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Perfecting pasta and cooking from a veg box

May 31, 2011

Pasta GenoveseFreshly made pasta is a luxury – silky soft strands, a little al dente, coated in a sauce.  Yes I like caviar, oysters and the finest fillet steak but I would always be happy with simple food made well.

Italians understand this and can be quite dictatorial about which sauce goes with which type of pasta.  On the other hand, Italian restaurants often embrace the highest form of culinary theatre, showing-off with gusto.  Oversized pepper pots and zabaglione made at the table come to mind.

Caffe Florian

I was invited to a lunch for the launch of Dine Dubai at Caffe Florian in Dubai International Financial District which combined the two – pasta and drama.  There was lots of fresh pasta (for starter and main – a little odd?) and the latter course was prepared in a hollow shell of Grana Padano, sprinkled with truffle oil and covered in shavings of black truffle.  Tossing the pasta and grating on the truffle was carefully orchestrated and most enjoyable to watch.

Caffe Florian

The flavours were wonderful – the musky earthiness of the truffle with the tang of the cheese.  But…and I feel a bit churlish criticising a free lunch, the texture of the fresh pasta, especially given the provenance of the restaurant, left me wanting.  I made a mental note to give my neglected pasta machine an airing.

Caffe Florian

When I looked at my veg box I ditched an idea for a flights of fancy blue-cheese and fig-filled pasta;  you have to use the ingredients you have or watch them languish in the fridge.  Basil, potatoes and beans were in abundance so my choice was pasta Genovese.  Even with making  fresh pasta and pesto this doesn’t take long to make especially when you have some enthusiastic child teen labour in the kitchen to help with the kneading.  It’s the ultimate one pot cooking too.  My bonus is that everyone in my family will eat it – a victory indeed.

beans, basil and potatoes

And the result? Blowing my own trumpet here but it knocked the socks of the thicker, chewier CF version – my tagliatelle were fine, smooth and silky just how we like them.  Excellent green beans are part of the Bumble Box at the moment and they were far tastier than the flown-in Kenyan variety especially combined with fresh, organic basil.

If you want to try the Caffe Florian version (and black truffle isn’t a regular ingredient in my kitchen) there is 20% off with a Dine Dubai card.  More details here.

If you are inspired to make your own pasta there is a festino of recipes for the Monthly Mingle.  Juls from Jul’s Kitchen is a self-confessed pasta maniac and she extolls us “get over your fresh pasta fear, roll up your sleeves and enter the Italian way of life.”

making pasta

Pasta Genovese – for 4 people

Ingredients – pasta

400g pasta flour (I used Doves’ Farm)
4 large eggs
pinch of salt

Ingredients – pesto

Large bunch of fresh basil (if using the pots you will need at least two)
Small handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted (use a dry frying pan)
A sliver of garlic (about a quarter of a clove)
Extra virgin olive oil
Small handful of grated parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients – Genovese sauce

Two medium potatoes (about 200g), peeled and cut into chunks
Large handful of green beans
Parmesan cheese (for sprinkling)

pasta Genovese

To make the pasta: Place the flour and salt on a work surface (you could use a bowl but it’s easier this way) and make a large well in the centre.  Break the eggs into the well and use a fork to lightly beat them.  Incorporate a little flour from the edges of the well, a bit at a time, whisking all the while.  Gradually incorporate more and more flour.  When the mixture is no longer runny you can bring in all the flour.  Use your hands or a dough scraper (my favourite method).  Scrape and turn the shaggy dough until it starts to form a ball.  Knead it for about 10 minutes until smooth.  Let it rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes then cut in half.  Keep one half covered in cling film or a damp tea towel (you can see from the pictures that my dough got a bit dry at the edges).  Flatten the ball of dough with your hands and either roll out as thinly as you can or put through a pasta machine on the largest setting a few times.  Fold the dough into the middle and roll through again until smooth, then gradually reduce the width of the rollers until you have a thin, smooth, even sheet of pasta.  Continue with all the pasta then cut into sheets.  Dust each sheet with flour, fold in half lengthways, then lengthways again and again and cut into even chunks (it got too dark in my kitchen for photos but you can see how here).  Loosen the rolls into nests.

To make the pesto: Use a food processor (my small Braun is ideal) and blitz the basil, pinenuts and garlic in bursts until cut small (alternatively grind in a pestle and mortar but you will get a more pulpy result).  Add the cheese and blitz once or twice to combine.  Stir in the olive oil to make a fairly loose sauce without being runny.  Season to taste.

To make pasta Genovese: Put a large pot of water onto boil (and warm a serving bowl in a low oven).  Add the potatoes and simmer, test after 10 minutes – they should be almost cooked, add the beans and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes (depending on the size of bean).  Add the pasta and bring back to the boil for 3 minutes.  Drain in a colander placed over a bowl.  Put the pesto into the serving bowl with the drained pasta mixture and some of the cooking water.  Everything should be coated with the sauce.  Serve with extra black pepper and parmesan cheese.

spoon

P.S. When I was finishing off this post an email popped into my box from Leek Soup having a rant about restaurants, farmers markets and making her own fresh buckwheat pasta.  Serendipity as they say and I’m so tempted by Dina’s gorgeous recipe while my machine is out!

Could you live without pasta?  My family couldn’t.  What’s your favourite? Appreciate your comments.

Sally

35 Comments
  1. May 31, 2011 6:37 am

    Lovely recipe, Sally, thanks. Might just have to get a Bumble Box and try it too!

    • May 31, 2011 11:58 am

      I admire what the team at Bumblebox are trying to do. More choice of organic produce has to be a good thing,
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  2. May 31, 2011 7:00 am

    Stunning photos. I’m rather hungry now, off to have a bowl of last night’s leftovers; fusilli with sirloin and tomatoes.

    • May 31, 2011 11:57 am

      A big fan of leftovers, especially when they are as nice as that Cindy
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  3. May 31, 2011 7:30 am

    Well done. Yes, it was a tragedy to be served chunky pasta with that lovely truffle. Yours looks very fine and delicious!

    • May 31, 2011 11:56 am

      Good luck with your truffle hunt.
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  4. May 31, 2011 7:34 am

    wow looks delicious! craving for a plateful of your pasta right now!

  5. May 31, 2011 8:25 am

    Ooh you must try this on Chef Maurizio, am sure he’d be a proud dictator! I don’t often eat pasta, thanks to its wheat content – much to any Italian’s dismay I love spelt pasta. But my fave would be spaghetti with a little parsley, garlic, olive oil and black pepper.

  6. May 31, 2011 8:40 am

    That looks REALLY good. Homemade pasta and homemade basil is just perfect! Love the colours.

  7. May 31, 2011 9:52 am

    That plate of pasta looks straight out of a 5 star restaurant kitchen. Delicious!

  8. May 31, 2011 10:20 am

    What a beautifully photographed post Sally and your homemade pasta looks magnificent. It is very satisfying making your own pasta and you can’t beat fresh versus packaged. :-) Mandy

    • May 31, 2011 11:54 am

      Dried pasta is good for some things and fresh for others. I’ve tried both with this sauce and fresh wins hands down. Thanks for the nice comment Mandy
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  9. May 31, 2011 10:30 am

    Yummmmm! I’ve always fancied making my own pasta but never had the confidence to try… but your beautiful recipe, description and photos are definitely tempting me! The packet stuff I’m guessing aol never taste the same again!

  10. May 31, 2011 10:45 am

    Beautiful Sally. I so wish I could eat pasta again. Your photographs make me want to.

    • May 31, 2011 11:52 am

      Thanks Edwina. Always special to get a nice comment about pics from you.
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  11. May 31, 2011 11:03 am

    I love home made pasta – and I am glad to see we use the same recipe :)

    • May 31, 2011 11:43 am

      I love it – flour, eggs and a pinch of salt.
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  12. May 31, 2011 12:11 pm

    It looks really perfect, the texture, the seasoning, the feelings in the post… I’m amazed! congratulations!

    • May 31, 2011 12:18 pm

      Thank Juls for such a lovely comment. Glad to be part of the mingle.
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  13. May 31, 2011 2:24 pm

    Lovely stuff, Sally! I’m a bit rubbish at pasta making – only ever seem to get it to work if I use the food processor. Those gorgeous photos of you making it the old fashioned way are very inspiring!

    • May 31, 2011 3:44 pm

      It certainly was old-fashioned Celia – I was taking the photos while the child-laboured. She kneaded that pasta dough for about 15 minutes. I would have been sorely tempted to put it in my Kitchenaid with a dough hook!

  14. May 31, 2011 5:24 pm

    Sally those photos are so cool … I’m so impatient when it comes to cooking that I admire anyone who puts in an effort to make anything… and these look delicious! Wow… any chance we get to taste the awesome pasta too?? :D

    • June 1, 2011 6:55 am

      Maybe we should do a pasta making session Dee?

  15. May 31, 2011 9:14 pm

    This looks fantastic, Sally! Love the picture of the truffle!
    I think I may have to get a pasta machine. As much as I enjoy doing the hard labor (I do!), there are some things that just need a little extra power.
    Thanks so much for mentioning Leek Soup! Let me know if you try my buckwheat recipe.
    Cheers!

    • June 1, 2011 6:55 am

      I have some buckwheat in my cupboard so there is no excuse!

  16. May 31, 2011 11:32 pm

    Inspired….by you and my friend (who I gifted with a pasta machine only 4 short weeks ago – she’s used it already while my 7 year old machine lies waiting!) – it looks stunning. Just being able to get over the fear of failure in your mind- very well done!

    • June 1, 2011 6:54 am

      I’m eager to see what you’ll make Oz – you bring such creativity to all your cooking.

  17. June 1, 2011 2:20 am

    I have not made pasta from scratch for a very long time. I once spent an entire day making tortellini. The end result tasted wonderful, but it was exhausting work!

    Your photos are fabulous.

    • June 1, 2011 6:53 am

      Filled pasta is a different level of time and skill commitment in my book! Appreciate your comment about the pics as yours are so good.

  18. June 1, 2011 5:33 am

    Very nice post. I guess I could live without pasta, but I wouldn’t want to. :)

  19. June 2, 2011 7:35 am

    oh wow, I can’t believe you made pasta from scratch at home, that’s incredible!! And those pics are amazing, I had to scroll back up to the first one cause I couldn’t stop staring at it.

    I’m going to call you, o incredibly talented Sally in the kitchen, Lady Inchefible from now on.

  20. June 2, 2011 7:42 am

    Thanks so much – I liked that picture too. Sadly Foodgawker didn’t…again…another rejection *sigh*

  21. June 13, 2011 4:00 pm

    I am a SUCKER for a truffle (and fresh pasta!) – for a second I looked at the pics and thought you had got a truffle in your veg box – now THAT’S a scheme I could sign up to ;o) The dish sounds wonderful…

  22. June 14, 2011 9:01 pm

    Perfectly done and looks yummy! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and leaving your sweet comment, See you again soon…

  23. June 19, 2011 1:29 pm

    I keep promising to make pasta with G, we used to make it a lot before he was born. You have inspired me to crack on with it.

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