Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Handmade Spaghetti in Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce

Spaghetti and tomato sauce are as standard issue as it gets for culinary creations, however when you make all the ingredients precisely and from scratch you get a truly magical combination that whisks you away to a bustling trattoria somewhere in Tuscany... I would go right now, but I can't so I have this recipe to hold me over until I can get that trip planned.

This takes about 2 hours from start to finish and feeds 4 people. About $15 total cost.

Handmade Spaghetti

2 cups semolina flour
2 cups all purpose flour
6 large eggs
2 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of salt

Thoroughly sift together all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and pinch of salt. On a clean surface, make a mountain out of flour mixture then make a deep well in center. Break the eggs into the well and add olive oil. Whisk eggs very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well. When mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading with your hands.
Knead dough for 8 to 12 minutes, until it is smooth and supple. Dust dough and work surface with semolina as needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. Wrap dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Roll out dough with a pasta machine (I left it thick at level 4) and use the spaghetti cutter to shape the of noodles. Toss with a bit of flour and let dry while you prepare the other items. It only needs a few minutes to cook so leave that until last.

Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce (Pomodoro)

12 to 15 roma tomatoes, peeled and seeded (concase)
1 clove of garlic, peeled and rough chopped
1/4 of a white onion, diced
1/2 a roasted orange bell pepper (optional)
1/2 cup of basil loosely packed, torn (not chopped)
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, torn
3 oz of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of kosher salt

HOW TO CONCASE TOMATOES - This is an important technique to learn because tomatoes concase are used in many types of cooking. Start a large pot of water on high, salt heavily. Core each tomato and cut an "X" on the bottom point of each tomato. Toss the tomatoes into the boiling water and let them cook 5 minutes or until the skin starts peeling. While they cook get a large mixing bowl and fill it 1/4 with cold water and 1/4 with ice. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and plunge in the ice bath. Once cooled, peel the skins from the tomatoes and squeeze them over a clean bowl to get the excess water and seeds (this is why you cut the X in the bottom). Chop the remaining tomato bodies and put aside. Strain the seeds and water into a separate bowl to get tomato water, which I use for salad dressings and gazpachos.

Start a medium sauce pan on low (1 of 10) and add garlic, onion and olive oil. Let that cook at about 25 minutes or until garlic and onion are soft. Now add the chopped tomatoes concase. Let this cook for about 20 minutes, add the oregano, roasted pepper and salt. Let cook 5 more minutes and then puree the mixture with a stick blender or in a food processor. Add fresh basil.

Cooking the Pasta

Again technique is the difference between chef boyardee and chef Rick, so pay attention. Add the fresh pasta to boiling and heavily salted water (I used the water I boiled the tomatoes in). Let cook for 3 minutes, it should be slightly undercooked. Using a pasta spoon or tongs, add the fresh pasta directly into the fresh tomato sauce and mix thoroughly, let some of the water get into the sauce, its ok. Let that continue to cook on low for 5 minutes. Plate it up and top it all with Freshly Shaved Parmesano Reggiano cheese. Wow, simple perfection. I owe the inspiration and technique for making this dish to my Chef, Scott Conant. Buon Apetito!!

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