So we planted the tomatoes in June (geez, was it July? We got a late start this year. And I am really enjoying the use of the word "we"- I didn't plant anything). Every time I went outside, I questioned the whole tomato plan. Where the #$%@ are the tomatoes?? I was so impatient to make fresh tomato sauce, and yet every time I went outside with my colander, I came up empty.
But it's like they say: if you plant them, they will come....
I was allowed to have a garden once. It was a wildflower garden, where you just sprinkle a packet of seeds onto the ground and add water. Yeah, it all dried up and the only plants that grew were prickly weeds....
So with all of our beautiful, sweet, fresh, totally unsprayed produce, I could make tomato sauce whenever I wanted! Which was pretty often.... And what would really make the fresh tomato sauce?
Fresh pasta, of course.
I have been making it for a while now, mostly in the form of ravioli or spaghetti, but this time I decided to make little bow ties! They were so easy to make and a perfect little size for my kids' little hands. This was definitely a case where the extra "help" was actually helpful..
*Time management tip*
The thought of making fresh pasta may be a little daunting. But just know that from start to finish, it takes about an hour, give or take. But you can easily make the whole meal at the same time so that it gets to the table all at once. Start to make the pasta after you put the tomatoes into the oven for roasting. By the time the sauce is completely finished, after all the roasting and simmering, your pasta will be rolled, formed, and cooked and ready for the table! And if some unforeseen circumstances occur (which are commonplace in my house), don't worry. You can take the sauce off the heat and reheat it later if necessary. Also, after the pasta is bow tied, you can let it sit and dry for however long you need.
To make the sauce, I didn't really measure anything. I just took enough small halved tomatoes to fill a baking sheet. I then drizzled it all with olive oil, some sea salt, a few sprigs of thyme, and put the whole thing into a preheated 400˚F oven. I roasted them for about a half hour, until their juices oozed and they started to get browned on the edges. I then heated some olive oil in a pan, sizzled in some chopped garlic, and put in the roasted tomatoes. Because they had lost much of their juice, I took about 1 to 2 cups more tomatoes, put them into the blender for just a few seconds, and then dumped their juicy sweetness into the pan as well. I set the heat to low, gave it all a good stir, and simmered for about 40 minutes. If it gets a bit dry, just add some water.
Oh. And I also added bacon, well.... because it's bacon!
When I buy bacon, I find that I will use about a half a pack at a time. I'll take the rest and put it into a freezer bag, squeeze out the air, and pop it into the freezer. It freezes beautifully, and whenever I need to use it (for a sauce, for example) I just take it out and chop it while still frozen. So that's exactly what I did here. I cut the frozen piece with scissors (this piece was actually half of a half, since I had already dipped into my bacon cache), it was about 1/4 cup uncooked bacon. I crisped it up in a pan and scooped it out and put it right into the sauce. The smokey flavor of the bacon (or prosciutto if you have it) pairs so wonderfully with the sweet and tangy tomato sauce.
2 cups all purpose flour, plus about 1/2 c. extra for dusting
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
I have made pasta all by hand before, but it really is just so easy to do in a food processor. Put the 2 c. flour and salt into the bowl of the processor and pulse a few times to mix. Then add the eggs and oil, and pulse until it comes together in a ball. Generously flour your work surface, and turn out the dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, and you really have to stick it out for the full 10 minutes. It doesn't really start to come together until minute 8.
It will be sticky at first, so you have to keep adding flour, a sprinkling at a time, until it is tacky, but not sticky. In the end, the dough will be smooth and elastic, and a bit tacky. And keep in mind, that the more flour you add, the tougher it will be in the end, so add the flour sparingly.
Take the dough ball and cut it into quarters. Put the whole thing underneath an overturned bowl. You need to let the dough rest for 15 minutes to activate the gluten.
I have a pasta machine, which is really just a roller with a crank. It also cuts it into spaghetti if you like. If you do not have a pasta machine, you can roll it out with a rolling pin. The basic premise is this: take one quarter of dough, sprinkle it with flour, and put it through the largest setting on the machine (1), or roll it flat with the rolling pin. If it is still sticky, fold the flat dough into thirds, sprinkle with flour, and roll again. When the dough gets a nice elastic smooth consistency, then you can just keep rolling until you get it to the right thickness. If you use the machine, put it through the 1 size, then take it down to 2, then 3, then 4, and then to 5 for cut out pasta shapes or 6 for spaghetti. This all sounds like a lot to know, but once you make it, it's really easy to see how tacky and smooth it needs to be.
When you are finished making the shapes with one quarter of the dough, put the formed pieces onto a dish towel and let sit until you finish with all of the dough. Do one quarter at a time, and keep the remaining dough underneath the bowl. If you take it all out at once, the dough will dry out.
*forming the bow ties*
When the dough is smooth and rolled out, take a pizza cutter or knife, and cut the dough into 1x2-inch pieces. To make a bow tie, you want to slightly roll the centers of the long sides in, and then pinch them together in the middle. Sound confusing? Maybe a visual is more helpful.
How about one more?