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"Cucinano" - A Culinary Love Affair

My name is Bonnie, and this is my first post about cooking. But, if I'm going to write anything about cooking, now or ever, I first have to talk about the culinary love affair that my husband Mike and I are engaged in.

I actually don't remember the first time my husband and I cooked together. In the winter of 2000, as we both worked tirelessly on University degrees, our first meal was more than likely pasta from a box and sauce from a can. Pretty unmemorable stuff. However, I do remember, quite vividly and fondly, the very first time we cooked together from scratch. In the basement kitchen of Mike's grandmother's house we reenacted the steps she had shown him for creating handmade pasta. I'll never forget the way we made a little well in the pile of flour that we had dumped onto Nonna's old wooden table. Then we cracked eggs right into it - because bowls, apparantly, were for amateurs. So were utensils. I can still remember the texture of the flour and water and egg and oil as we kneaded it with our palms. I remember bringing all the ingredients together with our own bare hands and I recall thinking how gratifying it was - how primal yet lovely.

Over the next several years we finished more school, began careers, purchased a home and started a family, and we talked often of that favourite memory. But food and cooking never felt quite as good and satisfying as that moment. We ate out of necessity. We didn't often occupy the kitchen at the same time. We relied heavily on convenience foods and take out to see us through those whirlwind busy years. One day we would make the time to cook like that again, we kept telling ourselves. Yet when dinner time came we continued to believe that we were just too busy for more than that box of pasta and can of sauce.

So how did we arrive here then, where I feel like I have anything to say about cooking? A few years ago, on a whim, we decided to cook together. And we decided to make - you guessed it - homemade pasta. Bringing those ingredients together this time, in our own home, while our children played in the next room, was familiar and yet altogether different. It was the same recipe, excitedly dug out from a box in the basement. But they were slightly different hands kneading the dough this time. New hands. Older hands. Hands that understood with every motion what the Italian word "cucinano" means and how important it actually is. They cook. They fix up. They make. Bring all the pieces, sometimes broken and worn out, together to make a balanced and harmonious whole. This is just what we were trying to do with our lives, with our family, and with our marriage. This is the greatness of cooking that Italians have long understood. This was what we had been missing.

So, we began to cook together more and more frequently. Sometimes simply. Sometimes attempting the elaborate and seemingly impossible dish. Sometimes well. Sometimes very very not-well. With every mistake and success it seems we grow more confident with cooking, and more connected to each other. It has become quite a love affair, in fact.

Buon appetito!

Handmade Pasta

This pasta is romance on a plate. It is 1000% worth the extra effort to make by hand as nothing bought from a store will compare, and working with your partner to make it is a bonding experience that is also hard to beat. Not going to lie - we were pretty proud of our teamwork skills when we created this together for the first time! Our kids thought it was pretty amazing too!



*We used the Kitchen Aid Pasta Roller Attachments to create our pasta, but have used a hand roller in the past. A rolling pin and a knife or cutting wheel can be used as well.

Ingredients

* 2-3 Cups of All Purpose Flour (We used 3)

* 6-9 Eggs (We used 8)

* Tbsp Olive Oil

* 1/2 Cup of Water (Added little by little as you knead the dough to help you achieve the right soft but not sticky texture)

Directions

* Place flour in a bowl or on a clean work surface and create a well in the centre

* Add eggs and oil and a bit of your water

* Begin mixing the dough with your hands

* Add water little by little as you need to to soften the flour mixture

* If dough is too sticky, add more flour as you need to

* Keep mixing until a soft dough forms (around 10 min)

* Roll into log shapes to allow egg to mix uniformly into dough (5 min)

* Wrap dough in a plastic bag (We used a clean milk bag) and wrap with a tea towel

* Allow dough to rest and soften on the counter for 30 min

* When dough is ready, attach your pasta roller to your kitchen aid

*Set pasta roller to 1, roll dough through in small batches. You will get long sheets of pasta. After you roll the dough through on level 1, decrease the thickness by setting your roller to 2, then 3, then 4

* Add flour to your sheets of dough as you need to to keep them from getting sticky

* When you have rolled all the dough, attach the fettuccine cutter to your kitchen aid. Feed sheets of dough through, add more flour to your fettuccine and let them dry over a hanger or on a baking sheet

* You can freeze little nests of pasta or let the pasta dry out before storing it in the fridge or freezer. Unused dough can be frozen in plastic for a couple of months.

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