handed down a written recipe, but rather learned watching at my parents’ side in the kitchen, this is not a formal recipe. What it is, though, is a starting point–for you to personalize your own homemade tomato sauce, and perfect it as you go! 
Yellow Onion and Olive Oil
Select a sweet yellow onion for the best flavor and use only high quality extra virgin olive oil–they are the most aromatic. 
In a deep pot, heat about 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Then add the onion; I like to cut the onion in half and place the two halves in the oil. I do this because I prefer to have the onion flavor the sauce, rather than have pieces of the onion in the sauce. If you like, you can dice the onion instead. In either case, cook the onion until it softens a bit and becomes somewhat translucent, but not browned.
Whole Peeled Tomatoes
The better the tomatoes, the better your sauce. Obviously, when you have so few ingredients in a recipe, inferior quality in any of them can affect your final product. I only use tomatoes from Italy, and San Marzano are the best tasting. Look for whole peeled tomatoes. 
Once the onion has cooked in the olive oil, add one large can of whole peeled tomatoes. Let the tomatoes cook for 5 to 7 minutes to soften a bit, and then take either a potato masher or a pastry dough blender to break up the tomatoes. Set the burner on low and let the sauce simmer, uncovered. (Though I would suggest a splatter screen.)
At this point, add the fresh basil. I love basil, so I use a small bunch. Be sure to wash the basil well and pat dry, then pick the leaves off, discarding the stems. Alternately, you can finely chop the leaves and add them to the sauce that way.
Salt and Pepper
After about 10 to 15 minutes of simmering taste your tomatoes and add salt and pepper to your liking. Continue to simmer the sauce until the extra liquid evaporates and the sauce thickens. (If your tomatoes are particularly watery, or if you like an extra thick sauce, you may add a small can of tomato paste. Again, go for Italian tomatoes.)
You’ll know when your sauce is ready, but in total it shouldn’t take you more than an hour and fifteen minutes. Let me know how yours turns out and Buon Appetito!
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