I have always wanted to make homemade pasta. Having lived in Italy and knowing what fresh pasta tastes like, I know it’s worth whatever effort it takes to make it. Growing up I heard stories of how my great-grandmother, Filomena Bonini, made homemade pasta weekly, rolled it by hand with a long broom stick, and laid it to dry on a sheet on her bed. So, I thought it would be fun to carry on tradition and make homemade pasta with my mom, grandma, and sister even though we substituted the broom stick with a pasta machine.
If any of you know an Italian grandma, you know you won’t get exact measurements or instructions on anything. My family has tried to replicate Nanny’s meatballs time and time again, but they are never the same. Nevertheless, it was so fun for me to make them with her and then of course to eat them paired with our homemade pasta! So, don’t get too excited as the below instructions won’t help you replicate her meatballs exactly but with so many different theories on how to make the best meatballs, this will give you ours. We obviously feel this is the best way 🙂 Our recipe yielded 51 meatballs and enough pasta for 7 hungry people to devour!
For the pasta:
- 5 cups of flour
- 8 eggs
- 1/4 cup water
Make a well with your flower in a bowl and add the eggs and water to the center. Scramble the eggs with a fork and slowly bring flour into the center mixing it well.
Once you have incorporated all the ingredients, sprinkle some extra flour on the counter and knead the dough. You will probably have to put some flour on your hands so it doesn’t stick. You should work the dough for quite a few minutes with your hands. Then place it in a bowl with a dash of olive oil and cover the bowl with a towel. Let it rest.
After the dough has rested, cut it in half and start with the first piece. I recommend rolling it into a log so when you cut it into slices they will all be the same size when you are feeding it through the pasta machine. We had many different sized sheets of pasta.
To prepare, lay a clean sheet on a big table and sprinkle some flour on it. Take out your handy pasta machine. Feed the first sheet through the machine twice on the 8 setting, then once on 6, once on 4 and once on 2. Repeat with every sheet of pasta. When your done, get the other half of your dough and do the same. We found this was a multi-person job and had a lot of fun while doing it. It can be done alone once you get the hang of it but it’s nice to have an extra pair of hands.
We found that if you let the pasta dry for a few minutes before putting it through the spaghetti setting you will have more luck with it coming out clean cut. Put through each long sheet of pasta on the spaghetti setting and then lay the pasta out to dry for a few hours.
Meatballs & Gravy
- Stale bread- we used whole wheat Italian bread
- Garlic (a lot- 5 or 6 cloves I think)
- Fresh chopped parsley (probably about 1/2 cup)
- Salt & Pepper – the amount that fits in the cup of Nanny’s hand 🙂
- Ground beef- Nanny only uses beef. We got pork and veal and she said she couldn’t taste the difference
- Ground Pork/Veal
- Parmesan Cheese
- Chicken thighs (2)
- Hot Italian Sausage
- Sweet Italian Sausage
- Canned San Marzano whole tomatoes
- Fresh basil
Pre-heat the oven to 350.
In a large bowl add the stale bread and cover in water. Let soak. Pull off the harder crusty pieces as you see them. Then put in a strainer and squeeze out water. Add the bread to a large metal bowl.
Add in chopped garlic and parsley. Nanny uses the “smell test” to know when the mixture is just right. Then add in the salt, pepper, cheese and mix well. Add in the eggs and combine using a wooden spoon. Make sure it smells right 😉
Add in your meat and incorporate with the spoon. Try not to over stir the meat.
Using the palm of your hand roll the meatballs in to even sized balls and place on a cookie sheet that you have already sprayed with pam. Place your sausage, chicken thighs, veal osso bucco, or whatever meat you have chosen to the sheet as well. Bake in the oven. Take them out when they develop a nice brown crust on the outside.
Take a few large cans of san marzano whole tomatoes and pour in your large pot on the stove. Add a few garlic cloves. Using a hand-held blender puree the tomatoes together. Then add a handful of kosher salt, a lot of fresh cracked pepper, and 3-4 fresh basil leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer.
When the meat is done in the oven add to the sauce. Leave the meatballs out for now to cool. Or do what we did, and eat a meatball sandwich with lettuce and mayo for lunch! Bene!!
After about a half hour to an hour, you can add the meatballs and keep the heat on low. Eventually you can turn the pot off if you have a while until dinner.
When you are ready to eat, re-heat your sauce pot again, then bring a large pot of water to a boil and season well with salt. Add the pasta and watch it closely as it will only take a few minutes to reach al dente perfection.
Take a very large platter, add some sauce to the bottom and spoon the pasta in. Cover in more sauce and place some gravy bowls on the table for those who can’t get enough!
This was such a fun day to spend with family and with some hard work, a mess, and a lot of laughs, the result will be some delicious food. Buon Apetito!