Tagliatelle al Sugo

I’m returning to my blog in the midst of a pandemic, eager to put forth a little joy in life by cooking. Who would have ever believed that we would be experiencing such a change in our lives? Particularly in the first months, I feared for my friends and family in Italy and elsewhere, stunned by the adaptations the coronavirus flung upon us. I did my worst cooking ever in the first weeks of quarantine. A clam chowder morphed into a lumpy fish chowder because I decided to use some odd scraps from my freezer. A thin, limp pizza that never rose because I mistook a biga (starter ) packet in my freezer for dough and used it. The result was inedible. Everything seemed out of balance. Going to the store became an adventure in desolation. Before the quarantine set in, I remember being at a Safeway in Livermore,California on a dark rainy Saturday. The shelves were empty, the meat cases revealed their ugly rusted bottoms, and shoppers were desperately looking for potatoes. I looked around: had the world gone mad? It felt like an apocalyptic scene from a sci-fi movie.

What better way to console oneself and others than by making a fine plate of homemade tagliatelle? Or fettuccine? What’s the difference? Not much. “Fettuccia” in Italian is a ribbon, thus the pasta has that flat, cut look. “Taglia” means cut, so the type of pasta is essentially the same. We can talk about width sizes maybe making a difference…or the region from where the pasta comes from. Nevertheless, you will find that the term is used interchangeably in Italian cuisine. I thought it would be fun to make some tagliatelle in my ninety-year-old mother’s kitchen, following her method, using her machine and see if I still had the “touch” under the watchful eye of the master pasta maker herself.

In the case above I made five eggs with 500 grams or so of flour yielding approximately a pound and a half of pasta, good for six or seven good-sized servings. Tagliatelle are versatile because you can choose a “sugo” or sauce from a wide variety of recipes – from a basic butter and parmesan cheese or a white sauce as in an “Alfredo” to a heftier traditional ragu’ using meat and tomato pulp. Here is one I used with the batch I made at my mother’s.

Sugo di Pomodoro e Pancetta

1/2 large onion or 3/4 C finely chopped

5 oz. diced pancetta (you could use bacon if you can’t find pancetta)

1 8 oz can diced tomatoes (or pomodori pelati) – I usually like to puree these in a food processor for a finer texture.

1-2 Tbl butter

2 Tbl olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the pan and add the olive oil. Coat the bottom, 2-3 tablespoons – or how you like it. Add the butter and melt quickly with a sizzle. Then add the pancetta and cook until slightly golden, but not crispy. At this point, you can drain some of the fat if you find it too greasy. I usually don’t because the pancetta I use is fairly lean.

2. Add the onions and sauté lightly until golden brown. Once the onions have become golden, add the tomatoes (diced or pureed), stir, add half a cup of water, salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water if the sauce becomes too dry and needs more time to reduce.

This is how the sugo should look as it cooks down and carmelizes a bit at the edges. Stir occasionally to keep the sauce cooking evenly.

Cook the tagliatelle the usual way in boiling salted water. Homemade pasta cooks much faster, so it should be ready once the pasta rises to the surface. Drain it retaining some of the cooking water. Homemade pasta absorbs liquid very quickly, so to keep it moist, add a little water as you stir the sauce into it. I added a bit of cream at the end to finish the dish with softer tones, but this is not necessary. Optional too is a little green, some chopped basil or thyme.

Enjoy and buon appetito!

Here you can see I used a purchased artisanal pasta, a “pasta alla chitarra”, which also works well with the sauce.

Fresh Garbanzo Beans

I’m inaugurating my return to writing my blog at the beginning of summer with an exciting discovery I made at the market this morning -fresh garbanzo beans! As I approached the bench filled with vegetables, I noticed a huge pile of scraggly weeds looking half wilted and with fuzzy light green pods dangling from its branches. Intrigued, I glanced at the vendor who chuckled saying simply, “Garbanzo beans! Take them out of the pods, boil or eat them raw with a little salt!”At 2.50$ a bunch I took one home knowing I couldn’t go wrong. It took a bit of patience to remove the pods, then shelling them. 

The tender chickpea inside, a green wrinkly thing, tasted earthy and sweet, a bit like edamame.
It took a bit to shell, but it was rather enjoyable….give a gentle squeeze to the pod and it would softly pop open. Plop the pea into the bowl and grab the next one.

This is what it rendered…a chic bowl of emerald gems!

Looking at the two cups worth of chickpeas I had before me, I thought I would make a pasta – pappardelle as they are tender, yet wide enough to sustain a simple sauce with other vegetables. So this is what I came up with…

Pappardelle with Leeks, Zucchini, and Fresh Chickpeas

1 lb. or 250 gr. pappardelle (commercial brand). I made my own pasta with 3 eggs, 300 gr. of flour, and water. This probably yielded more than a pound.

2 cups fresh chickpeas. I roasted these in my Breville oven with some olive oil and salt until they were slightly golden.

1 large leek thinly sliced and sauteed until tender in some olive oil, and 1/2 cup of white wine which was reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper.

3 zucchini finely diced and sauteed in olive oil and a tablespoon of butter. Add  a little water (from the cooking pasta) to keep it moist and a bit soupy. This will form the sauce you will use for the pasta.

While the water is heating up to a boil, prepare the vegetables and cook them separately. I have become fond of layering flavors, cooking ingredients separately with their individual seasonings, then adding them to the pasta after it is drained. Reserve some of the water in case the pappardelle become dry. Once all the ingredients come together, add some butter or olive oil, grated parmigiano cheese and stir. Optional is a little cream which would add to the richness of the dish. I didn’t because  I’m trying to limit the amount of fat I add to meals. And  the pasta was delicious without it!

I even managed to sneak in another little bowl the next day!




More Pasta Making

Pasta with beets in the mixture to make it a bright red

I’m gearing up for another class next Saturday, October 17 from 2 to 4 at the Davis Coop Kitchen. This class is called “Color My Pasta” and it will show you how to make colored pasta – green, brilliant red…and brown (using chocolate). Here I am today prepping the lesson with pasta all over the kitchen!


We’ll make two-tone bowties which are very cute and fun.


And we will make the classic green tagliatelle (with a mushroom sauce to go with it).

You can see the specks of spinach
You can see the specks of spinach

Red, white, and green!

And lastly…brown pappardelle made with cocoa….and this should be interesting!

image_21479182753_o If you are interested in registering, here is the link:http://davisfood.coop/education/cookingclasses

See you for another day of great fun and good pasta making!

A Day of Pasta Making

Explaining the types of flours

Stirring the eggs, a delicate moment!

I want to thank everyone who came to the class last Saturday. It was most satisfying for me and lots of fun for all. Here are some pictures that come courtesy of my friend Rob.

It all comes together…my soft little dough ball.

Now the fun really begins!

Yes, it’s a little sticky…

A long, long strip. Don’t try this at home!


Flip it over…yes, just like that!

Ok, Rob….bravissimo!

Lovely…dry it out like this.

Saucing the pasta….e tutti a tavola a mangiare!

Fresh Pasta Making Class

I’m very excited about teaching a basic class in pasta making next Saturday at the Davis Food Coop from 2-4. It’s called “Italian in the Kitchen: Fresh Pasta – The Basics”. Come join us if you can. It is $30 and you will be able to take away your new creation. I will be teaching how to make pasta from scratch (eggs and flour) and teach a little Italian along the way. I will make two sauces to demonstrate how freshly made pasta can be served. One is a basic tomato sauce and the other, to usher in fall flavors, a roasted butternut squash and sausage sauce. I promise I will post the recipe next week! Here is the link if you are interested:http://davisfood.coop/education/cookingclasses