Farm to Table: Handmade Memories
● By Kayla Butts
By: Kayla Butts Photos by: Rachel Benavides
Some of my fondest childhood memories around the age of 7 or 8, were spent in my grandmother’s kitchen, making concoctions of flour, water, and eggs. Hours were spent exacting the precise ratio of wet and dry ingredients to get the perfect sticky (but not too sticky) consistency. I took even greater care choosing the flavorings, my nose discriminating between the full, dusty bottle of marjoram and the sweet, woody smell of French toast.
I shook salt out of the mushroom-shaped shaker into my favorite Pyrex bowl – the one with the olive green flowers. I imagined myself in Nonna’s kitchen, a wood-burning fireplace for an oven and a broom handle for a rolling pin. The ceiling of her Italian villa was hidden behind drying peppers and copper pots. Her walls reverberated her musings on panna cotta and pan sauces. She revealed to me the secrets of navigating life while rolling out the perfect pasta.
My Nan always seemed to come home as I was rolling out my own dough, sometimes with a commemorative action figure glass or a sweaty, pasty palm. She’d saunter in after a long day selling eyeglasses, shed her handbag and low heel pumps, then come to an abrupt halt when her eyes set upon the all-purpose floured patina of her once harvest gold countertops. Picking up a dripping egg shell from the floor she scolded me back to my room, or wherever, anywhere other than her kitchen.
As most children of single, working moms, my adolescence was a blur of strawberry toaster strudels and hot pocket wrappers, except for the occasional home cooked meal. Mom determinedly bustled around the 7’x4’ galley kitchen ladling gravy onto fried pork chops and skewering boiled potatoes to check for doneness. My recurring assignment was to nuke the veggies. One seemingly ordinary evening, with my teen angst and belligerence at an all-time high, I drifted back to Nonna’s kitchen, smelling of freshly baked bread and fennel. I imagined her skillfully peeling the skins from blanched tomatoes for her signature puttanesca. Carelessly wrapping the dish of frozen peas with aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap, I daydream of culinary magic as it should be done, Nonna’s way, and press the start button.
A few moments later, amidst yelping and cursing and failed attempts at extinguishing the flames, I was unceremoniously ushered out of the kitchen by my own mother, presumably to start amassing my meager savings toward a new microwave. “Nonna would never have microwaved her precious heirloom eggplants,” I angrily thought.
Now, stirring to the hum of the stainless steel vent hood, my two girls and I make our own memories in the kitchen. We make oddly-shaped pancakes, cookies with scorched edges, and over-mixed blueberry muffins. There is no earthen fireplace oven. There is no Tuscan hillside dotted with tomato plants. There is no all-knowing Nonna. There are the occasional disasters. But sometimes, there is magic. On this day, there is perfect pasta. And always, there is the tradition of us, together, in the kitchen.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 3-5 minutes
2 cups 00 flour*
1 tsp kosher salt
2 whole eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 - 1/2 cup water
*All-purpose flour is a perfectly acceptable
substitute for these Italian flours.
In the bowl of your standing mixer, whisk together flours and salt. Fit your standing mixer with the dough hook and stir in eggs (reserve egg whites to use for the ravioli, or another use), olive oil, and 1/3 cup water on medium-low speed (if dough remains dry and crumbly, add an additional 1 tbsp of water at a time, until a soft dough forms). Mix for 3 minutes until dough is smooth. Let dough rest at room temperature for least 20 minutes.
Using a pasta machine or rolling pin, roll pasta out into 1/16” thick sheets. Lay pasta on floured parchment paper and cut as desired. Once cut, hang to dry or use immediately. Cooking time will vary depending on the freshness of the pasta.
– If using a pasta machine, roll out dough on the thickest setting at least 6 times, adding flour to the surface of the dough and your hands if it starts to stick. Cut the dough into manageable lengths using a sharp knife or pizza cutter once it starts to stretch. Note: this job is easier with a second pair of hands. Continue to pass the dough through the pasta machine, folding it in half lengthwise, each time adjusting the side knob to a thinner setting until you reach desired thickness. (All the pasta in recipes call for thinnest pasta machine setting).
– If rolling with a pin, flour a large work surface well. Cut dough into four pieces and roll each out until desired thickness (1/16” for these recipes) is reached. Once you feel that you’ve got the dough thin enough, you’ll likely need to roll it out once more.
For squid ink pasta: Substitute 1 tbsp olive oil for 1 tbsp cuttlefish ink. Whisk eggs, ink, and olive oil together before adding to dry ingredients.
Hand-Rolled Pasta with My Favorite Marinara
Prep time: 45 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
Splash of dry, red wine
26 oz crushed canned tomatoes
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
Put 4 quarts of salted water over high heat in a large pot. Roll out pasta dough using a pasta machine or rolling pin to 1/16” thickness. Cut dough into 1”x2” rectangles using a pizza or pasta cutter. Pinch the dough in the center to create bowties, or starting at a long corner, roll the pasta in on itself, making a tubular shape. Have fun experimenting with shapes and boil your favorites for 2-3 minutes.
In a large, deep-sided pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add carrots and onion, cooking for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, salt, pepper, and red wine. Cook an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until wine mostly cooks out. Add tomatoes and cook to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow sauce to cool slightly. Add sauce and basil to a food processor or blender and blend until large chunks have been broken down.
Spoon sauce over prepared pasta and serve with parmesan shavings.
Portobello Mushroom Ravioli
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 7 minutes
Prepared pasta dough
¼ cup ricotta cheese
1/8 cup mascarpone cheese
½ cup shredded parmigiana reggiano
2 tsp packed, fresh mint
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 tbsp butter
¼ cup parmigiana reggiano
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
Garnish with ¼ cup fresh mint
In a food processor, combine filling ingredients. Pulse mixture, scraping down the sides, until a smooth paste is formed.
Put 4 quarts of salted water over high heat in a large pot. Roll out pasta dough using a pasta machine or rolling pin to 1/16” thickness. On one sheet of pasta, spoon 1 tbsp filling, leaving a ½” - ¾” border on all sides. Once the sheet is filled, brush a thin layer of egg white on the exposed dough surrounding each tablespoon of filling.
Cover filling with a second sheet of pasta, pressing gently to adhere the pasta around the filling, taking care to remove any air bubbles. Using a knife or pasta cutter, cut out ravioli to desired size. Boil ravioli for 1-2 minutes, until al dente, or as desired.
In a sauce pan, combine ingredients for sauce over low heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until sauce begins to thicken. Add pasta to sauce and garnish with mint.
Squid Ink Fettucine with Seared Scallops
Cook time: 60 minutes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Squid ink pasta dough
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs sea scallops
½ cup dry white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp salt
8 large leaves fresh basil, chiffonade
Cut tomatoes in half and place evenly spaced out on a baking sheet. Cook at 200°F for 60 minutes.
While tomatoes cook, put 4 quarts of salted water over high heat in a large pot. Roll out pasta dough using a pasta machine or rolling pin to 1/16” thickness. Using a pasta roller or pasta machine, cut dough into fettucine. Hang fettucine on a clean plastic hanger or pasta rack to prevent from sticking to one another. Once water is boiling, cook pasta for 2 minutes, or until desired doneness is reached. Strain and set aside.
In a large sauté pan, melt butter in olive oil over medium-high heat. Once fat is hot, sear scallops for about 1 ½ minutes on each side. Transfer scallops to a clean plate. Reduce heat to medium low and immediately add white wine. Cook for 2 minutes, add lemon juice and salt. Cook for an additional 3 minutes and add in prepared pasta.
Serve pasta topped with scallops, dehydrated tomatoes, and basil chiffonade.