Well, my efforts to post all through March ended up in a dismal failure. Cole, poor kid, after being so foully sick with adenovirus for the first couple of weeks ended up passing it on, complete with a side of pink eye, to Kayla. Needless to say we’ve been in a madhouse dealing with sick babes and grumpy, bored preschoolers. Thankfully everyone is well again now, and just in time for their spring break this past week… which really just meant that the crazy busy effect was still in full swing. A house that was clean is now once again a mess and a mountain of laundry awaits during this week’s continued crazy schedule of school, preschool, swimming lessons for the boys, a therapy-music class for Kayla, finding a new preschool for Cole in the Fall, regular therapy sessions for Kayla and a counseling session for Aidan, etc etc etc. – I wish that were all of it but my head is spinning just thinking of the week ahead and the insane amounts of caffeine I know I’ll be making myself sick on just to get through the day and keep from drowning in it.
Why and how on Earth does any of this remotely relate to the fact that my first post in a couple of week’s again now, and this month’s Secret Recipe Club post???
Well, here is my convoluted logic.
I hated the month of March this year. Hated. It. Between the husband’s work and travel schedule and all the kids having sick or busy issues out the wahzoo last month was just shy of a nightmare. March was on my &%*$ list for sure, and April was officially on notice.
April is usually a favorite month of mine because it’s my birthday on the 20th- self-serving, I know, but there you go. I like my birthday. 🙂 Well, guess what? My blog assignment for this month just so happens to belong to the charming Alessio over at Recipe Taster, who just so happens to share the same birthday! So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALESSIO!!
And still, how does my tirade about March fit in??
Alessio’s beautiful recipes, photos and stories helped me slow down and remember why I love cooking. Even during busy times, sometimes I need to remember that the time and effort put into making a fabulous meal doesn’t have to be hours and hours and lots of courses to be a hit. The love the creativity of it and the chance to make something from scratch that my family will eat and that will nourish their bodies is what I love about it.
And my boys do love pasta, so with all the gorgeous and creative choices on his blog there was no shortage of inspiration.
Looking through those recipes inspired me to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and last week, even though we were in the middle of spring break, kids everywhere, running around, driving me crazy, I decided to make homemade pasta, and roll it out by hand since I have no pasta rolling machine. Alessio, of course, has many stunning pasta dishes on his blog so in my mind it was a natural fit and the perfect way to slow down a bit and remember why I love being in the kitchen.
One recipe I kept coming back to was his Tagliatelle with Walnuts and Pork Sauce Sicilian Style. I loved the idea of adding nuts to the pasta dish since I’ve mentioned here before that my husband’s usual critique of what I make is that it needs nuts. This should then be one dish that he shouldn’t complain about.
I actually tried to make pasta by hand several years ago and it was a dismal failure because, apparently, I just didn’t have the patience to roll out the pasta thinly enough. Well, last week I did! I guess it helps being distracted from the task at hand and spending time being interrupted because those minutes of letting the dough rest between rolling it out seemed to do the trick for me!
The title above is my nod at trying to name a dish in another language. I don’t know what I’m doing, so hopefully the title translates along the lines of “Springtime Tagliatelle” – which all things considered probably still doesn’t make sense, but since it’s our birthday this month, hopefully you (and Alessio 😉 will forgive my lame attempt and feel free to correct me in the comments!
This version of Alessio’s Tagliatelle I know is a departure from his sauce recipe, but it is all inspired by taking Alessio’s lead and using fresh pasta, along with a balance of complementing fresh ingredients, keeping the preparation simple, and being creative to put together a satisfying meal. In this case I made the Tagliatelle from scratch, using my Kitchen Aid to mix and knead the dough and then letting it rest before rolling it out by hand. The noodles were then rolled, cut and boiled before being tossed with a mixture of ingredients I had been sautéing while waiting for the pasta dough to rest while I was rolling it out. It took some multitasking, but nothing too difficult. I started out with some olive oil and a little butter, then some garlic and shallots, then some chopped bacon I had already cooked separately (I wanted to use pancetta here, but just flat out ran out of time to go to the store and had bacon on hand), and then some fresh asparagus and chopped hazelnuts. The whole thing was then dabbed with some creamy goat cheese for a little bit of a tangy sauce along and a bit of salt and pepper. That was it.
My kids are funny, because even as picky as they are, these are the kinds of dishes they love, and they did love this meal! Go figure!
Homemade Tagliatelle Primavera (Tagliatelle with Bacon, Asparagus & Hazelnuts)
Ingredients for Basic Rolled-Out Pasta Dough (Adapted from Mario Batali):
2 or 3 large eggs
5 ounces of all-purpose flour
Make a mound of the flour, create a well in the middle, add two of the eggs, and mix with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour. (Or mix all together in a Kitchen Aid mixer.) If too dry, add a the yolk of the third egg. If still too dry, add the white. Once it forms a ball, knead for fifteen to twenty minutes (no higher than speed 4 on your KA). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and rest for at least thirty minutes. Divide the dough in half and if you have a pasta rolling machine, roll it out into thin sheets. Or you can roll it out by hand, using a wooden board and a wooden rolling pin. Flour the board and roll the dough out in one direction. Flip and roll out in the other. Flip and turn ninety degrees, and so on. The idea is to stretch the dough until it’s very thin: thin enough that you should be able to see the grains of the wooden board through the sheet. Be patient and let the dough rest a few minutes at a time while you are preparing the other ingredients. Your patience and perseverance will be rewarded by allowing the dough to relax a bit and you’ll be able to continue rolling it out to get it thin enough. It’s worth the effort!
Prepare the ‘Sauce’:
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb bacon or pancetta, diced and cooked til crisp
4 ounces of creamy goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper, to taste
Boil a large pot of water. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt. Take a sheet of your basic rolled-out pasta dough. Let dry for three or four minutes. Roll up like a cigar, gently to prevent the sheet from sticking to itself. Slice pasta every quarter of an inch. Shake out each slice and set aside.
In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil and melt the butter over medium heat, or use a little of the fat from frying the bacon, and add the minced shallot and garlic, cooking for 2-3 minutes until tender and fragrant. Add the asparagus and sauté for 4-5 minutes until slightly tender and still bright green. Add the bacon (or pancetta) and hazelnuts to the pan and toast and heat for 2-3 minutes more until the hazelnuts are slightly toasted and fragrant and warm. Turn the heat down to low to keep warm while you cook the pasta.
Drop your cut pasta into the boiling water. Cook until tender, when the pasta starts to float (2 or 3 minutes). Lift it out from the water with tongs and drop into your saute pan. Toss the pasta gently with the asparagus, bacon and hazelnut mixture to coat and heat. You can add a little of the pasta water to help make a sauce by dotting the creamy goat cheese in crumbles all over the dish and then stir gently to melt and coat the entire dish. Serve hot.
Makes enough for 4 generous portions.