Something Slow and Something Quick: Homemade Pasta + Tomato Sauce with Almonds and Roasted Garlic

Once in a while on when we’ve got got a little extra time on a Saturday or Sunday, we make homemade pasta. It’s a bit of a project, but sometimes when the weather isn’t great or we feel like tinkering in the  kitchen, it’s just the thing to keep us entertained.

My favorite pasta dough recipe comes from Marcella Hazan. She has a great step-by-step description, but in a nutshell it involves using the “well method” to combine 1.5 cups flour and 3 eggs which will yield a little over a pound of pasta. [Regular all purpose flour is fine, but if you want to get fancy, try “00” pizzeria flour. I drag Luca to Rainbow Grocery every couple of months to stock up on our niche pantry items like 00 flour, sea salt, capers, and vanilla beans — which they have in bulk along with tons of other great things. It’s a cook’s paradise and a fun mini food adventure. As a bonus, you can grab a couple of tacos from the El Toyanese Taco truck which is usually parked just down the block.]

After combining the eggs and flour, knead for 8 minutes (Marcella is exact about this) until the dough is as smooth as a “baby’s bottom”. I’m always amazed by the transformation of these two simple ingredients into a wonderfully smooth dough precisely at that 7th or 8th minute. It’s like magic! Then wrap the dough in plastic, throw it in the fridge and let it rest 20 minutes or until you’re ready to roll it.

Luca was taking a nap during pasta dough part, but was eager to help with the rolling and cutting when he woke up. He pulled up a chair and helped me crank the pasta machine (3 times through the largest setting and once through each successively smaller setting) and caught the pasta on a floured tray as it came through the cutter. I gave him a tiny dough ball and a mound of bench flour to play with which kept him very happy and busy while I finished up the rest. Fresh pasta is quick to cook, just boil for a couple of minutes in nicely salted water.

Tomato, Roasted Garlic & Toasted Almond Sauce

Another mom shared this recipe on the playground one day. It’s like toastier version of regular old tomato sauce and not too much of a stretch for kids. By contrast to the homemade pasta endeavor, it comes together quickly  — especially if you roast your garlic and toast your almonds ahead of time.

Drizzle a head of garlic in a little olive oil, wrap it in aluminum foil and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minute until soft. You can do this in advance.

Toast 1/2 cup of slivered or sliced almonds in a dry pan on the stove until golden. They go from golden to burned quickly so toss frequently and watch carefully, you can’t really leave them alone. Remove the almonds from the pan as soon as they have color.

To a blender add 2 1/2  cups tomatoes and the toasted almonds (you could use plain tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, flavorful fresh tomatoes or a combination). Slice the end off the roasted garlic head and squeeze the garlic into the blender and puree everything until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste: salt, pepper, drizzle of olive oil. If you want a little kick add a few pinches of red pepper flakes or puree in a little fresh garlic.

Warm the sauce through a bit and toss with hot pasta. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated parmesan cheese. A sprinkle of minced basil or parsley would be nice, but is totally optional.

Pink Grapefruit Granita

Shopping List: 3 Pink Grapefruits (plus one for garnish), Sugar

Viva la pamplemousse! My family’s been on a big grapefruit kick this year.  They seem to make their way to our dinner table 3-4 times a week. Such a great, refreshing dessert…. cut in half and you’re done. They need absolutely no amendment. In fact, I’ve yet to find a grapefruit recipe that I prefer to the fruit on its own. Luca loves using those little serrated spoons to scoop out the fruit, then squeezing out and drinking the juice. My husband and I both remember loving those spoons when we were kids, too.

The one grapefruit recipe I do make from time to time is granita (think Italian ice or frozen lemonade). It’s one of our favorite treats in Italy, but I wasn’t inspired to make it at home until I read Jeffrey Steingarten’s collection of culinary essays, “The Man Who Ate Everything“. He has an entire chapter devoted to granita and its history. (In case you’re curious, this slushy concoction dates back to the 1600’s and was popular across the Middle East and Europe). If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself drooling over his detailed descriptions of granitas from some of Sicily’s most famous gelaterias. Coffee granita and brioche for breakfast? Yes please!!!Luckily, it’s not too hard to make a decent granita at home. If you can juice a grapefruit and stir, you’re in business.

Pink Grapefruit Granita

(makes a little less than a quart)

  • Dissolve 3/4 cup sugar (you could dial this back a bit depending on the tartness of your fruit) into 2 cups water.
  • Finely zest half a grapefruit avoiding the white pith and add zest to sugar-water mixture.
  • Juice 3 grapefruits (approx 2 1/2 to 3 cups juice). Add the juice to the sugar and water mixture. Stir well. Taste to make sure the flavor works for you.
  • Pour into a freezer safe container. Wide and shallow is better because it will freeze faster.
  • Stir well every hour to break up and mix in the ice crystals that form. You’ll need to do this 3-4 times until you have a nicely uniform, slushy consistency.
  • Cover and let freeze solid.
  • To serve, let defrost for a 5-10 minutes then scrape the top with a fork and scoop the fluffy ice into a small goblet or bowl. I like to serve mine in espresso cups.
  • For some extra grapefruit tang, garnish with some grapefruit segments. As you cut the grapefruit garnish, reserve the juice and sprinkle over top.