We had friends over for dinner on Friday night. I made my homemade pasta…. from scratch. It’s my thing… pasta. And by that I mean, it’s the one thing I do well in the kitchen. Or at least the one thing I am confident that I will do well when we have “company.”
We haven’t entertained in a while. Not since Hubby had his heart surgery in 2013.
Oh…. I’ve had the gang of women I used to work with over for a barbecue a few times. But that’s always easy. I’ll do pork tenderloin and grilled vegetables on the barbecue, salads will be made before hand, dessert and appetizers, I buy. Everything served buffet style.
And of course we have had family. My sister and husband for Thanksgiving in October. No stress there. And Hubby’s family (cousins and spouses and grown kids) for a buffet dinner one night over the Christmas holiday last year. That was fun, despite the fact that our oven had given up the ghost on Christmas Eve. So we cooked tourtière and seafood casserole alternately in our little toaster oven… keeping them warm with aluminum foil and trivets on the stove top. Again salads and bread were already prepared. Dessert, I bought. Easy. And if the crust on the tourtière wasn’t perfect, I could blame the toaster oven.
But we haven’t “entertained.” You know… sit down meal… first course required… fancy main course… home made dessert… none of that “boughten stuff” (as we say in the Maritimes.)
But our good friends R. and E. have had us for dinner numerous times, especially when Hubby was recovering from his surgery. And we stayed with them in Florida for a week last winter. We really, really had to have them for dinner.
So to minimize the stress, I decided to stick with tried and true. Pasta. Something I am guaranteed NOT to mess up.
I’ve been making my own pasta for years now, since the 1980’s. In 1983, I quit my high stress sales job in Ontario and moved back home to the farm for a year. Growing up in Fredericton, our version of Italian food had been the Pizza Delight restaurant… and my mum’s homemade lasagna. And little had changed when I returned home after four years in the big city. So when I remarked one day that I could kill for a meal of fresh pasta, my mum looked at me over the top of her glasses, mouth set in a firm line… that no-nonsense-from-you-missy look that I knew so well from childhood. And she replied that if I wanted fresh pasta, I would just have to make it myself. And her gaze directed me to her library of cookbooks from around the world. My mum is a great cook and has two large bookcases of cookbooks.
And so I did… make it myself, I mean. I took down Mum’s The Cooking of Italy book, and found a recipe for “pasta all’ uovo.”
|My stained pasta all’ uovo recipe that I copied from Mum’s book.|
And then I mixed and kneaded and rolled and sliced. Then I drove into town to find a chunk of fresh Parmesan cheese… only one store in town had it. And by the time my stepfather came in from the barn at suppertime, we had salad, Mum’s fresh bread and fettuccine al burro all ready. I waited while my step-dad tasted his dinner. “You know, Snooze (he always called me that,) a man could live on this.” Well, Mum and I grinned, this was high praise indeed from a life-long meat and potatoes man.
That year I lived at home, I made fresh pasta for anyone who would eat it. My friend and I greeted her mum with Caesar salad and fettuccine Alfredo when she came home from work one night.
I made it a few times for my sister and her family. My sister C. and her Swedish husband had returned to New Brunswick too. At the time, they were living in a big, drafty, old house set in the rolling hills, thirty minutes outside of the village of Perth-Andover, while my brother-in-law worked hard to get his forestry business off the ground. A few weekends that year, I took the bus from Fredericton to Perth, lugging in my weekend bag all the fixings for my new “speciality”… plus a bottle of good red wine. While my sister C. and her hubby attended Saturday evening mass, I stayed with the kids and made dinner… pasta, of course. Or as my two year old nephew would say …”Tusie’s making chini.” Then, when C. and P. arrived home, and the kids were in bed, we would eat the pasta, drink the wine and then play Trivial Pursuit, with P.’s opera tapes playing in the background. I have such fond memories of those weekends.
|Swinging with my niece and nephew one weekend in 1984.|
I moved back to Ontario in the fall of 1984, met my husband, and he bought me a pasta machine. (Of course, other things happened in there as well… just nothing relevant to pasta.) So now I don’t have to smooth the dough out with a rolling pin until it’s paper thin, and roll it up like a jelly-roll and slice it into noodles with a knife. The machine does those bits. But I still use the same recipe.
I will say that I don’t make fettuccine Alfredo (or al burro) anymore… all that cream and butter is NOT good for a heart healthy diet. But I make my own pesto, with parsley and basil from our garden, and use it to make a lovely sauce with Persian lime olive oil, diced tomatoes, onions, peppers and sliced carrots. Yum.
I’m in love with infused olive oils these days, thanks to my friend E.’s inspiration. E. is a fabulous cook. And since it was she and her husband that we were entertaining on Friday night… well, you can understand my trepidation.
|My new secret ingredients: Persian Lime Olive oil and Cranberry Pear Balsamic Vinegar.|
But as it happens… as these things usually happen… I worried needlessly. The pasta did not disappoint, the first course salad was yummy (thanks to my new friend at “The Unrefined Olive” who recommended pairing the lime olive oil with cranberry-pear balsamic vinegar for the salad dressing) and the dessert was… fine. Not stunningly delicious, but fine. And we had a lovely evening with lots of laughter, a few political rants, and raucous stories of our respective childhoods. Fresh pasta to the rescue… again.
After our friends went home and Hubby and I cleaned up, I literally fell into bed and slept like a log, dreaming of my pasta memories. Two nights of all that needless worrying can be exhausting, you know.
Do you have a “speciality”… a go-to dish that always saves the day…or the evening?