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making pasta (snobs)

We don’t have a tradition of recreating the Thanksgiving turkey and various accoutrement for our main Christmas meal, so somebody in the family just decides what they’d like to have and we work the meal around that dish. It’s never caused any problems, and most years I don’t spend all day on Christmas in the kitchen.  This year my husband declared that he’d like Chicken Kiev. I contemplated various potato dishes and from somewhere deep in the recesses of my memories arose the recollection of my Nana’s homemade noodles. I remember them drying on the counter all afternoon, and as the sun went lower in the sky, the quantity of noodles would very gradually diminish. Nana would fuss at us kids to stop stealing the raw noodles or there would not be enough left for supper. But there always were enough, and they were incredible! Nana’s noodles were soft and creamy and comforting strips of pure carbohydrate bliss. We didn’t have them very often, and when we did, they were a treat.

With that in mind, I decided they would make a good accompaniment to the Chicken Kiev. We rounded out the meal with a cucumber and radish in sour cream salad and green beans with Dijon mustard butter.  And since Christmas is a calories-be-damned kind of day, we had Italian Cream Cake for dessert, in cupcake form, because we like it better that way.

But, back to the noodles. I mixed the flour and salt and made a well for the eggs and mixed it all in with my fingers. I kneaded the dough all together and then rolled it and rolled it and rolled it to a thin layer. I cut the thin floury disc into strips and laid them on the counter to dry. A couple of them disappeared, but apparently the people in the family my husband and I created have more self-restraint than my brothers and sisters and I did. So, most of the noodles were cooked that evening. I served them with butter and a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

I didn’t think they quite matched up to Nana’s noodles, but as my husband was putting his third serving onto his plate, he asked me if they were difficult and maybe we’d like to consider making our own pasta from now on. This started a discussion about pasta dishes, and it was determined that our daughter and her husband had never had Sauce Bolognese, a recent discovery in our household after the recipe appeared in a Martha Stewart magazine earlier in 2012. The page torn from the periodical has four or five stars drawn with my pen near the recipe’s title.  It was further decided that the sauce might be even better served over homemade pasta.

The following morning, I got to work on the dough. This time we decided to use the pasta machine my daughter had given us several months ago. I remember a recipe that I had been sent by Cooks Illustrated earlier in the year but didn’t have time to test in the time period allotted, and I decided to try it. Instead of the 2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks that I used the day before, this rendition called for 2 whole eggs + 6 egg yolks. Yikes! That didn’t seem quite right since both recipes used two cups of flour. My initial assessment was correct. I don’t know how many additional cups of flour we added to keep the dough from sticking to the pasta machine, but we came out with a LOT of pasta. We put it through the machine seven times and then through the small cutter for spaghetti. We let it dry all afternoon, during which time I made the sauce, which takes hours and hours, but is worth it if you can find a day to be home long enough to tend to the sauce.

We made a huge mess in the kitchen and used not quite every bowl, dish and utensil I have, but it was a really great meal.  A few days later, after we were back to two in the house, I reheated the sauce and put it over dry store bought pasta, and it was disappointing.

I fear my foray into the world of noodle making may have opened up Pandora’s box of pasta pickiness. I may have unwittingly created a monster in our house and unleashed our inner pasta snobs. If such is the case, I need to learn how to make a smaller recipe.


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