Considering we harvested 50 lbs. of heirloom tomatoes last week and then I harvested 51 lbs. again just today, I think they are here to stay. Every day I find a new one bursting with color, ready to be picked. And the cherry tomatoes are popping off as well. Since I had a bunch of cherry tomatoes piling up in my refrigerator and heirlooms all over the counter, it was time for a fresh pasta sauce.
Real Italian cooks will tell you that pasta dishes are ALL about the pasta and the sauce is secondary and in Italy it’s actually dried pasta that is much more prized than the fresh pasta we swoon over here in the USA. The best meals can be circumstantial. I used to eat at a particular restaurant in Brooklyn and have the most epic meals of my life. Small, dark, narrow and crowded joint with a jazz band playing almost on top of your table and an excellent wine list. Those were some of my favorite nights out. But honestly, the food there wasn’t outstanding in any way. And maybe, just maybe pasta tastes better in Italy because YOU ARE IN ITALY. I could be wrong here, but I think could eat the best saltine cracker of my life on a boat off the coast of Sicily on a warm summer night with a bottle of wine.
My pasta maker came to me as a hand me down from my mom whose family is Sicilian and I will cherish it always. And it makes me think of her and my Grandma and racks of drying pasta every time I use it.
The basic fresh pasta dough recipe that I use is from Collards & Carbonara which I got for Christmas last year and is a FABULOUS book by the chefs of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog and Hominy in Memphis, TN. The theme here is “Italian Cooking, Southern Roots” which means that they basically invaded all of my dreams about food and created a restaurant based on them. Italian. Southern. Cooking. Perfect. You’ll wanna make the dough first and you can set it aside and get the sauce going. This way the sauce has time to cook while the dough sits and rests for about 45 minutes and you then run the dough through your pasta maker.
Basic Pasta Dough ( from Collards and Carbonara)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups 00 flour ( I used regular unbleached white flour)
In a large liquid measuring container, add the eggs, olive oil and enough lukewarm water to equal 2 1/2 cups. Measure flour in to a large mixing bowl. Make a large hole in the center of the flour. Pour the egg/oil/water mixture into the hole.
Using a fork, incorporate the flour into the egg mixture. When it is fully mixed, turn dough out on a floured surface. Knead dough until it is smooth, about 10 minutes and wrap in plastic, set aside for 45 minutes.
Every pasta machine is a little different. At this point you can run your pasta through to your desired thickness. On my machine, it’s #5 for me. It’s the second to last setting. this time I decided to go with the fettuccine shape but I almost never use those options. I like to roll flat sheets of pasta and hand cut wide noodles mostly. It’s up to you. I would also highly suggest the kitchen aide pasta maker attachment if you have a kitchen aide. Freeing up that other hand is oh so delightful when it comes to rolling pasta. If you don’t have a pasta machine, don’t go out and buy one just get out your rolling pin and skip a day at the gym. There are several You Tube Videos on hand rolling pasta, I happen to like This One.
I get my pot of salted water on the stove to boil while I am rolling my pasta so it doesn’t have to sit long before cooking. With fettuccine I just roll it out and set it on a floured wooden board in little piles. That way I can just push it all off the board into the pot, even if it’s a little stuck together it comes undone when it hits the boiling water and you stir it.
Fresh pasta only needs to be cooked for about 1-2 minutes at the very most. Top it with your tomato sauce and some fresh basil and good Parmesan to serve.
Heirloom Tomato Pasta Sauce
6-8 lbs. fresh heirloom tomatoes, quartered
1 medium onion, diced small
4 small to medium carrots, diced small
1/2 lb. ground sausage (optional)
2 small summer squashes, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
I sprig rosemary
1 sprig oregano
In a medium saucepan add the tomatoes. Cook over medium to high heat until the tomatoes are all soft. At this point I like to run the tomatoes through a mill to removed the skins and seeds into a large bowl. In the saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add the onions and carrots. Saute onions and carrots until slightly browned. Add 1/2 ground sausage and also cook til slightly browned. Add tomato puree back to the pot with the summer squash and fresh herbs.
Let simmer on a low to medium heat for at least an hour. I like to thicken the sauce up a little bit and you’ll be making the pasta anyway.
Salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with a little good olive oil when cooking is done.