Friday, January 7, 2011

Pacche e Fasul, Homemade Macaroni and Beans

Tonight we were Cooking With Chef Silvio. Pacche e Fasul, Homemade Macaroni and Beans is what I would consider peasant food. I do not mean peasant food as a bad thing. I am fascinated by Italian food that perhaps my grandparents may have eaten. They were farmers, not well off by any means, and just maybe my great grandmother made this for dinner
To begin with I had never made a pasta like this before. Flour, salt and water. That's it. It was a little heavier than pasta made with egg. But it was good. It had a wonderful texture. And it was rolled out by hand. That's right no pasta machine here. I kept thinking that this was probably a normal thing for my grandmothers to do. I was tempted to pull out the pasta machine but I did not.

The sauce was heaven on a plate. Olive oil, onion, celery, tomatoes, basil and cannellini beans (of course I omitted the garlic). What amazes me about this book and even La Cucina is that the best recipes have the fewest ingredients.

Pasta Ingredients
4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Sauce Ingredients
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 small onion finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
24 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
Leaves of 1 bunch fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
14 oz can undrained cannellini beans

For the Pasta
Chef Silvio suggests using a large wooden board or a marble slab for making the dough on... I used my Pampered Chef Pastry Mat, the marble slab will be installed when the kitchen is done over.
So here we go...
Place flour in the middle of the pastry mat and make a well in the center. Add the salt and gradually pour water into the well while mixing in the flour until all the flour is moistened and a rough dough has gathered into a ball. The dough should be quite firm but pliable. At some point you may ask how much water. Well I used around 1 1/2 cups, but I added it very slowly and I added it as it seemed necessary. Chef Silvio's recipe says you may need to adjust the flour or water.
Scape the work surface clean and sprinkle with enough flour to cover. Place the dough on the surface, sprinkle with flour, and knead with your fist for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and sprinkle the top and bottom with flour. Let rest for 1 hour. 
With a rolling pin, roll the dough from the center outwards in all directions so that it forms a round sheet. Keep rolling and sprinkle the bottom and top frequently with flour so it doesn't stick. The dough should be 1/8 to 1/16 in thickness. Let the pasta sheet rest for 2 hours.
Then cut into strips 3 inches wide, making sure the strips are well floured, top and bottom. Make 2 stacks of pasta strips and cut them across into 1/2 inch wide pieces. (
For some reason I decided to cut the pasta into triangles.) Separate the pieces with your fingers and sprinkle with more flour to keep them dry and apart. Gently spread them into an even layer on a tray lined with linen towel and let dry for at least for 1 hour.

Making the Sauce
This is an amazing sauce. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and celery and cook for approximately 5 minutes or until ingredients turn golden. Add the tomatoes, 12 basil leaves, torn up, and salt and pepper. Simmer, covered for about 5 minutes. Take off the cover, stir in the beans and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes become soft. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Stir gently until the water comes back to a boil and the pasta comes to the surface. Drain the pasta, saving some of the water. Return the pasta to the pot, mix with the sauce, and add enough cooking water to just about cover the pasta. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, give it a nice stir and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and peperoncino to your liking. If you like it brothy, serve immediately; if you like it thick let it sit off heat for 10 to 15 minutes with the cover on.

This was the second recipe I have cooked out of Cooking With Chef Silvio. I am recommending it and have added it to my Favorite Cookbooks list. Can't wait to try another recipe. And I think Chris is pleased with his cookbook choice!

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