Fresh Pasta with a Simple Tomato Sauce

I have a distinct memory of eating spaghetti at a small trattoria in Venice, Italy. Running through the corridors of Venice to escape a rainstorm, I ducked under a red and white awning and through the doors of a quaint restaurant with only a few tables, a chalkboard menu, and tiny, flickering candles set on each table.  I wish I could remember the name… I would fly back to Venice for this one meal.  The pasta was rich and smooth, perfectly cooked.  The part that keeps drawing me back, though, was the tomato sauce.  It was simple, clean, pure, heavenly… I loved it! The chef was able to create a deep and complex flavor that spoke to me, it drew me back bite after bite.  One day I will find that restaurant again…

Scott (my husband, of 2 1/2 months!) could eat pasta for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I’ve never really met anyone like him… let’s just say, in college, he won the “Never Ending Pasta Bowl Challenge” by eating 5 3/4 bowls of pasta, second place could only eat 4… I don’t think I could even eat 1 bowl. Needless to say, one Saturday night we decided to make our own pasta.  In culinary school, we had a whole class on pasta making, but I hadn’t made it since then, so I wasn’t confident in our skills.

We used the “well” method by putting flour on a board and creating a center well. Crack the eggs into  the well and slowly begin mixing with a fork.  If you want a richer pasta, add an extra egg yolk or 2.  Our dough seemed a little bit dry, so we added a few splashes of water.  Each time you make pasta, things will be slightly different depending on how big or how fresh the eggs are, the moisture in the air, the flour… so many variables! Once the dough is fully mixed, knead it a few times, wrap it in a piece of floured parchment paper and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Before you begin rolling, prepare a sheet tray with at least 3 layers of floured parchment paper. It also helps to flour your working surface and hands.  We have an Imperia pasta roller and it works wonderfully! The pasta attachment of your kitchen aid mixer also works great for rolling dough. Whichever method you choose, have the roller set on the widest setting, cut a tennis ball size piece of dough and begin feeding it through the roller.  After your first pass, fold the strip in to thirds and pass again on the same setting.  I would do this 3-4 times before you lower the setting.  The action of passing and folding helps to create a more smooth, luscious texture! Continue rolling and reducing until you’ve reached the desired thickness (once you’ve passed setting #1, you do not have to use the folding technique). Dust the pasta with semolina flour and lay on the parchment paper.  After you’ve rolled all of your pasta, you can use these sheets for lasagna, or you can cut the sheets into what ever shape you desire.  Just remember to let the pasta dry a bit before cutting so that the pasta won’t stick to the knife.  We let ours dry for about 5-10 minutes.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water for  3 minutes.  Drain the water and immediately mix with your sauce.  The starches of the fresh pasta will create a wonderful stick so that the sauce coats each strand! It’s delicious!

We used a simple tomato sauce (my go-to tomato sauce for pasta, pizza, anything!), lightly sauteed shrimp, and topped it with a chiffonade of basil and parmesan cheese.  Amazing. After dinner, we stood at the stove, unable to stop eating the sweet tomatoey strands of pasta…

The Recipes…

Homemade Pasta
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
2 eggs
3 Tablespoons water
extra flour for dusting

See method above

The Best Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Giade de Laurentiis
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeling and finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 (32-oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (28-oz0 can whole tomatoes
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 dried bay leaves

Preheat oven to 450F.  Drain whole tomatoes, reserving tomato juice, gently deseed each tomato and place on foil-covered sheet tray.  Spread brown sugar evenly across tomatoes and roast for 20-30 minutes.
While tomatoes are roasting, heat olive oil in large pot and gently saute onions and garlic (5-10 minutes).
Add carrots, celery, salt, and pepper and saute until all vegetables are soft. Add tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, and bay leaves and simmer for 1 -2 hours (until sauce thickens).
Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

This sauce can be frozen and used for any recipe requiring tomato or marinara sauce.