Cooking Fools – Making Pasta!

Months ago I purchased a Cooking Fools pasta making class with one of my friends through Groupon. I have made my own pasta before, but I have never actually taken a class on how to do it. I usually  just look at a recipe and go with it, so I was excited to maybe learn an actual technique. It was almost a year ago when I made Chicken Noodle Soup with homemade egg noodles (my favorite!). I want to say that I can’t believe this year flew by so quickly, but unfortunately 2010 was a long, drawn out, hectic year, and I am so glad it’s over and 2011 is here. I’m not saying 2010 was a bad year, but I don’t think I have ever experienced a year like 2010 in my life. There was a massive amount of changes and big events that 2010 left me feeling drained, exhausted and excited for some calm.

Anyway, back to the pasta  making class! I was running late due to work and got there just in time. Maegan had purchased a bottle of wine for us (which was much-needed that night) and we started making our pasta! The class consisted of making ravioli and pappardelle. There was also a demonstration on how to make Vodka Sauce and Basil Pesto. I had never used the pasta machine before and my first attempt at pressing the dough was not necessarily successful. My strip of dough turned out uneven, thin, and I ended up wasting a lot of it. For some reason I thought using the rolling-pin (like I had before) was easier.

Making Pasta

Pasta Dough
Yield: 10 oz, approximately 2 large servings
3 oz Semolina flour

3 oz all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs

Mound flour on work surface. Build well in center of flour and crack eggs into well Use a fork to combine egg whites and yolks.Slowly, using a fork, begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well. As you expand the well, be sure to build up the sides   the well. When the majority of the flour is incorporated, the dough will begin to come together and you can begin kneading using your hands.Dust you hands with flour before touching dough. Use a light touch to prevent dough from sticking to your hands. Fold dough repeatedly until flour is incorporated, then knead for 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Ravioli & Pappardelle

I wish I could tell you how the pasta actually turned out, but they had everyone combine their dough and made a large batch of both meals. Anything mass-produced can be difficult, so I wasn’t that impressed with the end result, but it was a fun night and I enjoyed getting to spend time/catch-up/drink wine with Maegan!

A few things I DID learn…

  • The more you knead the dough the more the gluten comes out. You want your dough to have more gluten because it provides the necessary consistency for the pasta. When you are making dough for pastries or muffins, it’s the opposite. You don’t want too much gluten.
  • Making pasta with wine is extremely necessary.
  • Take out a small amount of the flour and put it off to the side. Add it in as necessary. The moisture and temperature in the room can affect the dough and you don’t want it to end up too dry.
  • Wish I remembered more, but we did finish the bottle of wine 🙂

Enjoying some Cooking Fools Food!

All in all I am glad I took the pasta class. It made me want to learn more about cooking and the technique. Yes, I can take a recipe and make it or find a dish I want to make and figure out the ingredients and make it on whim, but there is something about the science behind cooking that I find intriguing and I want to learn more. So hopefully there are more cooking lessons in my future!

Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Lucia!

Vodka and I have had a tumultuous relationship for years, but last night I think we finally started to understand each other…

As I sat at work reading my sisters wedding menu, I had the urge to cook, and  I couldn’t decide what the perfect dinner would be. I had to do something fairly simple because I was going to get home later and still had to go to the store. As I sat and thought about all the different sauces I have been wanting to make, I had a flash back of my first experience with Vodka Sauce. And at that moment, I knew I had to make it.

The first time I ever had vodka sauce was at my favorite restaurant in Italy, Aqua al Due. Laura and I decided to share (I swear…) the pasta sampler. One of the samples was the vodka sauce and it was so good that I am pretty sure I licked my plate. I couldn’t wait to get back and try it again, but to my surprise,  the menu rotates and they didn’t have it when I returned.  Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of trying it again. It was quite possibly the biggest heartbreak I’ve experienced to date, and I’ve had a few…

Anyway, I’ve never made a vodka sauce, so it was the perfect time to give it a go. I am not big on following recipes when I make sauce. I think it is way more fun to throw the basic ingredients in, add a few more, and see what happens, so here is Vodka Sauce a la Me.

Vodka Sauce

Vodka (I prefer Smirnoff – but maybe that is because of my budget…)

Heavy whipping cream

2 cans of Hunt’s tomato sauce (CL)

Olive oil

Pepper

Basil

3 Boneless chicken breasts

David Page’s Special Seasoning

Clean the chicken and season with David Page’s Special Seasoning. Slice into small pieces and saute in olive oil until cooked about half way (until outside is cooked). Add the sauce, whipping cream (a little less than 1 sauce can) and the vodka (I measure about 1/4 cup, but then added more once it was cooking…). Add pepper and basil. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for about 20 minutes. I added more pepper and basil while it was cooking for more flavor.

The Sauce Cooking with the Chicken

Bring your water to a boil once your sauce comes to a boil and then add the pasta. Once the pasta is finished, your sauce should done. Pour sauce in a bowl, add the pasta, mix and serve!

When my roommates and I sat down to enjoy our dinner, little did we know the amazingness we were about to experience. I thought we would just each have a small serving and there would be leftovers for our other roommate to try when she got home…but that did not happen. It was gone. All of it. Nikki and Alyssa even discussed combining their extra sauce from their plate so that it did not go to waste. I don’t know if it was my Grandpa’s special seasoning, the vodka, or my cooking skills, but this sauce had a kick to it, and it was good. Alyssa even thought she would be able to eat it as a soup. I am pretty sure I spooned my left over sauce to finish it. There is about a cupful left over and it tempting me – even though I saved it to share with Jess…She better get home in time, or it might be gone by this weekend.

Before…

I will admit that I did not share all of the ingredients I used. It was so good, I figured that maybe one day, in my dream world, if I have my own restuarant I would be able to have this on the menu and if I share the entire recipe then everyone will know how to make it! But it shouldn’t tast much different with the ingredients included above, so I HIGHLY suggest you trying to make it!

After…

Multiply this picture times 3 because that is how many empty plates there were! This was, and still is, my all time favorite sauce. I don’t know how I am going to go without it again for so long. Hopefully I will get back in the kitchen this weekend because I have a feeling the next few weeks are going to be crazy! My sister has two bachelorette parties coming up and then I am moving into my new apartment! I can’t believe August is just around the corner….