Green Plate Special: Making pasta is a tasty way to spend quality time with the kids

Green Plate Special: Making pasta is a tasty way to spend quality time with the kids

In the days leading up to the Christmas Eve party, Bolognese traditionally eat tortellini in brodo for lunch. Tortellini are ring-shaped pasta stuffed with pork and Parmigiano-Reggiano that was first made around 1500 in Bologna, Italy, to resemble the navel of Venus. The consomme they swim in at this time of year in Italy’s culinary capital is a clear and rich broth made from chicken and veal bones.

The army of middle-aged women who make literally tons of tortellini (and bigger tortelloni, which is stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach) in this part of Emilia Romagna is called the ‘sfoglin’. . I have wandered several times through the ancient portico-lined streets of Bologna and have always stopped to look in the widows on the second floor of the laboratori (workshops) to watch the members of the sfogline unroll the egg dough, cut it. into perfect squares, a dollop of filling in the middle of each and skillfully form the rings around the tips of their little fingers. The very physical, highly choreographed and fast work required to assemble stuffed dough while the dough is still soft enough to bend perfectly into the desired shape is fascinating. Records show that a follower of the sfoglina makes about two dozen tortellini per minute.

I don’t have an army of Italian ladies at my disposal here in Brunswick, so I’m recruiting kids to help me play with the pasta dough.

Maddie Brown, 11, from Brunswick, a fifth grader at North Yarmouth Academy, cooks fettuccine noodles with Christine Burns Rudalevige. Derek Davis / Personal Photographer

“This one is going to be a little wobbly because you cut the pasta into a rectangle more than a square, Christine,” warned my fabulous 11-year-old friend Maddie Brown as she baked a tortelloni as she stood. stood in my kitchen. Isle. She and I spend several hours a week together making up word games, listening to audiobooks of Soman Chainani’s fantastic fairy tale hexology “The School for Good and Evil”, taking American Girl Dolls on adventures. imaginations in India and Japan, laughing at Garfield cartoons, doing puzzles and making snacks.

Pasta making is a recipe for spending quality time with kids as they learn how to turn simple raw ingredients – flour, eggs, salt, and water – into a staple they love to eat, even if they don’t. it is decorated only with melted butter and sprinkled with cheese. Maddie prefers plain egg pasta over the green spinach flavored variety that we recently experimented with. She’s a pro at rolling it flat in my 28 year old chrome pasta maker. She prefers, however, to use a cookie cutter to make fish-shaped noodles rather than mill fettuccine.

The easiest pasta to make with kids is semolina-based dough-based cavatelli, says Washington, DC-based food writer Domenica Marchetti. “No pasta machine or rolling pin required!” “

I use a simple semolina dough recipe that chef Ilma Lopez taught me to make in the kitchen of her husband Damon Sansonetti’s first (but now closed) restaurant, Piccolo. You simply combine a cup of semolina, a cup of all-purpose flour, a cup of water, and a pinch of salt in a bowl until it comes together. Then you knead the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface until smooth and pliable and let it sit, covered, for 20 minutes before you start shaping it.

To make cavatelli, Marchetti says to cut pieces of dough, roll them into thin strings, and cut the strings into 3/4 inch sticks. You can use your forefinger and forefinger or a butter knife to squeeze into a piece of dough and roll it towards you, sliding it a bit across the surface to create an oval shape with indentations on one side. This is your first cavatello! Maddie and I drag them through a ridged gnocchi machine to give them edges that our favorite sauces can stick to better.

Continue to roll and shape each nugget of dough. As you work, transfer the cavatelli to a rimmed baking sheet or semolina dusted tablecloth. Make sure the individual pieces do not touch each other as they will stick together. Leave the pasta on the counter if you plan to cook it in a few hours; otherwise, place the baking sheet in the freezer until the pasta is completely frozen (about 2 hours). Transfer the pasta to an airtight container and return it to the freezer where it can stay for up to three months. It is not necessary to thaw the cavatelli before cooking.

To cook fresh or frozen cavatelli, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Gently slide the cavatelli into the water, return the water to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. They should float when cooked al dente, but you can check the doneness of a cavatello to be sure. Maddie and I are pretty sure you won’t be able to stop at just one, especially if you’ve taken the time to do them with the little ones you love.

Merry Christmas!

Maddie uses an Italian wooden roller to form the cavatelli. Photo by Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

Cavatelli with Creamy Broccoli Sauce

This recipe is reprinted with permission from Domenica Marchetti’s book, “The Glorious Pasta of Italy”.

For 6 persons

1 head of broccoli, about 1 pound, stems trimmed and set aside for another use and head separated into florets
1 bunch of rapini (broccoli rabe), about 1 pound, tough stems discarded
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt, or to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup of the best quality homemade vegetable broth, homemade chicken broth or commercial vegetable or chicken broth low in sodium and fat free
1/4 cup heavy cream
1½ pound of fresh or frozen cavatelli
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese for serving

Bring water to a depth of about 1/2 inch to a boil in a steaming pot set over medium-high heat. Arrange the broccoli florets on the rack, place the rack in the pan, cover and steam the broccoli until bright green, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the florets to a bowl and set aside.

Check the water in the steamer and add more as needed until it is 1/2 inch deep. Bring to a boil, place the rapini on the steamer rack, cover and steam until the leaves and florets are wilted. Transfer to the bowl with the broccoli.

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant but not golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broccoli and rapini and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, 12-15 minutes. Stir in the salt and cayenne pepper and increase the heat to medium-high. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until some of the wine has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the vegetables cool for about 10 minutes.

Transfer the vegetables and their cooking liquid to a blender or food processor, add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil and puree until smooth. Gradually add broth, about 1/4 cup at a time, and stir until mash is the consistency of a thick sauce. You should have about 3 cups of the sauce.

Return the sauce to the sauté pan and heat over low heat. Stir in the cream and heat until hot.

While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the cavatelli and mix to separate. If using fresh pasta, cover the pot until the water comes back to a boil, then uncover and cook until al dente, 5-6 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander placed in the sink, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.

Transfer the pasta to a warmed serving bowl and pour about two-thirds of the sauce over it. Stir gently to combine the pasta and sauce, adding a drizzle or two of the cooking water if you need to loosen the sauce. Pour the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with cheese. Use immediately.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer, tester and cookery teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special”, an Islandport Press cookbook based on these columns. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Cavatelli with creamy broccoli sauce. Photo by Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

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