I’m not sure where to start, tonight. Should I start with the light-as-air homemade pappardelle pasta? Or should I sing praises to the sauce of fresh tomatoes, crab, and Alaskan cod? Or… since they were mixed together, just speak of one of the best meals I’ve had in ages?!?

I think I’ll go with all of the above.

Let’s face it. Victor makes some of the best pasta this side of Italy. Years ago, he bought me a pasta roller – and I’ve never used it. He somehow managed to side-step me right out of the way when it comes to making fresh pasta. A side-step I am eternally grateful for, I might add. He just makes damned good pasta.

Pasta making, like any sort of bread or dough-making, requires the right touch and feel. Regardless of what a recipe states, experience teaches you what a proper dough should feel like – how silken, how soft or firm… you just know when it’s right. Victor has it down.

The perfect example is the pappardelle he made today. It was based on a recipe by Michael Chiarello – formerly of Tra Vigne in Napa – a favorite restaurant of mine back in the day. Michael’s recipe was just too wet with 6 eggs and 4 teaspoons of olive oil for less than 3 cups of flour. Victor worked the dough, adding more flour until it was the perfect silken mass. A novice would have followed the recipe exactly as written and ended up with a mess.

That’s pretty much why I have a hard time writing recipes. They really should be general guidelines and not something that needs a degree in Chemistry to follow. There are just too many variables – the type of flour, the moisture content, the weather…

But the master was at hand and the pasta came out perfect.

Just pay attention when you make it and have some extra flour on hand in case you need it.

Pappardelle Pasta

adapted from Michael Chiarello

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup semolina flour, plus more for dusting
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt

Make the dough.

Sift both flours together on a large work surface and make a well in the center. Place the eggs, olive oil and a pinch of salt in a bowl, then pour into the well. With a fork, break up the eggs, then gradually mix the wet ingredients into the flour mixture just until combined.

Knead by hand.

Gather the dough into 2 equal-size balls; flour the surface. Push each piece of dough away from you with the heel of your hand, fold the dough over itself and turn it counterclockwise. Continue pushing, folding and turning until the dough is smooth and elastic, 4 to 5 minutes.

Rest the dough.

Pat each piece into a ball. Flatten slightly, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Roll out the dough.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and dust with flour. Starting in the middle, push away from you with a rolling pin, easing up on the pressure as you approach the edge. Continue rolling the dough into a sheet, turning occasionally, until you can see your fingers through the bottom. You want it thinthinthin. Let dry about 10 minutes.

Cut the pappardelle.

Dust the top of the sheet of dough with flour and loosely roll it into a cylinder. Using a sharp knife, cut into 3/4-inch-wide slices. Unwrap the noodles; dust with semolina and gently toss to separate. Place on a sheet pan and cover with a tea towel until ready to cook (or freeze in freezer bags for up to 2 months).

It seems like work but it’s actually pretty easy – and even easier if you have a pasta roller. (Mine is named Victor!)

And then we have the sauce…

Crab and Cod Sauce

  • Fresh Tomatoes
  • White Wine
  • Tomato Paste
  • Crab Meat
  • Alaskan Cod
  • Olive Oil

Victor went out and picked tomatoes out of the yard – maybe two pounds of yellow and plum tomatoes. He chopped them up fairly well, added a sprinkling of salt and pepper, chopped basil and two finely minced garlic cloves and a drizzle of olive oil and let them sit a spell.

In a large, deep saucepan with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil, saute the tomatoes until they begin to soften and release more juices. Add a half cup of white wine. Once it’s back to a simmer add three or four tablespoons of tomato paste and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer for about five minutes.

Take some good Alaskan Cod (we had about 3/4 of a pound) and cut it up into about one inch cubes along with about a pound of lump crab meat and place it in the simmering tomato sauce until the cod is just cooked – about 5 more minutes. Pull it off the heat while the pasta is cooking then reheat. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the tomato/fish sauce for one minute to absorb the flavors.

The final result was fabulous. Nonna had two helpings – something she never does! I went back for seconds, m’self, figuring I’m really not going to start my new eating regime until Tuesday when I start back to work.

It really was superb!