by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, Lincoln Land Community College
It is freezing and snow is on the way as I write this piece, but here at Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) it is the beginning of the spring semester for 2020. Sure doesn’t feel like spring! Every other year after the spring semester ends some of our culinary students take flight and spend a couple weeks in Italy at the Centro Studi Italiani in Urbania. In late May to early June our students, along with members of the community and culinary students from Richland Community College in Decatur, travel and explore regions around central and northern Italy.
Some things on the itinerary include learning some basic Italian, touring factories and farms that make balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, prosciutto ham and even a tour of the Ferrari factory. An optional stop one evening is dinner at Osteria Francecana, considered to be the best restaurant on the planet – not just the best Italian, but THE best of all. Pretty cool indeed.
It’s no secret I am a fan of Italian cuisine. It is a comfort food and always a go-to; whether I’m feeling exceptionally creative or not I can always do things in the kitchen the Italian way. Two of my favorites are homemade marinara and freshly made pasta. Below is my recipe for marinara, and the pasta recipe is from my good friend Tracy Stout. She calls it the 3,2,1 method for obvious reasons. As you get better with making dough, try different flours and recipes. Enjoy!
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
30 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes are my favorite
1 teaspoons Kosher salt, or to taste
12 to 15 fresh basil leaves, torn into dime size pieces
Place a dry 2 to 4 quart pot over medium low heat. After 5 minutes add oil, then add the garlic and red pepper. Do not let the garlic brown, only heat for a minute or so then add tomato paste and smear around the bottom of the pot. Add the canned tomatoes and carefully break up with a potatoes masher – leave a little chunky. Let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on low and season with salt. Add basil a minute or two before service.
Tools; dough cutter (or bench scrapper), manual or electric pasta roller, stand mixer (optional)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
a pinch of salt
You can add all ingredients in bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and mix 10 minutes. Skip the following paragraph except for the last two sentences.
Over a large cutting board, or cleaned counter top, pile flour into a mound and make a well in the center large enough to crack the eggs into. Then add oil and salt. Using a fork as a whisk, scramble the eggs in the flour well and as it comes together start mixing in a little flour gradually until the fork is no longer useful to mix with (a dough cutter or bench scrapper will help to gather runaway eggs). Time to roll up your sleeves and get messy. Get your hands in there and start kneading the dough, after a minute it should start to come together – if too dry add a sprinkle of water, too wet sprinkle a little flour over the dough. Keep mixing until the dough forms into smooth ball. It should no longer stick to your hands or work surface. Cover dough with a damp cloth and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.
After resting divide dough into 5 or 6 pieces and use a pasta roller to roll out your dough to desired thickness and lay out on counter. Follow directions for use with your specific machine, each brand is a little different. Allow sheets to dry for 5 minutes and then cut with a pizza cutter or use a pasta attachment to cut noodles. From here the noodle can be cooked right away or dusted with flour and left in small bundles to dry for 30 to 40 minutes. Bundles can be kept in freezer for a couple months.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Water should taste very salty like the sea, but not as salty as the ocean. Once boiling add pasta and cook until it floats. Let it float in the boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute. Add 4 ounces of the pasta water to your sauce. The starch in the water will help the sauce stick to the pasta. Using tongs, remove from water and add to marinara or drain in a colander over the sink. Serve drained pasta right away.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.