Italian Americans are always talking about how they are Italian, bragging about their mother’s marinara, and mispronouncing Italian words in cheesy accents.
As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, I’ve noticed that most of the ones I’ve met, or am related to, don’t actually cook Italian food, never make their own pasta, and wouldn’t know a good marinara if it was keying their Camaro right in front of their Staten Island duplex.
Being a fourth-generation Italian, I grew up loving Italian food, but not knowing what Italian food necessarily tasted like. Sure, my parents cooked, and they were both very good at it, but we never had what I would consider country Italian fare, and it’s a shame, because making a nice dish of fresh pasta and sauce in 30 minutes is easy and delicious, and who knows? You might just impress one of your Italian- American friends by feeding them their first Italian meal.
And just a quick note — I’m calling this sauce Bolognese, but it contains no meat and is not cooked to f@#k, so not really a Bolognese in the traditional sense. But it retains most of the flavors, minus the meaty sweetness you get from ground beef, and looks the same. So I’ll call it what I want.
300g (weight) flour
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
Pour flour into a bowl and make a well in the center.
Add remaining ingredients to the well and mix them together with a fork. The flour sides of the well will incorporate bit by bit.
Once you can no longer mix with the fork, start adding flour to the dough from the sides of the bowl until it starts to come together. You do not want a hard dough, so remove it from the bowl immediately after it starts coming together and transfer it to a cutting board. Knead by folding the dough onto itself. If it’s too sticky, add a touch of flour.
When the dough is a smooth ball, tightly wrap in cling film and pop into the fridge. It needs to rest for at least 30 minutes.
Might as well start a large pot of water with 1 tbsp. oil and 1 tsp. salt now. It will be boiling when the pasta is ready to roll.
One big can of skinned roma or plum tomatoes (or about 12 fresh, skinned tomatoes)
½ cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
About 10 basil leaves
1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt
½ cup dry red wine
About 1 cup chopped oyster mushrooms
In a small saucepan, combine olive oil, garlic cloves (no need to peel them), basil and pepper flakes. Set this to low.
While the oil infusion is slowly cooking, put the tomatoes in a blender (or crush with your hands if you want a rustic sauce). Add the tomato mixture to a sauté pan with the wine and start cooking on medium.
Let both pans cook for about 20 minutes, then turn the heat off the oil, add the mushrooms and salt to the tomatoes, and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Finally, pour oil mixture through a strainer into the tomatoes, mix to combine, and set burner on low.
Your pasta is now ready to roll. If you have a pasta roller, then this process will be a breeze. If not, roll your sleeves up, tear off a handful of dough from the ball, and flatten on a floured cutting board. Roll it out into a long rectangle. You have to roll, flip, roll, wait for it to shrink, and roll some more.
You want the pasta sheet to be thin enough so that you can see the shadows of your fingers behind it when you hold it up.
Cut pasta into long strips about 1.5 – 2 inches wide and let them dry for about 1 minute before you throw them into boiling water.
Fresh pasta cooks in about 2 minutes, so don’t leave the room.
Once they are cooked, drain through a colander, and then combine sauce and pasta in the big pot and mix together.
Serve with a nice hard cheese and a sprinkle of chopped basil.