So yeah, I agree…Necessity IS the mother of all invention. My first-hand experience of it came shortly after my pantry was running out of stock and so was my mood (Well, I do feel better with a full pantry!). Anyways, I had just finished watching Godfather and was in an Italian mood for dinner. My thought immediately went to Rashi telling me earlier in the day about making sun-dried tomatoes at home… I started thinking of a pasta dish with them, this time with wheat. (Trying to cut white flour and get into shape before my sister-in-law’s wedding :P). But Sun dried tomatoes took longer and I just had an hour before my favorite show, MasterChef Australia and so I took it up as a task for my very own Mystery Box Challenge and Invention test in one. It was 8pm and this is how I spent the next hour, using the simplest of all ingredients – Onions, tomatoes and wheat and converting them into something brilliant!
First Step: Prepare Pasta
I was cooking for 2 people and follow the simple rule for making pasta – 100gms flour to 1 egg per person. Take 200 gms of wheat flour in a big bowl. Make a hole in the middle, add 2 eggs, a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste and a dash of dry basil. Knead to make a dough, cover it with cling film and let it rest for as long as possible. I was under time pressure, so for me it meant until I had completed preparing my veggies :P. If you have time, keep it for an hour.
Second Step: Prepare Veggies (Hardly Veggies 😛 )
Start by making Tomato Concasse. Take 3 of your 4 tomatoes. Put a cross with a knife on each tomato bottom and put it into boiling water, kept it in boiling water for 20 seconds and transfer into cold water. Take it out and the skin comes off easily. Remove the skin and cut each tomato into 4 parts length wise and remove the seeds. This should leave you with 4 tomato petals for each tomato, tomato seeds and tomato skins. Cut one onion into similar petals like shape and cut the remaining 1 tomato into half.
Now place the tomato skins, tomato petals, onion petals and the half cut tomato on a baking dish. Line it with butter paper so that your tomatoes don’t stick to the baking tray. Put olive oil on top of them so that they are lightly coated. Sprinkle some sugar and rock salt on the tomatoes only. This will help them dry out quickly and will give them a nice sweet and salty flavor – similar to sun-dried tomatoes. You can also use regular salt or sea salt. Place the baking try in a 180 degree oven for 30 – 40 minutes until they have dried out. Keep checking. If your onions dry out faster, remove them. The tomatoes take longer.
While your veggies are cooking and pasta resting, chop 1 onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic finely and keep aside for cooking later.
Take the next 10 minutes to Relax!
Step 3: Roll your pasta
By the end of 30 min, your veggies would be ready and pasta rested (well, somewhat :P. I didn’t have more time to give, remember I had MasterChef Australia coming up at 9 O’clock :P)
Start the next 30 minutes by rolling out your pasta. Roll it, fold it back in and then roll again. Repeat the process 3 times to get the gluten going. This step ensures that your pasta is silky smooth and not leather like, especially if you are rolling by hand like me. Now roll it out thinly, spread some wheat flour on it and fold it loosely like the picture depicts so that you can easily cut it into thin even strips. Make sure you have enough flour on the pasta sheet so that it doesn’t stick. Now cut the roll into 1 inch wide strips and use your fingers to unfold them into beautiful fresh flat pasta ribbons, popularly known as Fettuccine.
Step 4: Putting it all together!
Oh No – 15 minutes to go! Put a pan of water for boiling as you are rolling your pasta. Add some salt and a few drops of oil in it. Once it comes to a boil, add pasta to it. Wheat pasta takes 6-8 minutes to cook, a little longer than the one which is made from white flour.
While the pasta is cooking, take another pan and add butter to it. Yes, you can make your pasta sauce in the same time as your pasta cooks! As the butter is melting, add garlic to it. Don’t add garlic after the butter is hot. It will burn the garlic. What you want is for the butter to take the garlic flavor (Thanks to Nigella Lawson for this great tip J). Now add the finely chopped onion to it. Cook till the onions get translucent. This will take a couple of minutes. Now add your tomato puree made from the tomato seeds you had scooped out. Cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes are cooked. Add cream and 2 tablespoons of pasta water. Cook for a minute and add seasoning – salt, pepper and mixed herbs. Bring to boil and your sauce is done! Now add the roasted tomatoes, onions and pasta to it. You are ready! Garnish with the half cut tomato and sprinkle of dry basil on top.
Showtime and Feedback!
It was amazing to watch my husband eyes widen up as he took his first bite of the salted tomatoes with the sweet cream sauce. He also instantly said that is the best Italian dish I have ever made! I couldn’t believe it before I bit into the juicy half cut tomato that I have placed on the top in the picture. The big juicy burst of the sweet and salty tomato filled my mouth followed by a bite of the sweet grilled onions and cream sauce. True heaven in the simplest of all ingredients. Had I been in the MasterChef kitchen, I would have had a chance of winning this challenge for sure. As I have said earlier as well, sometimes it is not about the ingredients but how you treat them that makes all the difference!
So here it is, my personal Italian tribute to the 3 essentials in every Indian Kitchen – Onions, Tomatoes and Wheat Flour!