Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sardinian Pasta Dinner, influenced by Lidia Bastianich.

I love Italian food.  My love of Italian food goes beyond pizza and spaghetti.  I have a longing to learn how to cook Italian food from the different regions of Italy.  I recently discovered Lida's cooking show on my local PBS cable channel. I like her format of sharing recipes from Italy, which are intermingled with beautiful videos of her visiting the region from where her recipe originates.

I was intrigued by her episode on Sardinia, and then I watched her making a very simple pasta with two of her grandchildren!  Lidia explained each step so well, that she made  it look so simple--so I decided I was going to make this delicious looking dish.  Unfortunately, I don't have any of her cookbooks (which is going to change), and this recipe was not posted on her website.  The sausage tomato sauce is very similar to how I make marinara sauce, so that was easy to "wing it" on my own.  As for the pasta-- I had to rewind her show (I love DVR), pausing and trying to see the measurements on camera. I ended up guessing at the amount of water she used to make this very simple semolina flour "gnocchi".   Let me show you:

The key ingredients to make both recipes are whole Roma tomatoes (Lidia says that canned are just as good).  I used California grown San Marzano-Style tomatoes which are truly  flavorful.  Yes, I had Saffron.  I buy it at Trader Joe's for a reasonable price (because it's a small amount).  The saffron is to give a pretty golden color to the pasta.  The sauce is super easy to make:

Prep work goes pretty quickly-- minced onion, sliced fresh garlic, sausage, fresh basil, and red pepper flakes. It kills me to buy basil, but it's too cold to grow it in my garden.  The whole tomatoes were pulsed in a food processor, but not pureed.  Now, to prepare the sausage...

 I paid about $5.50 a pound for sausage from my local meat market; I removed it from the casing.  I liked Lidia's tip that adding a little white wine prevents the sausage from cooking in lumps.  So, that's what I did-- gently working the wine into the sausage. There, all the prep is done.

Olive oil is heated, in a Dutch Oven, and the onions are sauteed until tender-- just a couple minutes. I added 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  You can add less, or none at all.  Lidia says she likes it, so I trusted her...
Push some of the cooked onion aside, and add a little more olive oil.

Now, add the garlic slices and shove that aside.  Add the sausage, and cook until no longer pink.

The tomatoes are added, a little more salt and fresh basil.  I didn't chop the basil, because I will remove it before serving the sauce. Cooked fresh basil turns dark, which isn't very pretty. Cover and simmer on low-- mine simmered for about 1 1/2 hours.  Time to make the pasta.  I'm not sure which is politically correct-- Ciccione/gnocchi/dumplings. To make this pasta, you need Semolina Flour.  I paid a little over $4.00 for this bag. 

I had no idea what the water to flour ratio was, but I guess two parts flour to one part water..

I divided the water ratio. To the hot water, I added a pinch of saffron, stirring it with a spoon to release the yellow color.  If you don't buy saffron, I am guessing you could use Tumeric.  The purpose behind using saffron is to give the pasta a deep golden color. Skip it, if you'd like.  I added 4 cups flour to the food processor. With the processor turned out, I slowly added 1 1/2 cups water and then 1/2 cup of saffron water.

The lower right photo shows a saffron thread going into the food processor.

I must've guess the water ratio right, because the dough came together, and I turned off the food processor. On a lightly floured surface, the dough is kneaded a few times, then shaped into a disk.  I wrapped it with plastic wrap, then placed it into the refrigerator for an hour-- which helps the gluten to relax.  The pasta sauce was simmering away, and smelling very good!

I could feel the difference in the dough, an hour later. It definitely felt more pliable.  Divide the dough into six pieces-- then ask for help.  My husband did a great job-- each piece was divided into three pieces, again.  Then he rolled it and cut them into small pieces. You want to sprinkle flour before cutting each piece.

 My job was to roll each piece of dough. I used the back of a hard cheese microplane. Using my thumb, the dough easily rolled.  Success!  You can use your index finger-- but I learned a couple of thing. 1) don't make the pieces too large, because the pasta will double when it cooks. 2) you want flour on each piece-- otherwise it can stick to the grater.  

Kids can definitely get it on the fun with making this. Craig sped up the process of doing this to 45 minutes, total.
I placed the pasta on a clean towel, over a baking sheet and started a pot of water to boiling.

Mimicking Lidia, I pulled the corners of the towel and lifted the pasta over a colander, then gently poured the pasta in-- removing the towel. Shaking the colander, the excess flour fell onto the baking sheet.

I never forget to add salt to pasta water!  I added the pasta, which began to float to the top. I guessed at cooking these for about 10 minutes.... I tested one, and it felt like it was properly cooked.

I wasn't sure about the pasta to tomato sauce ratio, so I removed HALF of the tomato sauce.  A "spider" is one of my "must have" kitchen tools.  I carefully lifted the pasta with the spider from the water, and into the tomato sauce.  I decided to add the rest of the tomato sauce-- feel confident the ratios would be perfect.

Oh, yum!  I could taste some heat from the red pepper flakes...

The kitchen smelled like Italy!  The sauce seemed a bit thin-- but maybe it's because I'm used to a marinara sauce that is made with crushed tomatoes.
Freshly grated cheese is a "must".
You can garnish with fresh basil, if you desire to. We did.
Our verdict:  We loved this!  The whole tomato sauce was thinner, but it had great flavor from the fresh basil and red pepper flakes. We liked the subtle heat of the spice.  The texture of the pasta was slightly chewy-- like a dumpling.  There is a difference with fresh pasta, and I want to learn more!  This dish tasted fresh and healthy-- you could reduce the fat by using turkey sausage.  This recipe got "five stars" from my husband.  He doesn't do that very often.  I wonder, is it because he helped make the pasta?  He says he loved the flavor of it.  It tasted excellent the next day.

I am officially a fan of Lidia Matticchio Bastianich.

I miss being able to post more than 1-2 times a week, and I miss not having as much time to visit my blogger friends-- and discovering new blogs.  Thank you, for hanging in there with me. I so appreciate your comments, and I look forward to sharing more recipes from my kitchen.

Here's the printable recipe:


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Susan said...

Debby, we have watched Lidia for years and have eaten in one of her NY restaurants. In fact, we just purchased "Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy" which has all the recipes from her TV show. It is a wonderful book. We also purchased an autographed cookbook at her restaurant. You did a beautiful job.

Bellini Valli said...

I made my own gnocchi not that long ago too. I had an Italian friend show me how, and it was a fun process. Love the sauce here as well!!

TKW said...

I am seriously impressed! WOW. I'm too chicken to attempt homemade pasta. Yours looks amazing!

Chiara "Kika" Assi said...

My nonna made gnocchi once a week for me when I was a kid —both the regular potato kind and the semolina type. It's a lot of work to make them, but it's totally worth it, right?

Frieda said...

Congratulations on making gnocchi~ I made my first potato gnocchi not too long ago to recreate Olive Garden's creamy chicken gnocchi soup. You can freeze the gnocchi, too!

I love my Atlas pasta roller. It comes with the angel hair and fettucini cutters. I've also used it to make lasagne, ravioli & won ton wrappers.

My extrusion pasta maker (for macaroni & spaghetti) is a little more challenging to make the dough 'just right.' I would recommend a pasta roller.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Debby, my brother-in-law on Long Island simply adores Lidia and has all of her cookbooks. I've never made gnocchi before but I would love to make this and surprise him the next time he visits. Thanks.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Brava to you for attempting your own pasta. You even went out and got semolina flour, which is key ingredient to making this type of Sardinia pasta, which I think are called "maloreddu." You and your family did a fantastic job. Thanks for the shout-out too. I'm glad I was responsible for heading to Lidia's recipes. She's my favorite.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Sorry, I just realized you didn't make malloreddu, you made ciccione (which means little fat thing, by the way).
They look great no matter what they're called.

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Thanks for explaining what that pasta means! yes, they were fat little ones... and very tasty. Kind of fun to bite into.

Kim said...

I just bought Lidia's latest book and love it. The gnocchi look terrific. I would love a big bowlful right now.

Stacey Snacks said...

I love making homemade gnocchi, so delicious, and easier than I expected.
We both posted Lidia recipes today!

Ruth Daniels said...

What a delicious tutorial! I particularly love the idea of using the back of the microplane to get that cool texture.

Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights. I'm looking forward to many more of your fantastic pasta posts.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

What fun! Don't you love making homemade pasta? I have stuck to the "ribbon" variety, but you make the gnocchi look so easy. Usually I have made my pasta dough by hand, but I'm going to try the food processor and see the results. Semolina is the best bet. I find regular flour too pasty for this. And, I like the idea of that touch of saffron.

George Gaston said...

Debby, you should have a show on PBS or Food Network. Your step by step process with photos is incredible. And your outgoing gracious personality would be a real asset, as well.

This pasta dish looks so unbelievably delicious. You are an amazing lady...

Anonymous said...

Bravo!!!!!! What a great post and pictures and a great job on the whole thing. I can't wait to try this. Thanks for being part of PPN!!!

bella said...

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Lidia and watch her show on PBS as often as I can. I have her cookbooks too and just love them as well. Regarding the classic pasta machine, it's called an Atlas. That's what my family has always used. I congratulate you on this new cooking accomplishment -- making homemade pasta. Gnocchi is so darn easy too! There's nothing like it on the planet. I'm with you on cooking foods from the different regions of Italy. Roz

Karen said...

Great job on the gnocchi! I prefer a thinner sauce with pasta, so I think I would really like this.

Monica H said...

Oh pretty, your gnocchi looks perfect and so glad that Craig got in the kitchen to help!

you go girl!

Cheryl said...

Wow, that looks pretty amazing. I was thinking it was suppose to be like pasta shells, but thought it turned out a little bit thick like gnocchi. Know I know that is what you were going for. It looks pretty awesome to me and fun to see it step by step.

Ingrid said...

Yay, you go, Debby! You made pasta!! I want to make my own pasta.

FYI, I just spent the past 20 plus minutes catching up on all the posts I've missed and I'm starving now! :)

You've convinced me to try PW's Prune cake. Once I read similar to sticky toffee pudding I was in. I REALLY REALLY want to try making sticky toffee pudding. Have you made it before?

Happy Friday!

Kate V said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I had watched this show, and was extremely excited to see pasta being made by hand--I couldn't wait to try! Your post is going to be extremely helpful as I try to pull this together tonight. Great job! :)

A Feast for the Eyes said...

You are very welcome Kate V! I hope you let me know how it turned out for you.