A few years ago, when Jan and I first moved into our house from our apartment, our new kitchen seemed like a vast amount of space in which we’d never run out of room for plates, pots and pans, kitchen tools, and gadgets. Moving up from a tiny galley kitchen into a space with more than two under-counter cabinets, three wall cabinets, and two drawers, this feeling lasted for a while. But then, the inevitable happened, I began using the hall closet as our overflow pantry, storing “fancy” glassware, infrequently used roasting pans, a dutch oven, miscellaneous utensils, and a growing collection of kitchen gadgets. Then, after this space got full, a shelf in my office became dedicated to a varied collection of plates and serving dishes.
For about a year, I moved a large rotisserie oven from space to space in an effort to find a suitable location for it to be stored. Not once in this period did we use the gadget. Finally, we found a friend who was thrilled by the idea of making his own rotisserie chickens, and I was thankful I could reclaim those precious cubic feet in the closet.
I realized then that this is what kitchen gadgets do. The made-for-TV numbers don’t last long enough to get much use, but the others, if they are built to last, get passed from person to person until hopefully they find their “forever” home.
After all, the rotisserie oven came from my dad, and before that, was owned by my grandmother. The ice cream maker that I loved to death during the summer (Well that’s just peachy and Danger! Ice cream machine in the house) was borrowed from my brother in law after he tired of it, and it’s been months since I’ve made ice cream (though after receiving the Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla beans mail-ordered by Jan, that will come out again soon). And the water bath that made only a few appearances (This meal brought to you by sous vide and Why sous vide is not for me) was banished to Jan’s man room out of my unwillingness to grant it any closet space, and is now the object of my unsubtle hints to sell the thing on eBay, where it came from.
Back in July, when making stuffed pasta shells, I wrote that the pasta machine epitomized my fear of being taken over by kitchen gadgets (One step closer to a pasta machine). Of course, not soon after that, some friends asked us if we would like their pasta maker and ravioli maker. They said that they, in fact, actually used them with excellent results, but were opting for newer models that would attach to their stand mixer.
So, like so many kitchen gadgets do, the pasta machine got a new home. The boxes sat in the closet among their friends, untouched, for several months, until an evening in which Jan and I were stumped at what to cook for dinner. We wanted something different, to make something we never had before, when it hit us: it was finally time to make our own pasta.
We made a big ceremony of bringing out the pasta machine and tightening the screw to fasten it to the countertop. I mixed the simple dough of flour, olive oil, and egg in the stand mixer and let it rest about ½ an hour before rolling out. Adding extra flour until the dough was no longer super-sticky, I formed smaller balls to pass through the pasta machine, getting thinner and thinner with each roll. Finally, I passed the sheet through the part that cut it into noodles.
The results weren’t the prettiest pasta noodles I’d ever seen, but I was going for rustic anyway, so I wasn’t concerned. After laying out a pile of noodles, I put away the pasta machine and let Jan take over in the kitchen, to make the sauce to top our homemade pasta.
We couldn’t decide what route was best for tasting the fresh flavor of the pasta, so Jan opted to make two versions. One was red sauce with Italian sausage, another was vegetables sautéed with olive oil and a little bit of cheese. When we took the first bite, we were amazed. Neither of us had anything like it before. We realized, aloud, that we had actually never tasted freshly made pasta; otherwise, there would be no forgetting the taste. We couldn’t figure out why more Italian restaurants didn’t make their own fresh pasta, since we decided that would be the sure-fire way to have a line of customers out the door.
Despite the labor-intensive process, making fresh pasta is definitely something we will do again, the results were that delicious. And yes, this runs counterintuitive to my usual disdain for kitchen gadgetry. For the moment, the pasta machine is resting comfortably in the closet, confident it has a place (for a while, at least) among the kitchen gadgets.