Pasta as pastime

I am able to screw up cooking a meal even when I follow the recipe precisely so it was particularly foolhardy of me to get a jump on my new year resolution to cook more by trying to put together dinner Saturday night based on a short narrative passage in a travelogue. But since I had the kids without wifely backup I decided to at least fill the time with enough potential for mess and chaos as to keep them interested.

Tip: if you have kids and a pasta machine, use it. My boys loved it. Making pasta is hard to screw up in a machine*. Just pour in flour, some eggs, optional dry ingredients and then watch it ooze out of the template you screw on. It looks somewhat excretory or vermiculate or both, which of course is nothing but fun for little kids. Pulling the strands and cutting them off with scissors also scores high marks. How often do you get to use arts and crafts supplies in the kitchen? Next up: Elmer’s Glue.

We made the pasta, called lagane, a type of wide strand noodle from the Basilicata region, out of wheat flour for inclusion in a simple sauce also from the region. Actually everything from Basilicata is simple. It is the most poverty-stricken part of the country (which is why so many of its people emigrated, thanks great-grandpa!) and so recipes are always simple, if sometimes unfamiliar. Great for a guy trying to learn to cook. The sauce was comprised of olive oil, garlic, chili peppers (always in dishes from Basilicata), tomatoes, walnuts, and basil. Turned out wonderful.

The other, riskier dish culled from the travelogue mentioned above is called ciambutella, a kind of omelette of Italian sausage (and pancetta, but we had none), peppers, zucchini, potatoes, onion, tomatoes, olive oil, herbs, and of course eggs. You eat it on cross-sections of crusty bread, like bruschetta or crostini. My guess is that I should have doubled the egg quantity as it seemed to be little more than cooked veggies with sausage. Not bad, of course, especially with the pasta dish, but still.

Lastly, a real crowd-pleaser (remember my crowd): R2D2 Treats. Half of a banana covered in melted white chocolate and chopped peanuts and flanked by two pieces of Kit Kat. This is the droid you are looking for.

Please note: my new year resolution did not include cleaning up the kitchen after cooking.

[*] Unless the machine fails to turn on. At which point I considered panic as the children were all geared up for pasta and the only way to do it was manually. Hand-cutting pasta is only slightly more fun than peeling a carrot with a fork. A Fonzie-like thwack on the side started the unit, thank god.