Cooking with Kenny, the Pasta Edition!

The first time I went to Kenny’s house I saw the Pasta Queen, an old-fashioned pasta roller with a hand crank.  It sat neatly on the counter, arranged with several cookbooks behind it.  I was just getting to know him, and I knew he loved food, but we hadn’t even scratched the surface on his talents in the kitchen.  I was awestruck that my burly, six-foot-two, handsome, tattooed boyfriend, owned, and operated a pasta making machine.

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Kenny’s love for cuisine was won honestly.   He was a Scottish-immigrant-kid growing up in suburban Hamilton, Ontario.   When his family came to Canada they had a whole new world of food to explore.

They arrived by boat to Montréal on The Empress of Canada in June, 1967.   They had lunch at the train station, his dad ordered a clubhouse sandwich, but didn’t see the toothpicks holding the delicious wedges together.  First bite, and the sharp-end of the toothpick lodged itself in the roof of his mouth.  Canada, and it’s menu was off to a rocky start.

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The Macalpines, on The Empress of Canada.
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Three-year-old Kenneth on the big boat coming across the pond.  He doesn’t remember much from this trip, but he does recall throwing the rings from the ring toss game overboard.  He wasn’t allowed to play anymore.

Kenny’s family had some relatives here, and they stayed with them briefly after they arrived.    In the following summers they would vacation together.  The Macalpines, along with aunt Agnus, and uncle Donald travelled to Sherkston Beach, a little, summer-get-away town on Lake Erie’s north shore.

No doubt, Scotland has some glorious beaches, but it just doesn’t get quite as hot, and sunny as it does in southern Ontario’s summer.  Poor little Kenneth, and his pale Scottish skin didn’t fare so well in the hot sun.  He had a tremendous sunburn.  Later that evening they roasted marshmallows around the campfire, and because of his sunstroke he became very sick.  To this day he will not go anywhere near a marshmallow, especially if it’s on a stick.

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Alison, Lyn, Kenny, and their dad, Bill on a holiday in England.
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Alison and Kenny with their mom, Rita at Sherkston Beach sometime before the sunburn.

It wasn’t all bad though.  Kenny happily discovered chocolate milk, and a regular supply of oranges.   As a little guy, his favourite song was the jingle from the Frito Lays commercial,  he still sings it sometimes, and now I do to.  You can watch it here.  But, you might be singing it now too.

Eventually his family settled in a nice house, in a great neighbourhood.  They had German and Italian neighbours, with kids his age.  This is when his love for food really started to flourish.  The Italians, naturally, fed him often, and the Germans too!  He became a regular in their kitchens, and couldn’t get enough of the wonderful ways they prepared their meals.

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Kenny and Alison in Hamilton.
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First summer in Canada.  Is it Halloween yet?

As he got older his appetite for cooking developed.  He perfected the grilled cheese, and omelettes at an early age, but ravenously wanted to know more.  The more he explored new dishes, the more he fell in love with new flavours.  He even remembers where he was the first time he had pizza, how amazing he thought it was, it was love at first sight.

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Wee Kenneth with his sisters, and their easy bake oven.
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Alison and Kenny.  Look at those peonies!
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For a kid who loved to eat so much he was pretty skinny!  Given the choice, he’s always preferred to catch his own dinner.

While we were dating we went out for dinner all the time.  Sometimes we went to really nice places, and sometimes we went to holes-in-the-wall, down staircases to get to little restaurants that have been there forever.  The food never disappointed.  I was impressed by his astute discern, and navigation!

By the time we really started to cook for each other, we had already fallen in love.  It was the icing on the cake that we both ended up with someone who loved to spend time in the kitchen.  We set time aside to cook together, and some of our best memories from those years were in the kitchen.

I had never made pasta before, or even gave it a thought.  I was always looking to the sauce, the ingredients,  rather than the vehicle.  If Kenny has taught me anything about cooking, it’s that simple is good.  Take basic, quality ingredients, and work your way up from there to make a really terrific meal.   My art teacher told me pretty much the same thing about oil painting, so I think it’s kind of a standard.  No fuss, no muss.

He’s made his signature noodles a million different ways since those early years.  Lasagna, spaghetti, fettuccine, tortellini, manicotti… I wish I could go back and thank his old, Italian neighbours!

Pasta is really easy to make.  It takes a little bit of practice to get the hang of using the machine.  You need to slowly feed the dough in, and guide it out while turning the handle.  The good news is, if it rips or gets holes in it you can just reform it and roll it through again.  The last time I was at a second hand store I saw two on the shelves, so if you’re not sure if homemade pasta is for you, but you’re willing to try, you should have a look there.  Or, you could do it like they used to, and just roll it out and cut it.  A bottle of wine and a pizza cutter would be perfect for this!

Kenny’s Pasta Recipe

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2 cups semolina flour*

1/4 cup unbleached flour

4 eggs

1 tbsp olive oil

*You can use all purpose, or whole wheat flour for the entire recipe, but may have to adjust the quantity.  It’s important that the consistency is correct: The dough is not sticky when combined.

Cream Sauce

1 cup 35% cream

2 tbsp butter

3 garlic cloves

1 tbsp pesto

1 lemon wedge

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1/2 cup grated asiago

fresh ground pepper

A large pot of salted water

 

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In a large bowl measure out semolina flour only.  If you’re using all white flour make sure you have some set aside for later use.
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With the handle of a wooden spoon make an indent in the flour, in the middle of bowl.
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He used a total of four eggs for this recipe, but sometimes use less or more depending on the size of the eggs.
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Add to eggs to the flour nest in the bowl.
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Wine time!
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Begin to mix your dough with a wooden spoon, and don’t forget to smile!
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Add additional eggs and begin to form dough with your hands.
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If the dough is sticking to your hands add more flour, if it’s crumbly add another egg.
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This is the consistency your looking for; smooth and dry.  Don’t worry if you have extra flour left  in the bowl, you can use it up later.
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Wine time!
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Press dough flat an rub all sides with olive oil.
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Massage the oil into dough, and begin to knead for about three or four minutes.
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The dough should begin to feel very smooth.  Form it into a log.
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At this stage the dough should feel a little bit like play dough.  There should be nothing sticking to your hands.
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Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place in fridge.  It rolls through the machine much easier after it has been chilled, but it’s not crucial.  The great thing about this step is that you can make the dough in advance, and it’ll be ready for dinner when you are.
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Assemble your pasta rolling machine, and cut dough into manageable pieces.
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With floured hands flatten out each piece.
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Set the rolling wheel on the machine to the widest option.  On our this machine it’s number one.  Add a little flour to the components.
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Slowly make the first pass through the machine with dough.
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Dial the machine to the next thinnest setting and put dough through again.
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Continue rolling dough until you get to the desired thickness.  Kenny usually rolls it out until number four on the dial.  You can go thinner, but it get’s a little harder to handle.  These pasta sheets are ready if you’re making lasagna.  No need to cook before you assemble.
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As you are making the last pass through the machine cut sheet at about 10 to 12 inches.
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Repeat above steps until all dough is rolled out to same thickness.
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Place sheets on a towel.  This will help to prevent them from sticking.
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Install the pasta cutter on the machine and begin to roll the sheets individually.
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If you’re finding the dough is sticking you can add more flour to the machine, and to sheets before you roll them through.
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Separate noodles, and place them on the towel.
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Continue to roll out all sheets.  Look at that perfection!
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Gently toss the noodles to make sure they’re not sticking together.  They don’t have to be arranged perfectly, but if it’s humid out you may need to dust them with a bit of flour to prevent them from becoming clumpy.
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And now for the sauce! We picked up this wonderfully simple contraption the other day, and we just can’t get enough of it.  It’s a small plate, handmade in Spain, and they make several indents in the clay before they fire it.  This rigid surface is perfect for pureeing garlic!
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You make the surface damp with water or oil and simply rub your garlic cloves over the ridges.  It came with a little brush to remove the contents from the plate, and a garlic peeler.
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This is the finished result.  You can buy them on Amazon, but they’re Chinese knock-offs and the little ridges aren’t sharp enough to do the job.  If you want one, you can get in touch with Ginger,  here.
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In a large pan (you’ll be adding the pasta to this when it’s done), melt butter on low and add garlic.
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When garlic become aromatic, add pesto.
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Slowly add cream, stirring constantly. Bring heat to between medium and low. Don’t let the sauce come to a boil.
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Squeeze in lemon.
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Gradually add cheese, and continue to stir.
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Wine time!
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In the meantime, you would have got a large pot of salted water boiling on the stove.  Add pasta.
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Open another bottle of wine, you’re almost done!
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The time to cook the pasta depends on the thickness you chose for your noodle, and your cooking preference.  Ours took about seven minutes.
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Do not rinse your noodles after taking them out of the pot, but be sure to shake the water out!
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Add the pasta to the sauce, and mix well.
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Top with more cheese, and some fresh ground pepper.
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Serve, and enjoy!

If you can master the art of homemade pasta, I promise you’ll never regret it.  The options are endless, and it’s so much better than the store-bought stuff.

-S.

 

6 Comments on “Cooking with Kenny, the Pasta Edition!

  1. I have one of those garlic thingies but I like my rasp from lee valley better. And now I’m craving homemade pasta. Looks so amazing !!

  2. i LOVE this. I learnt so much about Ken, and so great to see photos ive never seen before of my family growing up! I cant wait to come visit you guys and eat your world renowned pasta 😉
    M x

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