A few months ago, Mady and I decided we needed a pasta machine. Definitely one of the best decisions we ever made. Pasta is now (for better or worse) an integral part of our lives. When it's not Bean Night, it's Pasta Night.
We dove into the world of homemade pasta just as tomato season was coming to a sad sad end. And while we try not to think about all that we could be doing with the mountains of fresh Early Girl tomatoes we were once bringing home from the market, we've actually been putting together some great pasta dishes with what's currently in season. The star of this weekend's pasta? Vibrant and beautifully green broccoli rabe. It was the first thing we spotted at the market and we knew it was coming home with us.
As we meandered along our usual route at the market, we passed the vendor who sells all kinds of sun-dried tomatoes. Sun-dried San Marzanos, sun-dried heirloom tomatoes, and sun-dried Early Girl tomatoes.
Early Girl tomatoes are an extremely popular breed of tomatoes in the Bay Area. They are typically dry-farmed, which means that they are left without water for long periods of time, forcing the roots to grow deep into the ground for moisture. They are bright red, plump, sweet, and juicy. And currently NOT in season, so basically I'm just torturing myself by talking about them.
But the sun-dried version that we picked up on Saturday did not disappoint. Turns out that broccoli rabe and sun-dried tomatoes are a match made in heaven. This pasta was going to be good.
Dough is very dear to my heart. When I was a kid growing up in Houston, we used to have dinner at Ninfa's all the time for some good ol' Tex-Mex. As I waited for my tortillas with rice and beans to show up (yup, been a bean lover all my life), I'd buzz over to watch the tortilla machine make flat flour tortillas out of soft little rounds of dough. This amazed me. I know I'm not the only one to have asked the tortilla lady if I could pretty please have a ball of dough. Nothin' like a good soft piece of dough to roll around in your hands while you're waiting for a big plate of tortillas, rice, and beans to arrive. Heck, if I could just have a piece of dough to play with before every meal, I think my life would be complete.
ANYWAY, working with pasta dough is great because you can really see it start to change after a few minutes of smashing it around (some people like to call it kneading). It turns from a crumbly mess to a smooth, almost leather-like softness.
After a good workout of kneading and rolling out the dough, we get to thin it out into long sheets using the pasta machine. Then we pass the sheets through the cutters to make long ribbons of linguine noodles. Even after all these homemade pasta dinners, seeing those noodles spill out of the machine still makes us freak out a little bit with excitement each time.
This pasta dish was actually pretty easy to put together. We sautéed some red onions, LOTS of garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Then we added the sun-dried tomatoes and sautéed those for a bit too until they were nice and soft. When everything was looking good and toasty, we added a few cups of dry vermouth to the pot and let it sizzle away. You MUST stick your nose over the pot right after you pour vermouth over the onions - the smell is incredible! We used quite a bit of vermouth as this was to be the base for the pasta sauce.
We blanched the broccoli rabe for just a couple of minutes in a pot of boiling water and then soaked it in an ice bath so it didn't overcook and become mushy. When we were ready to put everything together, we mixed the broccoli with the tomatoes and onions and added a liberal pour of cream to really get a good sauce going.
We served everything up with fresh grated parmesan, a big loaf of crusty ciabatta bread, and extra chili flakes for those who are so inclined (ahem, yes please).
To drink, Mady brought over a special bottle of O'Shaughnessy wine to commemorate our last dinner at the apartment. O'Shaughnessy is the epitome of what my dad likes to call "a big ass cab." Like my father, I am not one for (eloquently) describing wines, so I think I'll just tell you that it's just freaking fantastic. I've been to their winery up on Howell Mountain (near St. Helena in Napa Valley) a couple times now - once with my parents and once this past January with Mady and some other very good friends. The feel of the winery and the landscape of the surrounding hillside is truly breathtaking. Just as memorable as the wine itself. Mady and I plan to make another trip up there soon and when we do, we'll be sure to share it with everyone on here.
Next weekend we'll be making messes and mixing drinks in a new kitchen. Same neighborhood, new digs. See you there!