Pasta for Italian Day

What a great day. I’d forgotten just how much fun it is to make fresh pasta; very satisfying. I’d also forgotten how much hard work is required to knead the dough, especially when you have an audience of 8-year-old schoolchildren. This is the 10 minutes or so between the lovely eggs nestling in a flour well on your work-surface, and that perfectly formed, smooth ball of elastic dough (which is routinely skipped over in every TV cookery show you’ve ever seen).

Nonetheless, it’s a joyous and virtuous task with a far more delicious outcome than a trip to the gym.

Year 4 from St James C of E primary school did a Stirling job helping me roll and shape said pasta into lasagna, tagliatelle, angel hair (capellini) and farfalle. They learnt about the origins of pasta, its ingredients, geometry, gluten, composition and chemistry, the extrusion manufacturing process, not to eat raw pasta… etc. 

Italian day was a blast and has got me thinking about classes for parents too. 

Eggs and flour

The basic principle of making egg pasta is as follows – go on, dig that pasta machine out of the depths of your kitchen cupboard and get the kids involved.

Ingredients:

  • 400g Tipo ’00’ (super fine) flour
  • 4 Eggs

Method:

Beat your eggs and gradually mix in the flour. You can do this on a clean work surface by making a well in your mound of flour (like a volcano as the children cleverly observed) and cracking your eggs into it, or just bung it all in a food processor and pulse it a few times.

As it all starts to come together, give it a good knead as if you were making a loaf of bread. You’ll be surprised how what appears to be a particularly anhydrous mixture will turn into a beautiful smooth dough with a bit of elbow grease.

You’ll know when it’s ready as it’ll become smooth and silky to the touch.

At this point it needs to rest; wrap it tightly in cling film so the air can’t get to it and pop it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready, you can start to cut it, roll it out (using a rolling pin or a pasta machine) and form it into a plethora of shapes.

measuring pasta

If you’re cooking it fresh it will only take a minute or two in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water (traditionally as salty as the Mediterranean sea), or alternatively, you can dry and store it.

Have fun!

 

pasta machine

pasta shapes

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

So. How to politely describe this dish then? Let’s say that the name links this quick, tangy, salty and robust dish, to ladies of the night.. Whether it’s purely in name, or factually linked to the stories passed down over the decades, this dish certainly gets the blood pumping.

It’s my chosen twist on Jamie Oliver’s Classic Tomato Spaghetti – if you can master that one, this is merely a minor deviation that will boost your repertoire and get your taste buds dancing to a new tune.

Essentially, it’s a tomato spaghetti which is elevated to the next level with black olives, anchovies and capers. I also like to add a touch of chilli for good measure.

 

Ingredients:

(serves 4)

  • 400g spaghetti
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 anchovies, chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 100g black olives, pitted & torn
  • 1 x 400g tin tomatoes or  large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Parmesan
  • Olive Oil

For me, this is a dish I like to throw together when I come in late and the fridge is bare; it’s a classic ‘store-cupboard dinner’. To be terribly honest, I can’t say I’ve ever actually measured the ingredients out before now. Recipes are after all, merely guides.

ingredients for store cupboard puttanesca

Method:

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and season with salt. Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions.

About 5 minutes before the pasta is ready, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic, anchovies and chilli flakes. As the garlic begins to turn golden and the anchovies start to melt away, add the capers and olives, followed by the tomatoes. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, a dash of passata can help. Cook for a few minutes and then add the drained pasta together with a dash of the starchy cooking water to bring it all together.

Serve topped with fresh basil leaves and a little parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

Whore's Pasta