With schools, businesses and restaurants closed down, cooking at home for the family is more important than ever. It can feel pretty stressful having to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner day after day for everybody! In the wake of these uncertain times, most families are looking to save time and energy in the kitchen. Right now, our cooking has to be flexible and adaptable.
When the pandemic hit and we all started isolating, I cooked through it the same way a lot of us did. I prepared the dishes my Nonna Maria and my mother Lina made, without recipes. A pinch of this and a pinch of that, simply.
Cooking with What I Had
The current cooking moment calls for making meals with whatever you have on hand. As my sons grew up, they would often look in the fridge and frantically exclaim, “There’s nothing to eat!” I always came up with a multi-course meal by using what we had and a lot of creative imagination.
Cooking from the pantry is a term often used in today’s cooking. We simply cook with the staples we have in our pantries – pasta, rice, grains, legumes, tuna, to name a few. I’d like to begin this series with PASTA, which is extremely versatile and a crowd pleaser.
“Pasta is fun and it should be made with love, eaten quickly with a lot of gusto! How fantastic it is that flour, eggs and water, that are quite boring to look at, when mixed and kneaded together form an elastic dough that can be rolled, cut, squashed into hundreds of shapes, and flavoured and coloured in hundreds of ways. It amazes me! And then, with respect, intelligence and utter simplicity, pasta can be combined with vegetables, meat, fish, whatever Nature gives you to make a delicious meal that’ll make you feel like you’ve had a big hug from an Italian mamma!” – Jamie Oliver
Recipe for Pasta Dough
Makes about 1 lb (500 g), enough for 4 main course sevings
1 ½ c (375 ml) Italian “00” flour
2 tbsp. (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
- Sift flour into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the eggs and olive oil. Turn mixer onto low speed and add salt. (see note)
- Mix on slow speed until dough clumps together in a bowl. The dough should feel only vaguely tacky. If it is sticky to the touch, add a bit more flour. Knead for 2-3 minutes on a floured surface.
- Roll into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Set aside to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
- Dust the dough with flour before passing through a pasta machine. Add more flour if the pasta sticks to the rollers.
- After rolling the dough, rest again for 30 minutes at room temperature before using.
Note: Dough can also be made without the use of a mixer and a pasta machine. Just hand mix on a flat surface and roll with a rolling pin the way that Nonna used to do it!
“Making your own pasta dough is so quick and simple and the results so pleasing, that once you get the hang of it, you’ll never turn your back.” – Mark McEwan
This is also a great way to get kids in the kitchen!
Butter and Sage Sauce – a simple, quick and delicious sauce
*use with agnolotti, ravioli, gnocchi, most stuffed pastas and homemade egg tagliatelle, pappardelle
120 g butter
60 g freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
5 sage leaves
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
- Warm butter in large pan, add chopped sage and lightly salt
- Turn off heat when butter is all melted. Careful not to burn.
- Cook pasta al dente, reserve a couple tablespoons of pasta water.
- Add butter sage sauce and pasta water.
- Add freshly grated parmigiano, mix well and add freshly grounded pepper if you wish.
- Plate and serve hot.
The following products are available at My Mother’s Place:
Spinach and Ricotta Agnolotti
Butternut Squash Ravioli
Spinach, Ricotta and Walnut Tortelloni
Parmigiano Reggiano (24 and 36 months)
Filotea Taglatelle, Taglioni, Linguine, Pappardelle
Extra Virigin Olive Oil