Sunday, February 13, 2005


I'm proud of myself. Not only did I make this spaghetti sauce from the ground up, but I also made the pasta from scratch. That should be reassuring to you: if an idiot like yours truly can do this, then you can, too. Now that I'm able to make my own pasta, it's doubtful I'll ever buy it again.

One note about drying pasta: it dries the way you leave it. If you scroll down this post to where I show a photo of pasta draped over a plate, you might think, "Damn, that looks pretty nice." And it did look pretty, but the pasta retained that shape when it dried. I had to snap off the droopy ends of all the noodles, because there was no other way to remove them from the plastic plate.

I learned something else, too: the only real reason to dry your pasta is to be able to transport it somewhere. There's nothing stopping you from plopping the pasta into boiling water while it's still fresh and moist and flexible.

And now, on with the show.

The cast of characters:

We're making sauce here. The tomatoes aren't quite ripe enough, which will surely violate the sensibilities of the sauce purists, but I was pressed for time and had already let those tomatoes sit for two days. In the following photo, we try to determine, Salem-style, whether the tomatoes are in fact witches.

Ladies: the next pic is a reminder of the importance of mushrooms in a good spaghetti sauce. Fresh mushrooms are usually stiff. Test stiffness with your tongue, running your tongue slowly up and down the length of the shroom, perhaps pausing to swirl your tongue teasingly around the shroom's "head" until it comes.

More where those came from:

Castration anxiety as shrooms are chopped to smithereens:

A missing member from the spaghetti sauce cast: black pepper.

Below: sliced-open green bell peppers, flesh still quivering, next to an onion about to suffer a similar fate. I hate onions, especially when they're chopped into large pieces. Maybe it's more about texture than about taste for me, because I don't mind finely chopped onions in salsa, or when served with caviar and minced hard-boiled eggs.

Green bell peppers are misnamed piments (or p'i-mang) in Korean, apparently borrowed from French. In French, such peppers are called poivrons. Les piments are what Koreans would call go-ch'u, i.e., chili peppers.

Cackling pepper:

Green bell peppers reduced to geometric shapes:

It turns out that every single tomato in that bunch was a God-cursed witch. See below:

The onion succumbs to the inevitable:

Below: tomato-witches, purified. Their souls will now enter heaven.

A glimpse of the spices and other doodads that help make spaghetti sauce possible. You see, among other things, oregano, parsley, basil, olive oil, garlic powder, and white wine. Behold:

This nasty pink sausage is kimchi sausage, a Korean product. Korean sausage is singularly unimpressive, a far cry from European fare-- or even from all-American Bob Evans' breakfast sausage. I wanted to simulate the crumbled look, so I removed the sausage skins, sliced the sausages into pieces, and then crushed them with a metal bowl, as you see:

The sauce starts to come together. Note the huge bay leaf. Don't crumble the bay leaf. Leave it in there, then take it out when the sauce is done cooking.

Let there be shrooms! I added only half the shrooms here; I wanted to stir-fry a bunch of them with onions and sausage.

Crushed sosiji-- the twisted result of my efforts. Luckily for me, I'd also bought some Korean salami, which was surprisingly good. The kimchi sausage did little more than add bulk and meaty texture to the sauce; the salami, on the other hand, did all the work of giving the sauce a meaty flavor.

Here, we see the salami being chopped into little pieces. Large pieces are a no-no: you want to increase the surface area-to-volume ratio to allow more of the sausage flavor to come out while the sauce is cooking. Et voilà:

I stir in the meat...

Here, we see our candidates for pan frying: meat, shrooms, and onions:

A close-up look at the sauce:

The sauce is yanked off the burner, and now we're frying the sausage, mushrooms, and onions.

The sauce comes together. It was pretty damn good when I tasted it, and it tasted even better after it sat and settled for a few hours.

The problem with fresh veggies and tomatoes is the wateriness. I didn't have time to "reduce" the sauce by simply allowing water to boil off, so I relied on the old "scoop dat shit out" method.

To make pasta, you need the following:

1. A cup of regular white flour, plus some extra flour on the side.
2. One egg.
3. A half-teaspoon of salt.
4. Water as needed.

Mix salt and cup of flour. Scramble the egg. Add it to the dry ingredients. Dust your hands and your work surface with extra flour. Knead dough for five minutes. Add water if dough is too stiff and/or crumbly. You'll get something like the following, which I've divided up into three balls:

Grab one of your balls, roll it flat, then cut it into thin, noodle-ish strips, like so:

Once you've cut everything into noodles, you're fuckin' done. You can make your pasta now, or let it dry, comme suit:

Once you've got your sauce and pasta ready, slap it all into a large bowl or on a large plate, then grate some cheese on top. What hath God wraught?


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