Home Made Pasta
with Easy (and authentic)
Tomato Sauce
By Charlie Burke

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Americans have many misconceptions about red sauce and pasta, most notably
that they are served in approximately equal volumes and that the sauce must be
made from a complex recipe and cooked for hours.

In Italy, the sauce is thought of as a condiment, complementing but never
overwhelming the flavor of the pasta, and some of the best tomato sauces are quite
simple. My favorite sauce is simple to prepare, with minimal ingredients and is
packed with flavor. It works with pasta, alone, or in casseroles such as lasagna.

Pasta in Italy is usually served on a flat plate with most of the sauce adhering to
the pasta – no large pool of excess sauce is seen. Shape, size and thickness of dried
pasta vary with region and strong feelings are associated with the pairing of sauce
and pasta. Usually the heavier the sauce, the larger the pasta, and the dried, made
from hard Durham wheat, is preferred for its rough surface, to which the sauce
adheres.

With lighter sauces we often serve fresh pasta, and guests are surprised at how
quick and simple it is to make. When our friends’ daughter wanted to learn to
make it for this year’s Christmas Eve dinner, it was great fun making it with her
and sharing the results with her family.

We made chicken picatta and the pasta, tossed with a little olive oil and some of
the sauce from the chicken, was the perfect complement. We made pasta al’uovo
(egg pasta), which is made simply from flour and eggs. As in any simple recipe, it
pays to use the best ingredients, in this case
Pete and Gerry’s local organic eggs
and King Arthur unbleached flour.

There are many recipes for egg pasta, but the easiest is used in Emilia Romana,
where they speak of “eggs of pasta”: one egg is combined with approximately ¾
cup of flour.

For four generous servings, I use 4 large eggs and 3 cups of flour. It comes together
in a flash in a food processor, and can be rolled out by hand if you do not have a
pasta machine. Excellent hand crank pasta machines from Italy are moderately
priced and would make a great gift for the cook in your family. Pasta making is
fun and a great way to involve kids in the kitchen, so give it a try.


Pasta for 4 -5:

3 cups unbleached flour
4 large eggs

Place flour and eggs into a food processor and process until it comes together in a
ball. For a more authentic experience, pile flour on the work surface, make a deep
well in the center and crack eggs into the well. Use a fork like a whisk to gradually
mix the eggs and flour, and have a dough scraper handy because, inevitably, the
wall of flour breaks, spilling the eggs out of the center. Simply scrape it all
together and knead with floured hands until it comes together; continue kneading
until a firm ball forms.

Whether done by hand or machine, wrap the ball in plastic wrap and let it rest for
at least 30 minutes, by which time it will relax and be easier to work. If using a
pasta machine, cut dough into approximately 1 cup segments and roll out
according to directions. For spaghetti, I roll out to setting 4 before cutting.

If you do not have a machine, simply roll out with a rolling pin: start with a piece
approximately ¾ cup in size, roll it into a ball and then shape it like a log. Roll it
out into a long rectangle, rolling it as thin as possible, adding flour if it sticks to the
rolling pin. Lightly flour the thinned dough and roll it like a jelly role. Use a sharp
knife to cut dough into desired width. Hang the pasta to dry or place on kitchen
towels and toss with flour to prevent sticking.

Bring at least 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, add 3 -4 tablespoons salt and
add pasta when water resumes boiling. Fresh pasta cooks in a very short time, so it
must be closely watched. When it swells and floats to the surface, begin removing
it and tasting until it is al dente. It should take 4 – 5 minutes, depending on
thickness. Drain, toss with a little olive or butter and serve immediately with your
favorite sauce.

Do take the time to make fresh pasta. It is gratifying to start with flour and eggs
and then to serve it correctly sauced to friends and family. You will find it has a
flavor of its own when not overwhelmed by the sauce – and the kids will love
making it!

Tomato Sauce:

This sauce has intense flavor, but the garlic is quite mild because it is thinly sliced
and mellowed by being sautéed in the oil. Most sauces are started by cooking
chopped onion, carrot and celery, but I find garlic, alone, is preferable. Onion and
carrot can sweeten the sauce which, to my taste, is less desirable. The shorter
cooking time produces a lighter and more liquid sauce, while the longer time
yields a chunky, thick and rich sauce. We use Muir Glen organic tomatoes, but a
recent tasting by Cooks Magazine rated Progresso brand tops, superior to all
imported Italian brands. Of course, if you have canned your own, you probably
have the best of all. I rarely make this sauce from fresh tomatoes, preferring to
make a
fresh sauce (see recipe archives) during the brief fresh tomato season. Give
this sauce a try, and you may never buy bottled again.

6 – 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons dried oregano or herbes de Provence
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt, or more to taste
3 28-ounce cans premium whole peeled tomatoes or equal amount of fresh or  
home canned tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper to taste

In a wide sauté or frying pan, heat oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add
garlic, salt and herbs and cook, stirring until garlic is fragrant and begins to color;
do not let it brown. Add tomatoes, mashing with a fork into large pieces. Cook,
uncovered, for 30 minutes to 1 ½ hours. Taste, adding salt just until the flavor
“brightens”; it should not taste salty.

About the author:  An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the
vice president of the New Hampshire Farmer’s Market Association (
www.nhfma.
org) and helps run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife, Joanne,
he grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill Farm in
Sanbornton, NH.  
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