Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pasta pasta....

SOPHIA LOREN has revealed the secret behind her enduring beauty: spaghetti and olive oil baths. The 71-year-old actress was recently voted the most naturally beautiful person in the world, beating stunning stars less than half her age. She credits her love of life and spaghetti and "the odd bath in virgin olive oil". Now I didn't need that reason to propose a pasta making party for my moms group but it certainly helps validate our reason that eating pasta is definitely a good thing and especially when it is made from scratch...

Five eager friends and their toddler children turned up at my home where the pasta making fest went into full force by making home made ravioli with two different fillings, one with butternut squash, ricotta, nutmeg and goats cheese, the other with spinach and goats cheese and Parmesan. We based our pasta recipe on the simple everyday pasta presented in Jamie Oliver's book " The Naked Chef" which is just 5 eggs and 1 lb of tipo 00 flour ( if you can't find that, you can use bread flour). Combine these two ingredients in a food processor or Kitchen Aid and once they come together, take it out and work it on a surface strewn with some flour until you dough is shiny and elastic. Let it then rest in the fridge covered for one hour. Each participant was instructed on how to make the dough and made a batch for themselves so they could easily replicate this process at home. I was truly impressed with the kneading skills of some of the moms, it was clear they were bread making experts!

The fillings were also so simple to make, I made up my own recipe which goes something like this for the butternut squash filling - one roasted and cooled flesh of one butternut squash, 1.5 tubs of full fat ricotta cheese, nutmeg to taste, salt, pepper, 2 ounces goats cheese, 2 ounces of shredded Parmesan cheese, just mix it all together until it blends into a delicious mouth watering homogeneous mix!

The spinach and goats cheese filling was also very simple, take a large organic box of spinach, saute in a small amount of olive oil in a big pot and then once it is cooked down and cooled, you can push the liquid out of it, chop it finely, add it to 6 ounces of goats cheese, some grated Parmesan, and season to taste.

Then the real fun began, we worked in groups of two and using our hand crank pasta machine, we rolled out long length of pasta, then quickly moved these rolled out sheets to another assembly line of ravioli fillers and assemblers. It was amazing to watch how engaged our children were with the process and how much they wanted to observe and check in to see what was happening. We finally took a well deserved break with a lunch of our hard earned labor of pasta making which I made by cooking some of the ravioli in a pot of salted boiling water for about 6 minutes, draining them and then returning them to the pot and added 400 ml of whipping cream ( you could also use creme fraiche) about 1/2 glass of white wine, some grated Parmesan, some of the leftover sauteed spinach and let them all come together in a delicious marriage of amazing flavours, note this dish is not for those following a low fat diet....

Silence then descended on the dining room as mothers and children experienced the pasta, as you may know to have silence with five toddler in one room is no mean feat so we took that as a sign that our quest to create delectable pasta had been achieved on this wintry Midwestern morning!

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