In case you haven’t heard it’s been raining here in California, A LOT! So it was a great weekend to stay home and make all sorts of comfort food. It doesn’t get more comfortable than homemade pasta.
I love that you and I both probably have everything we need to make pasta, already, in our kitchens. Are you ready for the long list; Flour, salt, eggs, water and olive oil. I have a hand cranked pasta roller, but you really don’t need it. Pasta has been made for centuries, certainly long before standing electric mixers were adding attachments and even before my hand-cranked roller. If you have a wooden roller pin and a knife you can make your own pasta.
Keep in mind you can search for basic pasta recipes and find dozens of variations. Start with mine but if it s not a good fit, you can play around. Add more water; use just all-purpose flour, more oil (not too much). I did make mine in a standing mixer, with a dough hook; you can do everything by hand in a large bowl.
I want to say that, even not so great, homemade pasta will taste better than any pasta you will ever buy in a store. Once you get this pasta made, go over to March 1, 2015 and make the Marinara Sauce!
In a large bowl combine flours and salt. Make a well (indentation) and add eggs. If you are doing this by hand, start to fold your flour over the eggs and mix, adding water and oil, until you have a stiff dough. I used a standing electric mixer with the dough hook attachment. I used a spatula to scrape down the sides.
As you are mixing and adding water & oil, keep pinching the dough. When it starts to stick together easily, its ready. You do not want it too sticky.
I used Durum Semolina, which is traditionally Italian. It has a coarser texture, almost like corn meal, it will need more water and olive oil. The texture smooths out in rolling and cooking. All-purpose flour will NOT need nearly as much liquid.
Once the dough is all mixed. Knead for 3 - 4 minutes on a lightly floured board. Then form a disk and wrap in plastic and let rest, in refrigerator, for 30 minutes.
When ready to roll, cut disk into quarters and flatten. If you are using a pasta machine or roller, start on a zero setting and run the dough through once or twice and fold in half and lightly flour each side and run through again. Repeat this process gradually increasing setting to higher numbers and ultimately increasing to desired thinness and length. Or follow the directions provided, with your machine.
If you are hand rolling, lightly flour a board and use a rolling pin to roll dough out to desired thinness and length. I like to roll between two pieces of parchment or wax paper. Too much flour can make the pasta too chewy.
At this point you would switch to the cutting shape, you want on the machine. If you are cutting by hand use a knife or pizza cute to cut your dough.
Once your dough is cut, it is IMPORTANT to let it dry/set for a while before storing or cooking. If you don't it might be gummy. If you have something to hang your pasta over, even a towel rack will do, that's ideal. if not just let it lay straight on board or parchment lined pan. Don't let it sit bunched up, like in the picture.
Once it is a little dry you can store it, folded, in an airtight container, with a little semolina or cornmeal, to keep it separated.
To cook, bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it, liberally. Add you pasta and cook 5 - 7 minutes. Do not over cook. Serve with your favorite sauce or none at all. It's that good,
I have returned from Julia’s, La Peetch! It was everything I thought it would be. It was so much more and a little less at the same time.
For anyone that fancies themselves a good cook. For anyone that has ever watched a black & white episode of The French Chef, on PBS; walking into the kitchen at Julia Child’s home in the south of France and seeing the peg board wall still adorned with every kitchen utensil imaginable is awe inspiring. Somewhere in your mind you understand that these can’t all be original pieces but it doesn’t seem to matter. YOUR IN HER KITCHEN!!! As you “tour” her approximately 10X13 kitchen, you can feel her, you can smell the remnants of meals past and your fingers want to graze over every edge.
Our first evening there we were served appetizers on her cottage table. They were simple, as I thought they should be. We had a little cheese and both green and black olive tapenade on crostini. Each of us explored the home and compared it to pictures on our phones. We sat on the green velvet couch and walked the grounds imagining Julia and Paul walking every step with us.
The next morning, we met again at that cottage table for coffee and “morning pages”. We were given a prompt and our writing began. For me, this is where I think my separation from Julia began. I had a crazy expectation that she would work through me and I would suddenly have words flowing from my fingertips. Not so much. As the week went on and this exercise got more frustrating for me, the bloom fell of the rose, as they say. But, in a good way. I became less focused on Julia and more focused on the women I was with. I started listening to their words. I paid more attention the food and beverage I was consuming, in the moment, instead of what Julia would have been eating and drinking. As I did that the words started to come for me. The drink started to taste sweeter and I had a keener sense of how our food tasted. I was able to enjoy even the simplest meal of pasta with Roquefort sauce.
It was last day and I had yet to find my perfect magazine pitch or outline for my breakout cookbook. Some had already began their journey home and others were taking in a sunny day at the pool. Some had gone exploring in St. Paul de Vence. I decided to take my camera and journal and explore the property practicing my new camera skills. I was composing some artsy photo of an olive or a leaf when the piano started. It was so beautiful and magical. It stopped me mid-shot and I started to write. In that moment I found the soul of Julia I had been looking for. It wasn’t her words but her inspiration that came through me.
On the very last day, I found my words and started my project. So while I continue to walk with you on your journey to good cooking I will share some peeks into my project along the way. Here is my version of the Roquefort Pasta we had a La Peetch. Bon Appetit!
Pasta with Roquefort Sauce
A creamy, not overpowering sauce of Roquefort cheese & butter tossed generously with fettuccine pasta. Serve with baguette and a fresh green salad.
Note: I cook my pasta in a well salted boiling water. As the saying goes the water should taste like the sea.
Reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water for the recipe.
Right before putting everything together, while the water is still boiling hot, swirl it in your serving bowl, to warm it, then toss out.
In a small bowl combine Roquefort and butter with a fork until well blended and soft.
Put pasta in warm bowl with butter mixture and toss slowly so pasta can absorb flavors of cheese and butter. Slowly add cup of cooking water until "sauce" forms and pasta is coated (you may not need whole cup). Season with nutmeg. I use a good amount. There's something about cheese and nutmeg.
Toss with lemon zest and rosemary. Taste and adjust seasoning with fresh ground pepper.
Serve with fresh greens dressed with a simple vinaigrette and fresh bread with butter. Don't forget the wine ENJOY!
There’s that icebreaker question, “If you could invite any 3 people, dead or alive, for dinner; who would it be?” My answer is simple. Julia Child, Julia Child and Julia Child. I even know what I’d make, my Osso Bucco and Parmesan Ricotta Gnocchi.
You may think that Julia is the obvious choice for a chef but there is more to my choice than just that. Cooking is a lifetime sport, you never stop learning or playing with your food. There is always room for improvement or a new technique. Julia herself was well into her forties before she enrolled in the Cordon bleu. Which is why she is one of my biggest inspirations.
I am often asked how long I’ve been cooking. I can honestly say I’ve been cooking since I was 2 years old. I finally formalized my education when I was 23. The last few years of writing this blog, with your support and feedback has really fueled my desire to continue my education and to educate you.
Recently, I was given an incredible opportunity to travel to La Pitchoune, Julia and Paul Child’s home in the south of France. I will be going with a small group of women writers and an amazing mentor, for a 10-day retreat. I can’t wait! I feel like a kid anticipating Disneyland. I know when I come back I will have so much more to share with you.
I want to share those recipes with you that I would have cooked for Julia, had I been given the chance. I hope I am posting often from France too, but this should keep you day dreaming while I’m away. As Julia would say “Bon Appétit”!
Rub veal shanks lightly with olive oil , season with salt & pepper and chopped herbs.
Dust each shank shank with seasoned flour and set aside.
Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy skillet and heat. Do not let the oil smoke. Brown shanks on all sides. You may add small amounts of oil if needed, be careful not to overdo it.
Add the wine, tomatoes and chicken broth. Stir to combine.
Cover pan and reduce heat. Simmer for 45 minutes.
Test for tenderness. Fork should pierce meat easily.
Sauce should be thick. If not , remove meat and hold, let sauce reduce uncovered over low heat.
Remove stems and veins of spinach and wash thoroughly.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch spinach for 1 minute and then drop in ice water to stop cooking.
Squeeze ALL moisture out and let air dry. You want spinach to be bone dry.
Chop spinach fine.
Saute onion and pancetta in butter. Add spinach and saute until dry. Cool until cool to touch.
Mix together remaining ingredients and fold all together.
Flour your hands and form 1" - 2" balls. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a damp towel. You can hold here for up to 6 hours.
When you are ready to cook: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil oil and salt the water.
Add the gnocchi a few at a time and cook until puffed and cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. They should rise to the surface. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to remove, GENTLY, from water.
Place in a buttered dish in a single layer. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan.
Broil for 5 minutes until just browned. They are great served as is or with your favorite tomato sauce.
You can chop and slice the fresh vegetables by hand. I use a food processor and the chopping and slicing blades. This save a lot of time.
Last summer I got to spend many days cooking, teaching and hanging out with one of my favorite kids. The best part is it was all under the guise of cooking school or Camp Culinary, as I called it. Noah is a freckle-faced 11 year old boy that you will usually find in some sort of team t-shirt and matching everything else. Sports are Noah’s thing. Cooking is his other thing. He asked for a cooking play set for his 3rd birthday and even though it wasn’t with me, this summer he continued his culinary education with more classes.
Mom gave me carte blanche. Noah gave me challenges that upped my game. I suggested we decorate cupcakes and make macaroni and cheese and maybe pasta al la checca. He said “What about Mother Sauces?”.
This kid is amazing. We started with mayonnaise, hollandaise and veloute. Did I mention he made me sharpen my skills? It is very hot here in Southern California and my mayonnaise got way too thin, too fast and my hollandaise got overcooked. He loved it, not because I messed up and he could giggle (which he did), but because it gave him another opportunity to learn. We remade both and they were great! Noah found heaven when dipping a piece of broccoli in the hollandaise, complete with eye roll and tummy rub.
Our first field trip took us to Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles. Noah had been to L.A.’s famed Farmer’s Market and his local farmer’s markets but never to Grand Central Market. The child that sat in my backseat peppered me with questions like he was on his way to Disneyland. How long will it take us to get there? What stand would we go to first? Did I think he would be able to hold a butcher’s cleaver? The questions continued the whole way. I don’t even think he noticed the traffic we were in. I told him our first visit would be to Bel Campo Meats.
I was so pleased at the time each of the vendors took to talk to my young charge and teach him. As promised, first stop was Bel Campo Meats. The butcher took the time to show Noah his meat cleaver and talk about the ways you can cut meat. Did you know that Japan has 200 MORE cuts of the same cow than America? We cut our meat much bigger and have a lot more waste. We learned that cuts, such as the Hangar, used to be used in ground meat or hot dogs. This is because there is only ONE Hangar on each cow. Often it can be cut into two portions but because it is not the tenderest cut it didn’t use to be so popular. The American palette has developed and now we demand flavor as much as the tenderness, so cuts like the Hangar, Flap and Skirt are becoming a lot more popular. After learning all about the different cuts, we decided on a Bavette Steak.
After the butcher, we learned about seven different kinds of mole and the differences between double cream, triple cream and hard cheeses. We ordered noodles for lunch at the Chinese place and learned that meant soup! We went to the candy stand and the juice bar. Each vendor was another ride, without the long lines.
By the time we got back in the car, we were both exhausted but so satisfied. Before we ever left the parking garage, my little Noah was asleep. It really was a day at Disneyland for him. He was excited to get home and share his experiences and couldn’t wait for our next culinary adventure. It was truly one of my most memorable summer experiences.
Here is a great way to prepare Bavette Steak. If you can’t find Bavette you can use skirt or flap steak too.
Bavette Steak with Romesco sauce
I love romesco sauce! It's bread and almonds and deliciousness! It also happens to be super easy to make.
Heat a non-stick pan (I like to use a cast iron skillet) over medium high heat and add 1 T. oil then add onion. Cook until browned. Transfer to a food processor, but don't process yet.
Return same pan to heat and add another T. oil to pan. Toast bread and almonds until just golden. Watch carefully. When ready, add to food processor.
Add roasted red peppers, water, vinegar, 1/4 tsp. salt and red pepper flakes to processor and pulse until well combined.
With processor running add 1 T. olive oil, through top and blend until smooth.
Season the steaks with t teaspoon salt and some fresh ground pepper.
Reheat your pan over a medium high heat and add the last T. of olive oil.
Cook steaks until they are brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip steaks, reduce heat and continue cooking until desired doneness. A thermometer inserted that reads 130°, will be medium rare after resting. This should take about 12 minutes. Let cook an additional 4-8 minutes for medium to medium well.
Let meat rest, covers with foil, on cutting board, for 10 minutes. Slice very thinly against the grain and serve with Romesco sauce drizzled over it or on the side.