So at the conclusion of the pastor's final prayer at our nearby church, the whole famn-damily literally runs to grandma's for a meal that surely makes that fabled feast at Plymouth Rock look meager.
On those rare occasions that grandma was summoned to work the sabbath in the crystal department at the local department store, the only thing that kept us from plunging into gastronomical depression was knowing that we always had a plan B lined up for mealtime. Our post-church Sunday plan B was the Olive Garden.
Snicker-ye-not, because I have many a fond memory at the Olive Garden. I still hold firm to my claim that they mix the best Italian margaritas anywhere (orange sugar rim with an amaretto floater), though back then it was only raspberry lemonade for me. And you better believe that when they offer their annual bottomless pasta bowl promotion, you'll find my friends and me at the megastore in Times Square ordering a second and third helping with plenty of warm, garlicky breadsticks to sponge up the sauces. Call it nostalgia, call it comfort food, but yes, I still occasionally indulge in some good ol' O.G.
The thing I remember the most from those Sundays at the O.G., however, was not the meal itself, but the anticipation. There was always a wait, as the lobby filled with churchgoers from all around. While I do recall church ladies comparing their quilted Bible covers, and wishing with pennies in the mosaic fountain at the entrance, what I remember most vividly is the pasta maker.
Other than grandma, Ronzoni, and Barilla, I didn't know anyone else who made pasta. Here at the garden of olives, however, stood a man in a big poofy chef hat and white apron, pulling armloads of noodles from a large pasta machine while taking ToGo orders with a phone tucked between his chin and shoulder. Even my own mother, who could concoct anything, didn't make her own pasta.
Whether in buttery alfredo sauce at the Olive Garden, or bubbling in a thick gravy on grandma's stove with juicy pieces of chicken, I immediately recognized that fresh pasta tasted dramatically better to me than that hard stuff you boiled from a box.
After trying several recipes and having met some disgusting failure, here is what I have adopted as a simple and delicious recipe for pasta of any sort... as well as a few techniques for shaping various types. I hope you enjoy!
1 cup semolina flour (plus extra for dusting)
2 cups cake flour (plus extra for dusting)
1 Tablespoon salt
6 large eggs1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
(1) In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Create a "well" in the center,
(2) In a separate bowl, combine the eggs and olive oil.
(3) Pour the egg into the well in the flour. Gradually stir the flour into the egg using a fork until you have a crumbly mixture.
(4) Gather the dough into a ball, and knead on a well-floured surface for five minutes.
(5) Once the dough is smooth, separate into 4 pieces. Roll each into a ball and wrap in plastic. Place dough in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes.
Using a piece of dough at a time, roll out on a well-floured surface with a rolling pin. You can use a pasta machine, but I love the texture and satisfaction of making the noodles completely by hand. Keep rotating and rolling out the dough until it is thin enough you can see a magazine picture underneath it.
Loosely roll the dough into a log. Then, depending on the desired thickness, use a knife to cut the noodles. Linguine would be thin, fettuccine a little thicker, and pappardelle even thicker.
Unroll the noodles, and set on a flour-dusted surface to dry for 15 minutes. Any noodles being cooked later can be stored in the freezer in plastic bags.
Take a piece of the dough ball, and roll between your hands into a long rope. Cut pieces about 1/4 inch.
Using your thumb and the opposite palm, press gently into little "ears" and set aside to dry for 15 minutes.
On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough the same as described above for noodles. Using a pasta cutter (or even a pizza cutter), cut the dough into small rectangles.
Firmly pinch each rectangle into a bow tie, and set aside to dry for 15 minutes. You may need to wet each noodle in the middle before pinching in order for dough to stick.
Homemade pasta doesn't take very long to cook. Fill a pot with water, a pinch of salt, and a little olive oil, and bring to a boil. For the noodles and farfalle, boil around 3 minutes or until desired texture. The orecchiette may take a minute or two longer, as it is a little thicker. Strain the water, toss with your favorite sauce, and enjoy!