Tonight I am playing with new toys and turning water into wine — no worries, I haven’t developed a messianic complex. It’ll make sense later. My new toys are pasta roller attachments for my KitchenAid stand mixer. I used them last weekend to make some lovely ravioli stuffed with chicken and herbed ricotta. Today I went with some fettuccine and an improvised kinda-sorta chicken cacciatore sauce.
Making homemade pasta is surprisingly easy as long as you have the right tools. Make a simple dough, run it through a roller a few times and maybe a cutter, depending on what you want to make, and bada bing, you have fresh pasta. I would definitely recommend the stand mixer attachments as opposed to a hand-crank pasta machine. The advantage of having both hands free while you work is huge. Here is a good basic pasta recipe to make about a pound:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 tbsp. water
- a generous pinch of kosher salt
If you want to add a little extra color and flavor, substitute a dry red wine for the water — no miracle-working credentials required. Throw the whole lot into your stand mixer, and blend it with the paddle attachment on low speed until it pulls together, which should take maybe a couple minutes. Switch to the dough hook and let it knead until smooth, probably 3-5 minutes. Remove the dough ball, dust it with flour and cover it with a kitchen towel to rest about 30 minutes.
The next step is to run the dough through the roller to make it smooth and turn it into pasta sheets, gradually working from a wider to a more narrow setting on the roller. If you have these attachments you probably already know how to do that. I divided the dough into three smaller lumps so it would be easier to work with. After my sheets were done, I switched to the fettuccine cutter and ran them through., which took no time at all.
When the pasta-making was done, I turned my attention to an appropriate sauce. I love a good red sauce, but I forgot to buy my typical Italian sausage to throw in it. As luck would have it, my refrigerator serendipitously produced a half-gnawed roasted chicken with plenty of meat still on it, so I said to myself: “I’ll just toss that into the mix and make a cacciatore sauce — kinda, sorta.” Okay, I didn’t actually speak those words, but I thought them — same same. Here’s what went into the sauce:
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (28 oz.) San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
- 2 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
- kosher salt to taste
- 2 cups shredded chicken pieces
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
- chicken stock as needed to adjust consistency
Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet. Sweat the onions for a few minutes without browning them, until they are translucent and tender. Add the garlic and cook for about another minute. Throw in the tomatoes, which you will need to break up with the back of a fork or wooden spoon. Next stir in the tomato paste, oregano leaves and a couple pinches of salt, followed by the chicken. Let this concoction simmer for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour, to blend all the flavors. If the sauce starts getting too tight, i.e. it reduces too much, add some chicken stock to thin it out. I ended up using close to a pint of stock to maintain a nice consistency over the cook time.
When your sauce is nearly finished, stir in the chopped basil, and boil some salted water for your pasta. The cook time for fresh pasta is much shorter than for dry pasta, maybe 2-3 minutes tops, so watch it closely to avoid overcooking. When the pasta is done, drain it, add your sauce and some fresh grated reggiano, and you’re ready to munch it down with a big happy grin on your face. If you have never tried making your own pasta, please do. It’s easy and delicious, and you’ll feel like a total champ in the kitchen. Until next time: Eat well, my friends!