Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Homemade Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce

Homemade pasta.

It's a lot easier than you think. I didn't even have a pasta machine. Or a rolling pin (we'll get to that later).

 What I did have was some fancy Italian flour from Fairway that my mother sent to me via my boyfriend, who came to visit just in time for Valentine's Day and homemade pasta. He's a lucky guy.

The first time I made pasta was almost exactly a year ago. Last Valentine's Day, while I was in Rome, I took a cooking class and we made tagliolini all'amatriciana. I haven't attempted to recreate the dish since then, so I figured it was time to try my hand at pasta-making without a very skilled Italian chef leading the way.

Except that I wanted pappardelle bolognese, like what I had when I was in Tuscany. Since I had never made pappardelle before, I followed Michael Chiarello's recipe. I halved it, since I was only cooking for my boyfriend and me, but I almost instantly regretted that because now I don't have a ready-to-shape ball of pasta dough in my freezer waiting for me. I would suggest making the full recipe.

This meal is super easy and doesn't nearly warrant as much praise as it receives. The bolognese is simple and hearty and can be made far in advance or just before (I made mine a couple of hours before serving so that the flavors had plenty of time to meld together).

Remember that rolling pin I told you I didn't have? Right. So I used a can of Pam Spray (except it's not even the brand name kind, that's too much of a splurge for a college budget). As per expected, this method of rolling pasta didn't yield quite as thin a sheet as I would have liked, but it was no less delicious.

I could have gotten all fancy and measured out the width of each individual noodle, but I chose to cut them freeform instead. Some were thinner and some were definitely thicker, but who cares when they're smothered in sauce and cheese?

Classic Bolognese
(makes 4 servings)
1 lb meatloaf mix ground meat (trio of ground veal, pork, and beef)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced (you can add more, I don't love celery)
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. red wine
1 28 oz. can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add diced vegetables and cook until tender. Add meat and begin to brown, making sure to break up the larger pieces.

Add chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has cooked off. Add wine and simmer until liquid has cooked off.

Add crushed tomatoes and let simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened up. Add herbs, tomato paste and salt and pepper. Let sauce simmer for another 20 minutes. At this point it is ready to serve, though it'll only get better the longer it sits. I usually cover it and leave it on the stove, that way it's ready to warm up once the pasta is done.

*A quick note about Chiarello's pasta recipe: you cook the pasta for around 4 minutes, though taste it as it's cooking to make sure. I'm not sure why he doesn't include cooking instructions, since cooking fresh pasta is timed differently than dry pasta.

** Another note about these pictures! As you can see, my hands are elbow deep in pasta dough in most of them, which means that I was not the sole photographer. My best friend/very talented photograhpher Rachel took pictures 2, 3, and 4. My wonderfully helpful boyfriend Chris took pictures 5 and 6, and I photographed the rest.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chubby Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ah, alliteration.

But really, look at them. They're totally chubby, and I will tell you from having eaten almost all of them at an astounding rate that they are indeed chewy. These cookies were the product of an impromptu sugar craving that swedish fish and sugar-free hot chocolate would not squelch (as a side note, those are not my go-to sugary snacks, they were just the only things to be had in my food-scarce apartment). Sometimes, nothing but fresh baked goods will suffice.

But seeing as I had no butter or white sugar on hand, these cookies stray a bit from the usual. I expected them to be totally flattened out and lackluster without the butter, but I was happily surprised. These cookies are puffy and light, with a gooey chocolatey center. Are they perfect? Definitely not (I'd prefer a crispy, buttery cookie any day). But if you're stuck in a butter-less predicament like I was, these are a respectable rendition.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes 18 large, or 24 regular sized cookies)
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/5 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl, set aside.

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar and oil, mixing well until no clumps remain. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients, making sure not to over mix. Fold in chocolate chips (I used a mix of semi-sweet mini chips and regular sized chips, though next time I might use chocolate chunks or discs).

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown and puffed. Transfer to wire rack and allow to cool.