Monday, 9 November 2009

I Heart Italia: Pasta

The Keston guide to perfect pasta and good guests by Charlotte

For my birthday I received a rather shiny pasta maker from the girls, Jules and Rach. Not that surprising as my penchant for Italian food and my love of time spent in the kitchen is well known. So, this weekend was a seriously indulgent one, of pure relaxation and a spot of pasta making. Pizza oven enthusiast (boyfriend) was up for it, I was up for it and so was Ceri when she arrived back from two weeks in India. She had time to fit in a bowl of the good stuff before getting some seriously needed sleep - beauty sleep in fact, in time for a date on Sunday...

I cannot stress enough how good the end result of home-made pasta making is; it is the easiest recipe of all time and it's a lot of fun AND it can be a group activity - who doesn't want to roll out dough so that it's so long you need someone else to help you manoeuvre it?

The recipe for 4 (from The Silver Spoon) is:
200g plain flour, type 00 (incredibly fine)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
A pinch of salt

What you need to do:
Put the flour and salt on the work top and create a well. Mix in the beaten eggs with your fingers and knead for 10 minutes. Leave to cool for 15 minutes and then split into manageable pieces to roll out and put through the pasta maker.

Matt and I tried out the dough on Saturday and Ceri arrived in time to taste test. We chose taglietelle (there is a choice of taglietelle, spaghetti, wide taglietelle and another skinny pasta that looks suspiciously similar to spaghetti). For the topping we roasted cherry tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and a pinch of brown sugar. If you roast them on low for about an hour they are succulent and super juicy! Towards the end I cut up and threw in some artichoke hearts which was a very good idea. A couple of glasses of sparkling wine (the drink of 2009) are a great accompaniment to this dish. You can either save the wine to go with dinner or you can consume it all during the making of the pasta (we may have opted for the latter).

Day 1 was a big success, so on Sunday we decided to make more pasta and invite people. I decided to invite the cousin, Louise, always a good guest. She is enthusiastic to say the least and I knew she would be well up for handling a nice bit of fresh dough. I must admit I had a brief strop (about 2 minutes) when Louise showed off her natural skills in the dough sector - her sheets were far superior to mine! End strop, the next guests arrive, Kate and Claire who have been in town watching some drag queen cabaret. They've had a couple of drinks and so arrive in an excitable manner, full of praise, quite loud and possible a little tipsy? Definitely tipsy, this is confirmed as Claire pulls out a nice can of Carlsberg from her coat pocket - the last can!

Everyone sits down. Rach gets the toppings out of the oven; whole roasted peppers that have been skinned and chopped up, more roasted cherry tomatoes and cold chopped olives. I also have some special pesto (a present from the girls to go with the pasta maker) which is so good, really tasty and contains cashews as an added bonus. The pasta is amazingly light and not really comparable to supermarket bought, it is pale and translucent. You don't need lots of toppings, just fresh stuff and a good glug of olive oil. Overall conclusion - home-made pasta is top dollar - an activity that should maybe occur once every two weeks.

Preferably this should be followed by a sweet Italian treat, perhaps a delicious tart - Rachael? Tart?


Oh my good lord what a bad weekend to go away! But is there ever a good weekend to leave the Kkitchen?
But for those of you who are concerned that I might have missed out on a weekend of feasting, do not fear, I was celebrating my Dad's birthday the only way we know how - amazing food of course!
AND there was enough delicious charlotte pasta for a tasty lunch box treat at work the next day. 'What have you got for lunch Julia?' 'Oh, only some freshly made pasta with the finest basil pesto and slow roasted tomatoes, don't you know'. The food envy was palpable in the air.

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