March is a depressing month. Grim weather, cold, grey and right now, pissing down with rain. Winter food consists mostly of meaty things with plenty of fat, slow cooking, and acres of cabbage (what, it doesn’t for you?), probably partly because by now I’ve run out of imagination for after work dinners! But by now I am craving vegetables and fresh tasting things, without relinquishing the soothing comforting side of things.
So – fresh gluten-free pasta and tomato sauce. Especially good after a person has overdone it on the roast pork front…
I’d only seen (gluteny) pasta made twice before this, and neither experience made me think that this would be as easy as it is. I remember my Mum making it for us when I was small, rolling it out by hand. There are six of us, so the kitchen was festooned with strings of pasta laid out on tea towels. It must have taken her ages to make enough for all of us, no wonder I only remember her doing it once!
The other time was at a school friend’s house with a proper pasta maker, rolling it through again and again until it was thin enough and slicing it thin. Lucy’s family had the house and lifestyle I wanted when I was a kid, big old rambling house full of old things, with an Aga in the kitchen and ducks in the garden. They made proper food like real pasta and mayonnaise, and bought their cheese from the only delicatessen for miles around. Her family used proper tea cups and cloth napkins at the table. I realise now that they did that because they enjoyed it, but at the time it made me feel even shyer than normal as I didn’t think I had the proper manners for the occasion.
Still, a boring job is good for something, and that’s to give you the urge to investigate ways to achieve what you crave. I had been reading Smitten Kitchen at a slow moment, and a comment mentioned making their own noodles for chicken soup – obviously I needed a way to do this gluten-free! (It was raining then too…). A bit of googling around brought up Gluten-free Girl‘s recipe for pasta. I’ve amended it a fair bit to fit the paucity of gluten-free ingredients in British supermarkets, but it still makes ace pasta, and is much quicker than you would think – definitely doable on a weekday if you are up for some rolling out.
The sauce is a basic tomato sauce, but I recently read (on Rachel Eats) that Italians always make their tomato sauce smooth, whereas I’ve always left it chunky like my Dad’s. Once you think about it though, the smooth texture of the sauce lubricating and coating the pasta, sounds really really good. I pushed mine through a sieve, because I find when you blend it, it goes kind of orange. Still tasty though, so whichever you find easiest!
This amount will make enough for one with seconds (!) or you could share it.
Gluten-free Pasta and Tomato Sauce
1 medium onion, diced
1 400g tin chopped plum tomatoes
Pinch brown sugar
Salt and pepper
3 ounces Doves Farm Gluten Free flour
1/2 tsp xanthum gum
1/4 tsp salt
1 medium egg
1 medium egg yolk
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
I make the sauce and the pasta at the same time, because the pasta dough needs time to rest and the sauce needs time to cook down. But you could easily do one and then the other if you have the time or don’t want to rush about – I would on a weekend.
Start by putting on the onions to gently cook in the olive oil in a saucepan.
While that is cooking, bung all the dry pasta ingredients in a food processor and give them a whizz. Beat the egg and the yolk together with about half the oil and water, and then drizzle into the food processor to combine – it should stay in big crumbs but look sticky enough to come together. Add a spot more oil, and a spot more water if it still needs it. It shouldn’t be too squidgy and wet.
Stir your onions!
Turn out the pasta dough onto a board sprinkled with flour, and give it a bit of a knead – push it out with the heel of your hand and pull it back in. It should come together and feel smooth. Wrap it in a bit of cling film and put it to one side. It needs to rest at least 30 minutes.
Back to the sauce. It’s just basic tomato sauce, so make this your preferred way if you have one. The onions should be translucent and gently golden. Add the tinned tomatoes, and season. Add herbs (oregano, marjoram) if you want. Bring to the boil and then turn down low and cover and let it simmer, stirring occasionally. You want it to cook down till it’s good and thick and tasty. If it gets too thick, add a spot of water.
Once it’s ready you need to sieve it. Careful, it’s hot! Put a sieve over a big bowl and pour in a little of the sauce at a tim. Push through with a wooden spoon, mixing it around to get as much sauce as possible. Then put it back into the pan and to one side.
Pasta time. Sprinkle a little flour on the board and give it a bit of a knead again. Rolling out is the important bit – it will plump up when you cook it, so you need it ridiculously thin, and then thinner. Keep rolling it one way and another, but try and keep it oblong. Then use a sharp knife and to slice into tagliatelle-ish pieces – be slow, it’s easy to snag.
Almost time to eat! Put on a big pan of water to boil and add plenty of salt. Put the sauce on to gently re-heat, and check the seasoning. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add your pasta and give it a gentle swirl. It only needs 2-3 minutes to cook – best way to find out if it’s done is to test a bit – you want it with bit of a bite but not floury tasting.
Drain your pasta, and try and arrange it on a plate as beautifully as I have (ahem). Eat, and glory in the knowledge that the world of pasta is now your oyster. Ravioli, anyone?