I’m failing at this quarantine thing. I say that knowing full well that I have the advantage over many, since my husband and I learned how to both work from home together over a year ago. He’s a drummer, so that posed its own set of challenges, but we learned how to work out our very much around-ness a long time ago. When the idea of a mandatory quarantine seemed imminent and the news about the spread of coronavirus led many to stay home, I thought this would be fun. It was an opportunity to catch up on all that reading I’d been meaning to get to.
Day one looked much like a scene from Little House on the Prairie. I was making bread, something I’ve been doing for awhile now. I used every scrap of crust to make breadcrumbs, and then the center was used to make Ribollita. I made pancakes, stockpiled canned goods, preserved lemons. Cut to day seven, and I keep reading the same page of my book over and over. I can’t pay attention. I start wondering what time is too early to eat dinner. I can never stockpile snacks, since I end up eating them all on day one. So here I am snack-less, book-less, anxious, and bored.
All this to say, it’s okay if you can’t start that project. My house remains unpalatably filthy. It’s been really difficult for me to come up with new recipes with all the anxiety swirling around in my head. And honestly, ingredients are difficult to find. You have to be Sherlock Holmes to find an onion these days. I find myself texting friends greedily asking where they think I could find bread flour or toilet paper. It’s a weird time. And that’s okay. Let’s leave it at that.
When my husband came home with 2 dozen eggs, which is worth more than gold in today’s terms, I decided the best use was to make fresh pasta with vodka sauce. Making pasta from scratch is calming. The blades whir, and you smooth the dough through them repeatedly until you get the desired thickness. You can absolutely use dried pasta with no judgement from me. Just do what you can! If you don’t have vodka, white wine will do. If you don’t have white wine, don’t sweat it! Just skip it and move on with your life. We’re all just doing our best here. See the full recipe below.
- 3 eggs
- 2¼ cups all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ a yellow or white onion, diced finely
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 6 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1.5 oz vodka
- 1 cup heavy cream
- kosher salt to taste
- ½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
- In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour and crack the eggs. Turn the processor on high until the pasta dough comes together in a mass. If it doesn't, add a teaspoon of water at a time until it does. If it's too sticky, add a tablespoon of flour until the dough doesn't stick to your hands.
- Once the dough comes together, roll it into a ball and pat it flat into a 1 inch disc with your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature at least 20 minutes and up to an hour.
- Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Flatten each piece with your palm, dust lightly with flour, then run through your pasta maker on the largest setting, or level 1. Fold the dough in half over itself and run it through again until it is almost the width of the pasta maker.
- Make the setting one setting smaller, or level 2, dusting with flour each time. Continue until the thickness is as desired. For me, I like a level 4 for spaghetti and a level 6 for fettucine. Dust your flattened pasta with flour, cut to desired width then toss generously with flour and curl the dough into a little nest. Repeat with each piece of dough, keeping the other dough wrapped in plastic.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Make sure the water tastes salty like the sea so the pasta can be flavored by the water.
- Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium high. Once hot, add your olive oil. It should shimmer. Let the oil heat for 30 seconds, then add your onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Add your garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the tomato paste, stirring and cooking until the tomato paste is a little darker, about 3-4 minutes.
- Pour in the vodka all at once, stirring and letting it reduce into the tomato paste, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat to low and add your cream, stirring to combine everything. Taste for salt and add a pinch. Remove from heat.
- Boil your pasta for 1-3 minutes if you made fresh pasta, and to package directions if you used dry pasta. It should be just shy of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain your pasta and immediately add it to the sauce, using tongs to toss to coat. Turn the heat to medium low while you do this, allowing the pasta to finish cooking in the sauce. Add the parmigiano reggiano and continue cooking and tossing. The sauce will be super thick, so start adding a little pasta water at a time until the consistency is as desired, continually tossing. Remove from heat and serve immediately with more parmigiano reggiano for topping.