Give me a choice of any dish I would like to eat at any given time and I will say, with no hesitation, a dish of macaroni (pasta to the more modern generations). Served with a good marinara sauce, Sunday gravy, with seafood or agli olio (garlic and oil) there is nothing on this earth in the world of food more satisfying or more beautiful. Every bowl brings back a memory of Sundays when the gravy pot went on at dawn and cooked right up until it was served. No such thing as cooking it too long. Sausages, meatballs, braciole all came together to form one great taste, an aroma that filled the house and the feeling that we were home, that everything was good. Homemade pasta was the norm back then. So simple yet so wonderfully flavorful. Oh, the lost arts!
With all that in mind, well, are you hungry yet? If you’ve gotten this far you should be about ready to either cook some macaroni up or order out. So, okay. Put down the phone and get an apron. Home made macaroni is easy, yeah really! Clear the counter and get ready for a culinary delight.
INGREDIENTS: (remember, I AM Italian so measurements are approximate)
Good flour, type “00” which is more refined than say Pillsbury or Gold Medal
Durum semolina flour (optional, but strongly recommended)
Whole, fresh eggs
In a large bowl or on a clean counter (grandma never used a bowl) pour out 2-3 heping cups of flour. Make a well in the middle with plenty of space. About 1 tsp salt. Add 4 large eggs into the well. Mix, using a spoon first until the egg is all soaked in. If it is too dry, add another egg. Using your hands, knead the dough thoroughly until all the flour is absorbed and the dough is slightly sticky. Now, if the dough is too wet your pasta will never cook through. Too dry and it will fall apart while cooking. This step takes some real good judgement so make the dough just a bit sticky. When it comes off your hands easily it should be good. Now set that aside to dry for maybe ½ hour or so.
After the dough dries a while, cut it up into about six equal pieces. Work the dough a little more to make sure it is good. For this next step I am lucky because my son gave me a pasta machine so I can roll and flatten the dough to my desired thickness. If you have one start at the widest setting and roll the dough through your machine a few times adjusting the setting after each roll to make the dough thinner. Be careful you don’t make it too thin. You don’t want to see through it. If you don’t have a machine, use a rolling pin, but turn your dough over frequently so it doesn’t stick. When you reach your desired thickness, lay the sheets to one side flouring each sheet before stacking again so they don’t stick.
Again, after drying for a short time, separate the sheets of dough and cut them to your desired style of pasta. Again, I used the machine, but it is easy, and just as much fun to cut the sheets by hand. Adds to the personalization of the meal.
To cook, bring cold, salted water to a boil, add the pasta and let it cook. Because this is fresh dough it won’t take long, up to about five minutes for wider noodles, less time for thinner ones.
Drain off the water, add your sauce (gravy if it’s Sunday), mix it up thoroughly and just let it sit for a few minutes before serving so that the pasta can absorb the flavors surrounding it. Serve it steaming hot with some good grated parmesan cheese and you have it. This is a relatively simple meal that makes a home someplace special, a place you want to go to. Honestly, you can have a dozen Italian restaurants near you but I can guarantee that making this at home will beat them all.
Sometimes it’s a memory. Sometimes it’s an expectation. But there is a feeling you get when you are close to home. Something inside just knows that you want to be there. And, believe me, when you open the door and smell this cooking, you know. You are home. And there is no other place like it.