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Dark Days: Pasta Marinara

On a recent weeknight we made an awesome and very filling dark days meal:  homemade egg pasta with tomato sauce. Now, I have to admit that this is not one of the truly inspired “dark days” meals. We did not get all creative with tubers and root vegetables. We did not invent new ways to use beans and lentils. But on the flip side, look:

We are very lucky that we can get local grains, flour, and eggs all year long. We used local tomatoes that Lindsay canned back in September. Here is a picture of the “tomato” shelf of our canning larder (which consists of 3/4 of a bookcase in our spare bedroom):

Lindsay deserves all of the credit for this. At the time, I thought she was a little crazy. But now we are enjoying fresh tomatoes even when the mercury is low. She canned whole tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, pizza sauce, and Bloody Mary mix. We plan to include future posts on how to can, but unfortunately that time won’t come around again for a while (for tomatoes, not until August / September). Stay tuned, I guess!

For the pasta, we used flour from Cayuga Organics, butter from Ronnybrook (see note below), and eggs from Northshire Farms.

We made this pasta following the standard pasta-making directions that come with a stand mixer pasta attachment. We used the mixer’s paddle to mix the mixture, the dough hook to knead the dough, the pasta roller to roll it out, and the linguine cutter to cut it. We’ll post the recipe and procedure for homemade pasta soon.

Homemade pasta, it turns out, is very forgiving. Lindsay was working late. I was not, so I started dinner without her. This is not normally a problem, but this time, I totally blew it.

My mistakes included:

  • The recipe called for olive oil, and knowing this was a dark days recipe and that our olive oil is not local, I substituted local butter. This was the wrong move. The right move was to substitute our local sunflower oil. My bad.
  • When, as a result, the dough failed to come together properly, I panicked a bit. I switched a few times between the mixer’s paddle and dough hook. In the end, instead of a solid ball of dough, I wound up with thousands of little dough pebbles individually rattling around the bowl.
  • I also neglected (forgot) to take any pictures prior to the rolling / cutting process.

Luckily, at this point Lindsay walked in the door and rescued the operation. With some hand-rolling maneuvers and added water, she was able to get the dough to a workable place. It didn’t roll out perfectly, and the process of “fixing” my dough was a bit of a nightmare, but in the end, it tasted amazing!

Here are the two pictures that I did take, of the pasta rolling and cutting:

The Sauce

Unlike the pasta, the sauce came off without a hitch.


Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
(* Union Square Greenmarket)
1 28oz jar San Marzano tomatoes, in water Canned at home Cherry Hill Orchards (in Sept.) *
2 TBsp Sunflower oil Subst. for olive oil Stolor Organics, bought at Cayuga *
6 cloves Garlic Thinly sliced Keith’s Farm *
1 Stalk Fresh basil ~ 20 leaves, leave stalk whole Shushan Valley (hydroponic)
1 TBsp Gruyère cheese Grated Cato Corner Farm
1/4 tsp Dried hot red pepper flakes
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 cup Pasta water From cooking pasta


  1. Drain the jar of tomatoes (and any canning water) into a large bowl and use both hands to break up the tomatoes into small chunks:

  2. Carefully place your knife on each clove of garlic and give the blade a pound with the heel of your hand (be careful not to hit the blade!). This will crack the skins and make them easy to remove:

  3. Slice the garlic as thinly as possible:

  4. Pour the oil into a heavy pot or dutch over (our local sunflower oil is pictured below). Add the garlic and place on medium-high heat for about 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is sizzling. Add the red pepper flakes and let cook for another minute, stirring occasionally.

  5. Cook the garlic until it is golden and starting to turn even darker. Add the tomatoes and canning water. Add a small amount of water used in cooking the pasta. If the tomatoes were not canned in water, add up to 1 cup of the pasta water, but be careful overall not to make your sauce too watery.
  6. Raise the heat to high, add the salt, and stir the sauce. add the stalk of basil and bury it until it is complete covered / submerged. Cover the pot.

  7. Once the sauce starts to boil, reduce the heat slightly and cook for 10 minutes on a bubbling simmer. Uncover the pot and cook for another 5 minutes until reduced to the desired level. You don’t want to reduce the sauce all the way, but you also do not want it to be overly-watery.
  8. Using tongs, remove the basil. You can keep the sauce at a simmer until it is needed.
  9. You can either plate the pasta and serve the sauce over the top, or if you plan to serve all of it at once, you can finish the pasta by adding it to the sauce in the pot and letting it simmer for a while while tossing it.

After plating the pasta and sauce, we added a little freshly ground black pepper, shredded fresh basil, and grated Gruyère that we bought from Cato Corner farm:

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