Since moving into our house, most of my creative energy has been channeled towards picking the right shade of gray to balance the warm creamy tones of our trim. Custom designing an indigo blue velvet couch, which my creative adventurous self-gives two high fives, but my indecisive neutral toned self-raises an eyebrow. In the midst of all the planning and painting, my energy hasn't been focused in the right place. The place that used to house most of my creativity. My kitchen.
If I were to jot down a 7-day food recall for you, I'm sure you'd be disgusted. You'd see a few frozen burritos, a pint of chocolate ice cream, and a box of junior mints. A whole watermelon, 4 packs of raspberries, and pizza. Lots of pizza. There has been little preparation, and little cooking in this house, because it still feels remarkably foreign to me. A few days ago, I turned on the stove and set it to broil. I went upstairs for a minute, came back down, and the whole floor smelled of gas. I panicked. I turned off the stove and we all fled the house. I'm still not sure what happened. A possible fail with the ignitor? A potential break in the gas line? We'll get it sorted soon, so in the meantime, more pizza!
I spent all last week, and part of the week before, thinking about this blog post (along with a few other recipe ideas for some various projects, with sharp deadlines - ahhh). I have been trying to come up with recipes. Something. Anything. I would think about it on my morning walk, while in the shower before I went to sleep. I'd ask friends for inspiration. Turn to the internet. At the end of the day, nothing but the feeling of hopelessness. I just wasn't inspired to cook anything. Writers often experience a creative mental block. I was experiencing something similar. Furious as all heck with my inability to come up with anything to cook, it dawned on me. My creative mojo had disappeared, because I wasn't in the kitchen trying new things, failing, burning the toast. I've had too many things to do. Too many lists to finish, errands to run. Easting has become a mere annoyance, and if you know me, this is insane, because I live for food.
I've been making a real effort this week to rekindle my love for cooking. It started with this pasta sauce, and will extend to a sour cherry pie this weekend! My love for pasta is strong and unbreakable, so it seemed only fitting to start with this. There is nothing more satisfying than making pasta dough from scratch. Creating the flour mountain, cracking the eggs into the crater. Slowly whisking in the eggs and flour. Kneading into a smooth gluten ball. Feeding the pasta through the pasta machine, watching patiently as it cuts into straight uniform lines. Trying hard to catch it all in my hands. Since owning a pasta maker, I haven't even considered buying store-bought pasta. It tastes that much better.
The recipe that I am sharing below, is my go to. It produces a consistently great dough. The sauce is a hearty vegetarian version of the one I used to eat growing up. To be honest, the first time I made this sauce, I started emptying the cupboards and adding ingredients into the pot. I'm just glad it worked out. I was also smart enough to write it all down. It's one of those recipes that I can now make from my head. It's one that comforts me and reassures me. This recipe is a reflection of me and my tastes. From now on, I am going to start sharing more things like this. Recipes that may not be exciting or colorful or local or filled with chocolate, but ones that I eat often. Ones that I feel passionate towards. It's time to up the romance in my kitchen.
A HEARTY VEGETARIAN PASTA SAUCE
serves 4 as a main
1 tbsp olive oil
1 (340g) package Veggie Ground Round
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1 cup of water or wine
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 cup fresh full fat mozzarella, sliced
To make the sauce:
In a large frying pan, heat the oil on medium. Add the Veggie Ground Round and fry until it has browned slightly, approximately 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to fry until the garlic has become fragrant, a few minutes.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, salt and chili flakes. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 hr, adding up to 1 cup of water over the course of an hour, when the sauce becomes to thick. You want to be able to maintain a nice low rolling simmer. If you wanted to add a bit more flavor to the sauce, instead you could use white or red wine to thin it out. Taste the sauce, and adjust the salt and chili flakes as necessary.
To make the pasta:
While the sauce is simmering, prepare the pasta. (Alternatively, you could use store bought pappardelle pasta.) Dump 2 cups of flour onto a counter top. Shape the flour into a mountain, and create a crater in the center with your fingers. Add the eggs, salt, and olive oil to the flour crater. With a fork, carefully beat the eggs without disrupting the flour mountain. Once beaten, slowly start incorporating the flour into the eggs, while continuing to mix with the fork. Once you have incorporated all of the flour, start to knead the dough with your hands. Knead for 10 minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place into the fridge for 30 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to boil.
Remove the dough from the fridge and cut in half. Place half of the dough back into the fridge. Can be stored for up to a week. Cut the other half into two. Prepare pappardelle pasta as per pasta maker instructions. Boil for a few minutes until al dente.
Preheat the oven to broil.
Plate the pasta with the sauce. Slice some fresh mozzarella and place on top of the pasta. Put the plates into the oven and broil for a minute, until the cheese has melted. Drizzle some pesto on top and serve.