If pasta were a person, she’d be that girl liked by everyone and popular always. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like pasta, and even if they like to watch what they eat, you know they wouldn’t mind another bite…or two…or three…
I must say, this fettuccine is downright delicious and fairly difficult to not take a second helping of. It may take some time and attention due to the whole homemade pasta part, perhaps more than you might like to on a busy weeknight, but it is quite epic and deserves a special little spot on your meal plan. Or, make this sauce, give it 45 minutes on the stove to simmer and deepen in flavor while you tend to other things, then use pre-made fettuccine from the store to make it a bit more weeknight-friendly.
However, if you have the time, I would urge you to venture beyond the store-bought comfort zone and attempt homemade fettuccine. The ingredients are so very simple and the result is so very delightful; not to mention the pride you’ll feel as you gently scoop hefty amounts of pasta on plates for your family or guests that you made with your own two hands.
Eggs, flour, and voila! Pasta. If you do not have a pasta machine, you may roll it and cut it by hand, though this may take more time. I was recently given mine as a gift by my sweet mother for Christmas, as she had watched me rolling sheets out for ravioli more than once and thought I could use a hand (or a machine!) to help with my pasta making endeavors. There are pasta machines that feature a hand crank, pasta attachments for stand mixers, and electric ones that perform their task very quickly. It may be an investment, but if you love pasta and are even vaguely intrigued by making it at home, it is worth it… and a lot easier than you might think.
The ingredient amounts that I included in this recipe make enough to feed a small crowd (or a few ravenous teenagers) and will easily fill up a 5 1/2 qt. dutch oven (my favorite pot to cook with as it’s usable for practically everything). You can cut the amounts in half, if you like, for less servings. My dad calls this “Adelle’s Magic Pasta”, but feel free to insert your name there instead of mine when you announce what’s for dinner! Oh, and you may want to throw an apron on, as it will get a bit messy in the good sort of way, with the flour and dough and tomato sauce and all.
For some greens and to add balance to the heavy richness of the pasta, I chose to serve this with a simple arugula salad, tossed in a light vinaigrette sweetened with honey with a handful of sunflower seeds. I prefer to keep a salad quite simple with minimal additions to add a contrasting lightness when served with a decadent entrée.
FETTUCCINE WITH PANCETTA AND A TOMATO CREAM SAUCE
Makes eight servings
For the sauce:
- 8 oz diced pancetta
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 28 oz can pureed tomatoes (alternatively, use another can of diced tomatoes and puree with an immersion blender or in a blender)
- 3/4 cup chopped basil
- 1 large or 2 small sprigs of rosemary
- 6 garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup heavy cream
- salt, pepper, and sugar, to taste.
For the fettuccine:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 eggs
- Filtered water, added 1/2 tablespoon at a time (I usually need 1 1/2 tablespoons)
Garnish (optional but all the more delicious):
- fresh cracked pepper
- basil, cut into ribbons
Heat a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. While it’s heating, mince the garlic cloves. When heated, add pancetta to the dry pot, as it will render plenty of fat (if not, add a tablespoon of olive oil).
While the pancetta is cooking, chop the rosemary, one to two sprigs, amounting to about 1/2 tablespoon.
Dispose of the rendered fat that has accumulated in the pot after the pancetta has browned. Turn the heat to low and add the garlic and rosemary, and just a bit of olive oil if the pot is too dry. When the garlic is just barely golden, pour in the wine and bring it back to a medium heat. Stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom.
When the wine is bubbling, add the tomato paste, stir, then add the diced and pureed tomatoes. Add the chopped basil, stir to combine, cover with the lid, and simmer gently on the stove for 45 minutes to an hour.
While the sauce is simmering away into tomato sauce goodness, make the pasta. Of course, you may skip the next several steps if you’re using pre-made fettuccine.
Measure the flour and pour into a bowl, then make a well in the middle for the eggs. Add the eggs, then use a fork to gently whisk them. Once whisked, gradually introduce flour to the whisked eggs with the fork while stirring. Once enough flour has been combined, set the fork aside, and put those hands to work! Add water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is no longer dry but not yet sticky (if it’s sticky, you can add a bit more flour). Alternatively, use a food processor to combine the eggs and flour, adding the eggs one at a time and then the water, pulsing the machine until it forms into a ball.
Knead the pasta dough about two minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and rest the dough for 15 minutes at the least. This will keep the dough from tensing up as you try to roll it out. While you’re waiting, fill a large pot with water and a generous helping of salt, and place it over high heat to bring it to a boil.
While the water is heating and after the dough has rested, divide the dough into eight pieces. Using a pasta machine, feed a piece at a time through the roller set at the widest position, dusting generously with flour so as to help the dough not stick. Roll the dough thinner and thinner by adjusting the rollers to the next narrow setting each time. Keep going until the pasta is quite thin, to where you can just see your hand through it. Repeat with the rest of the dough, place on parchment paper with a generous amount of flour in between if they are resting on top of one another (a bit risky, as they may decide to stick together!), or side by side.
Using a fettuccine cutting attachment on the machine, run the sheets of pasta through one by one, dusting with more flour (or semolina, if you have it!) once they are finished to be sure that they don’t stick together. Place gently on parchment, repeat with each sheet, and by now the water should be boiling.
Place the fettuccine in the boiling water, working in batches if needed as this will be a lot of fettuccine! It will cook fast, as it is fresh, needing only about a minute or so.
At this time, the sauce will probably have simmered for long enough, and your stomach will be rumbling a bit at the smell of tomatoes and wine and garlic and herbs all simmering together. If you’re using store-bought fettuccine, now is the time to boil and strain it, after having simmered the sauce for 45 minutes to an hour.
Place your freshly cooked fettuccine into the pot with the sauce, turning to very low heat. Add the cream, making sure it doesn’t boil, then add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste – I add about a pinch at a time until it’s just right.
Gently mix the pasta to coat it all evenly with that delicious sauce. Serve immediately, showering each plate with a bit of parmigiano-reggiano, some fresh cracked pepper and a bit of basil, if you so please.
Then pour yourself a generous glass of that dry red wine you used earlier, dig in, and give yourself a pat on the back because you just made fresh pasta. Oh, and then serve the others! After you’ve quickly stolen a few bites first, of course.