Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Cooking

Everyday Entertaining: Fresh pasta and pesto are a great way to say thank you

One way to say thank you is with a card.

Another way to say thank you? Homemade pasta.

Recently, I had a few friends I wanted to thank with more than a card, and thought it might be nice to do so by making them dinner. But I was about to head out of town, so instead of having them over I made something they could enjoy while I was away. A dinner party from afar.

It also provided a great reason to get one of my favorite wedding gifts out from its spot in a higher-up kitchen cabinet, the one I have to get on a stool to reach. I have to really want what I'm reaching for, and in this case it was the pasta maker attachments for a KitchenAid mixer. I used to have a dedicated pasta-making machine that needed to be cranked with one hand while the other fed the pasta through the roller, but it broke on a night I was planning to make three lasagnas.

The attachments I have now are a bit sleeker and make easier work of smoothing out eggy dough into long, flat noodles that I've since layered into many lasagnas. The other attachment pieces in the pack cut the fat noodles into spaghetti or fettuccine, though this could also be done by hand with a sharp knife.

Making pasta is a labor of love but still a ton of fun. So I spent a couple hours on a recent morning enjoying the extra legroom of my kitchen before I boarded a long flight to the West Coast that evening.

Fresh pasta starts with a mound of flour on a clean counter. Then, I press the bottom of my measuring cup into the peak of the flour mountain to create a well. Eggs go into the center with a pinch of salt. A fork helps to break up the sunny pool of yolks and gradually incorporate the flour into the eggs until a dough starts to come together. Then I knead, push, pull and press until the flour has absorbed the liquid of the eggs and the shaggy dough becomes a pliable ball.

While the dough rests, it's time to make a fresh pesto that will later coat the noodles for a simple dinner.

Pesto can be made from just about any hard cheese, nut and greens or herbs, but my current favorite is a pistachio pesto with mint and basil I previously shared in the Times for a pizza. You can find the recipe at tbtim.es/1905 .

Once the pesto is scooped into a jar, it's back to the pasta. After cutting the noodles into fettuccine, I lightly dust them with flour and twirl them into loose nests. Wrap them in plastic wrap and they're ready to pack into a gift bag.

Pairing the pasta and the pesto makes a fine gift. But if you're really going for it and want to enthusiastically say thankyousoverymuch, tuck in a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a Microplane grater along with the bundles of noodles and jar of pesto in a small gift bag. Write the instructions for cooking the pasta on a pretty recipe card or thank you note. Make sure to let your recipient know that fresh pasta takes just a couple minutes to cook, and include notes for storage of any leftovers.

A ready-to-cook dinner like this would also be a sweet gift for friends who just had a baby or a friend who needs some cheering up or a night off from making dinner.

Ileana Morales Valentine can be reached at [email protected]

     
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