eggs

Fresh Pasta, and Why There is No Need for Boxed

I don’t think I would have fulfilled my role as a food blogger studying in Italy if I didn’t post about how to make fresh pastas. Quite honestly, that would be sacrilege! Last week I took a cooking class with the amazing Andrea and Julio, chefs of Florencetown, where myself and 20 other lucky participants got a tour of Il Mercato Centrale through a local’s eyes, and a hands on lesson in fresh pasta, Bolognese sauce, and tiramisu.

Prior to this class I had been to Il Mercato Centrale many times to buy my fresh, local produce, but was always so overwhelmed with the variety of butchers, fishmongers, and cheese counters to know which ones were the most authentic, a rip-off, or a diamond in the rough. Although, exploring it on my own has definitely helped improved my Italian. Thankfully, Julio was kind enough to introduce us to all of his favorite vendors, such as the butcher who sells the best Florentine steak, the bakery with the best olive and truffle oils, and tastiest cantucci, known to others as biscotti, but they are not the same! Throughout the tour Chef Julio was picking up the ingredients for our meal, and once we were ready we headed around the corner to the kitchen to get started.

The one thing I didn’t expect was how easy it is to make pasta from scratch! All you need is 2 simple ingredients!

That’s right, just eggs and flour.

  • 3 cups of “00” flour
  • 3 eggs

Now it’s time to get handsy. Pour your flour onto a cool, smooth surface and make a small well in the center for the egg. Crack the eggs into the well, and working from the center, begin to incorporate the flour with a fork until a thicker consistency begins to form and sticks to the fork. Then get in there with your hands and begin to knead. Be very liberal with the flour here folks and continue to add until dough is smooth and doesn’t stick to your hands.Lastly, wrap it up real tight in plastic wrap and let sit for 15-30 minutes. During this time you can start prepping your sauce or ravioli filling.


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Once the pasta is ready to be cut, roll it out so you can barely see through to the table underneath (about 3 mm thickness). Then fold the dough over itself using at 3-finger width and cut it length wise. The size of your pasta is up to you! Are you in the making a thinner, creamier sauce? Then go for linguine (0.5cm thick) or are you making a hearty Bolognese that needs a pasta strong enough to carry all that meat? If so, pappardelle (2cm thick) is what you’re looking for. You can also cut off the ends and make one wide panel to fill, and make ravioli. During this class our ravioli was a simple Tuscan ricotta and parmesan mixture, but the ingredients you can use are endless. Ravioli are receptive to pretty much anything you can squeeze into them! Just make sure you seal of each ravioli properly, free of air pockets, so they don’t burst. Make them extra secure by pressing down the edges with the prongs of a fork!

The final step, before you get to enjoy the delicious fruits of your labor, is to boil the pasta in salted water for 2 minutes, until al dente. Al dente here in Italy is slightly different from in the states. Italians would consider the way we eat our pasta overcooked. Upon tasting it, the texture should seem slightly more underdone than your used to. But, don’t second guess because it’s actually perfect!

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Ravioli w/ Tuscan ricotta & parmesan in sage butter sauce

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Pappardelle w/ Bolognese sauce

Serve with the sauce of your choice. In class, the chefs prepared a butter and sage sauce to accompany the cheese ravioli, and added the Bolognese sauce to our fresh pappardelle.

I had never imagined making fresh pasta would be this easy, and now I can’t wait to add my own innovative touches! Chef Andrea suggested adding chopped herbs such as sage and rosemary, or even pumpkin puree to the dough to create a more earthy flavor profile. I plan on experimenting with coffee grinds and cocoa powder as well!

It is really as easy as it looks. Also, notice we didn’t use a pasta roller. Everything was done by hand with a little flour, a rolling-pin, and some elbow grease. No, it’s not as quick as 10 minute, boxed pasta, but it isn’t that much longer. Plus, c’mon you gotta know that the texture and flavor is 10 times better, and you get this warm fuzzy feeling from enjoying something you prepared from start to finish!

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The Island Market

I am lucky enough to have a second family that lives on a little strip of paradise in Maine called Islesboro. I am also lucky enough that these amazing people own The Island Market, a specialty grocery store open all year round that caters to both the locals and summer vacationites. This store has everything from the freshest fish and shellfish to the most mouth-watering prepared foods and desserts. The two behind this gem are David and Linda Mahan (better known as Shake and Loony); chefs, butcher, grill master, baker, hostess, inn keeper…they do it all! As is expected and anticipated every year, they serve the most delicious food, and as a special house guest (a title I earned by spending many a hot summer day stocking shelves) I have access to the plethora of fresh ingredients in their fridge and cupboard. Some of those goodies include fresh eggs from Loony’s chickens, homemade broccoli-cauliflower hummus, fresh greens grown right there on the island, and much more.

Shake and Loony also previously owned a restaurant together on the same island so their cooking game is out of this world! One can anticipate the most phenomenal variety of meats from Shake such as a pork tenderloin cooked to perfection, addiction-inducing chicken wings, a killer piece of steak, or THE ORIGINAL bacon wrapped hot dog (his specialty). Loony’s specialities (seen below) include pies with minimal ingredients and maximum flavor, cakes with buttercream frosting that carries you away on a cloud, and recently added gluten free options. She also makes a kick-ass platter so appealing to the eye (and stomach) you’ll ask no questions and want to eat everything on it!

 

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Asiago Bagel (Scratch Bakery, Portland, ME) topped w/ Broccoli Hummus, Avocado, Tomatoes, and a Farm Fresh Egg

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Charcuterie & Broccoli Hummus Platters

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Pork Tenderloin w/ Mushroom Sauce, Baked Rosemary Sweet Potatoes, Walnut Brussel Sprout Slaw, and Steam Green beans

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Vanilla Cake w/ Marscapone Filling & Orange Buttercream Frosting

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Blueberry Pie w/ Blueberries, Cinnamon, Lemon Zest & a Handmade Crust

If you are ever looking for a get away that will completely remove you from reality I highly suggest a vacation to this special little island. A quick 20-minute ferry ride across the Penobscot Bay will transport you to another world full of lush scenery, delectable fresh & local foods, and amazing people!

**All of this delicious produce, meat, and recipes can be found at the fabulous Island Market!!**