Monthly Archives: May 2009

Fettucine with Roasted Tomato Sauce

The actual title of this blog post would have been far too long:

Fettucine with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Balsamic Reduction, as well as testing out the new KitchenAid pasta attachment.

Roasted tomato sauce on fresh fettucine

It’s a bit of a double barreled post, really. Call it multi-tasking.

Actually, that’s a bit of a lie too. The actual, actual title of this post should have been:

Fettuccine with Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Sauce and Balsamic Reduction, as well as testing out the new KitchenAid pasta attachment.

But I’ve realized I really don’t like eggplant when I cook it and, in the end, did not end up eating any of it. You will notice its absence in the final photos, but had to include a photo of the palm-sized eggplants because they were just so darn cute.

Baby Eggplants

Which pretty much illustrates the fact that I make the worst impulse food buys known to man.

At any rate, a couple of months ago I was approached by a marketing company asking if I’d be interested in reviewing the KitchenAid pasta kit on my blog. As a huge pasta fan, I was definitely intrigued.

I’ve typically shied away from making it homemade, even though the boxed stuff pales in comparison to the tender noodles that come from real pasta.

The real issue here is my inability to knead properly. Unsure if that’s because I’m impatient, don’t have a feel for it, or just generally have no idea what I’m doing. But whether one of these reasons or a combination of all three, it basically adds up to me never quite reaching the smooth, elastic stage needed to make bread or pasta.

Full disclosure: I was sent the KitchenAid pasta kit, as well as the mixer required to run the attachments, by the marketing firm in order to review them. This is my unbiased review of the kit. I am not required to return the items (which, really, makes sense. I mean, what are they going to do with a used mixer, pasta roller and cutter?).

The mixer and kit arrived a few weeks after some back-and-forth emailing and I set aside an afternoon to give it a whirl.

The kit itself includes two boxes of pasta dough mix (just add water), a pasta roller, fettucine cutter, cleaning brush and cooking utensils. The roller and cutter attach to the front of the stand mixer and are powered by the appliance.

Pasta Mixes

Roller and Cutter

Roller and Cutter

Cleaning brush

Making the dough was pretty simple. Add water, mix, produce crumbly dough and mush it together.

As always, I was nervous from the get-go that I had done something wrong. But I divided the dough into about eight pieces and then gave them each a quick knead before powering up the roller attachment and letting the dough slide through.

On its widest setting, the roller can actually be used to knead the dough. I sent one chunk through, then folded it in half and let it run through the rollers again. I did this about five or six times until the dough was shiny and elastic and stretched out into a long rectangle. Then I started on the next chunk of dough.

Pasta first run

Once that was all done. I then put the roller onto a thinner setting and ran them all through again. And then again on a thinner setting. And so on.

When it was thin enough, I exchanged the roller attachment for the fettucine cutter and watched as the flat sheets of pasta were cut into perfect (albeit extremely long) ribbons.

Fresh Fettucine

It was, all in all, astonishingly easy. And a bit hypnotic.

I liked that I could forego all the annoying kneading and with relative ease make a batch of homemade pasta. I liked the chew of the noodles I made and how quickly it cooked.

The next test, of course, will be to make my own actual dough.

While I loved the roller and cutter, I was initially not 100 per cent sure I would have been tempted to buy the entire kit. Most food lovers are already going to have their own slotted spoon and pasta server and probably would enjoy the challenge of making their own dough rather than using a boxed mix, I reasoned.

I would, however, definitely be tempted to buy the roller and cutter separately.

Roller

Fettucine cutter

Then after a bit of research, I found the kit is not a bad deal considering a pasta roller, motorized drive and a fettucine cutter is going to cost roughly the same as the KitchenAid’s kit, which comes with the utensils, dough mix and cleaning brush. If you already have the stand mixer, it’s not a bad way to go.

The pasta kit retails for about $180.

And here’s what I did with the noodles. The recipe is not so much a recipe as much as me just fiddling around, but, since it turned out so well, I’m going to recommend it anyway.

Roasted tomato sauce on fresh fettucine II

Fettucine with Roasted Tomato Sauce

  • 1 pound tomatoes, cut into 1 or 1/2″ chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, whole, unpeeled
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • pasta
  • parmesan
  • balsamic reduction

Set oven to 375. Chop tomatoes into roughly 1/2″ to 1″ pieces (depending on how chunky you want the sauce to be), place in baking dish, scatter in unpeeled garlic cloves, then drizzle with olive oil, balsamic and sprinkle on kosher or sea salt and pepper. Bake for about 30 to 45 minutes until tomatoes are starting to carmelize and break down.

Cook pasta according to directions or, if using fresh, cook in boiling, salted water for just a few minutes until al dente. (Depending on the thickness of noodle, this can take anywhere from about three minutes and up.)

Slip cloves of garlic out of their peels and then mush with fork into tomatoes. Scoop sauce onto cooked pasta, sprinkle with grated parmesan and fresh chopped parsley (if you have any). Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic reduction.

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

I don’t like beer.

I was absent the night in university when my friends went to the grungy student pub, bought a pitcher and sat down, determined to acquire a taste for the stuff.

No idea where I was–I like to think I was responsibly studying somewhere–but it seems my decision means I will never really love beer the way I might have if I had sat in that smoky room with them.

Around St. Patrick’s Day, food bloggers were raving about cupcakes that included a rather unexpected ingredient: Guinness. Given my distaste for beer, I passed those entries by.

Frankly, the only thing that intrigues me about Guinness is the hypnotic rolling where the head meets the dark liquid in the pint glass just after it’s been poured. But I kept thinking about the recipes.

Cupcakes in profile

I think I was intrigued because they were so boldly unusual. Beer and chocolate? Really? Would the taste of stout be overpowering?Would it mellow into the background to add a perhaps unidentifiable richness? Or would it just be a chocolate cupcake with a good storyline?

It should come as no surprise this recipe comes from a British chef — Nigella Lawson — considering the other culinary oddities that have sprung from the United Kingdom. I mean, consider the blood sausage.

Her version makes an entire cake, though, and I prefer the idea of cupcakes, I suppose, for their portability. It is also much easier to pass them along to friends than a slice of cake. Leaving an entire cake in my fridge is not an option.

And she has paired it with a cream cheese icing, which creates a sort of play on the stout itself, with its creamy white head balancing atop the velvet dark drink.

Three whole cupcakes

I don’t believe in skimping on the icing. The original cream cheese icing recipe suggested adding more whipping cream to thin it out, but I reined in the extra liquid to ensure I had a nicely thick, spreadable topping. As a result, I also didn’t have enough. Given that I ate two cupcakes before even making the icing (quality control–OK, that’s a lie, I was dying of curiosity) and I still had four cupcakes left at the end that went unadorned, I suggest doubling the icing recipe. That way, there will be more than enough to coat all of the cupcakes.

The original recipe called for a half cup of whipping cream. I only used two tablespoons. If you’d like a thinner icing, feel free to add more cream.

My first bite made me realize –again–that Nigella certainly knows her stuff. These cupcakes are rich and dark with only a hint of their secret ingredient –certainly not enough to turn me off the idea of eating several more. Combined with the icing, the Chocolate Guinness cupcakes were heavenly. The icing, perhaps ironically, cuts some of the darkly chocolate flavour.

Bitten

A friend graciously offered to buy the remaining five bottles of Guinness from me, knowing full well they would simply gather dust next to my wine rack. But, having given these a shot, I think I will hang on to them. After all, I think I’d like to make the cake version next. Apparently, all it took for me to like beer was to add chocolate.

Bitten and whole

Bitten profile

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Excerpted from Feast by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion Books, $39.95, 2006)

  • 1 cup (250 mL) Guinness
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup or 125 mL) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) sour cream
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 2½tsp (12 mL) baking soda

Icing

  • 8 oz (250 g) cream cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, add butter and heat at medium-low until melted. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar, then remove from heat. In a small bowl, beat together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Pour into the slightly cooled Guinness-butter mixture. Whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Spoon batter into cupcake pan, so each liner is about three-quarters full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Once completely cooled, make the icing.

Beat cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Add the whipping cream and beat again until it is thoroughly mixed and spreadable. Add more cream if you want a thinner icing. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.