Having houseguests means many things: putting out fresh towels, vacuuming up dog hair, and wearing slightly nicer pajamas. It also, generally, means planning multiple meals.
That is, unless your houseguest likes to cook as much as -- or even more than -- you. Then you can do what I did this weekend: laze around and enjoy the ride. Diana P., whom many of you know from the comments section, is more sister than friend. Trying to explain our history would only confuse the issue so I won't bother. The important thing you need to know is that Diana cooks. Like, she really, really cooks. As in, enormous quantities of food, and most of it Italian.
So while I didn't exactly spend the weekend nibbling canapes and drinking vodka tonics, I did manage to eat huge portions of homemade food without cooking all of it myself.
On Saturday night, I cooked none of it.
Since she was 10, Diana has been making homemade pasta the way her Italian grandmother taught her. And while she stirred, kneaded, rolled, and cut, I captured her technique and recipe for posterity, playing both photographer and scribe. It was an excellent trade (for me).
When the meal was over, I even let Diana clean up. I'm just that good a friend.
Anyone else want to come for a visit?
Recipe for Diana's Homemade Pasta
Traditional pasta recipes differ, but this is the one my friend-but-more-like-a-sister Diana grew up with. "Part of the joy of this pasta is the irregularity of it," she says, adding that there's no reason to be fussy or seek perfection. "The dough," she promises, "is extremely forgiving."
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Place flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs and egg whites into the well, then add the oil and salt. Mix the wet ingredients together with a fork, ever so gradually incorporating the flour that surrounds it. Work slowly, bringing in the flour bit by bit. Eventually, you will have a dough, and it will begin to come together and almost form a ball. At this point stop, and with one floured hand, knead it a few times in the bowl and then dump it onto a floured board or countertop.
Using floured hands, knead for about 3 to 5 minutes, adding more flour as necessary if dough gets too sticky. Dough is ready when it's no longer tacky and a thumb indentation slowly comes out. Wrap dough in a floured tea towel and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
Roll out on a floured board until 1/8" thick. (Diana does this all by hand, but if you have a pasta machine, by all means use it.) Roll slowly and deliberately -- it takes time to get the dough sufficiently thin. You want an even thinness all around.
Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel to cut the dough into fettuccini (about 1/4" wide). Lay each strand next to the others on a floured towel, careful not to overlap.
Cook pasta at a rolling boil in salted water until it floats to the top, roughly 4 minutes. Serve immediately with your favorite sauce.