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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
2 cups semolina flour*
1/4 cup unbleached flour
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.
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
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.