In which I make a questionable decision that works out beautifully…

When I have an annoying day, I usually like to eat pasta. When I have a particularly stressful day, I like to make pasta from scratch. This is not a difficult task, but it does take time, and it should come as no surprise that my particularly stressful days do not typically fall on Saturdays, Sundays, or any other day that does not involve a trip into the office. Which means I generally choose to start the pasta from scratch making process AFTER work. And on particularly stressful days, that after work time frame starts closer to 6:30 or 7 than it does 5:30 or 5:45. As was the story last night. So deciding to make pasta was a very questionable decision. The fact that I walk by the neighborhood fish market on my way home from work and they often have cockles, which are my most favorite clams for linguine with clam sauce, meant my fate was sealed. As it happens, practice makes for more efficient pasta making, and I am getting good, and I was able to eat at the very reasonable hour of 8:30. That’s like the early bird special for a Hargraves.

The pasta dough has to sit for at least 45 minutes before it can be rolled out, so I started that process before I even changed my shoes. I make my pasta dough in the food processor. I am sure plenty of Italian grandmothers and Mario Batali would have my head to hear such a thing, but after work pasta needs to be efficient pasta, and I have had the greatest luck and the nicest dough come out of the Cuisinart, and until it fails me, or someone can convince me that making a well in a pile of flour and trying to wrangle eggs and keep them from running all over the counter produces a pasta that is so far superior to mine that it is worth it, I am sticking with the food processor. 2 cups of flour, a pinch of salt, 2 eggs, and 4 tbls of water (look a recipe!) into the processor, and turn it on until the dough comes together. I don’t really have a good word to describe what the dough looks like at this stage, and in the pursuit of speed, I didn’t take pictures. Sorry, next time. Turn it out onto the floured counter and knead for ten minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Then cover with plastic, change your shoes, make a gimlet, and watch a half hour of Friends.

After 45 minutes or an hour, time to roll out the dough. I have had a pasta machine forever. I asked my grandmother for one for Christmas one year, I don’t remember which. I might have been in college, which would have been weird. I don’t remember the first time I used it, but I am certain I didn’t use it with any regularity until I moved back into my apartment three years ago, so it just hung out. It is a hand crank machine and I love it. It has an attachment to cut linguine or angel hair which I almost never use, because I have not yet figured out how to get the pasta sheets to be the perfect shape when I roll them out, so I usually just cut them by hand. Anyway, if you don’t have a pasta machine, you can roll out the dough with a rolling pin, though I can’t imagine that would be particularly efficient, so it has no place in after work pasta making. Get a pasta machine, or an attachment for a standing mixer. You won’t be sorry.

So I rolled out the sheets of pasta, folded them up and then cut them into strips like so…

almost in straight lines...

almost in straight lines...

Then pull the pieces apart, dust them with flour, and put them aside. The less you touch them the better.

ready for the bath.

ready for the bath.

Fresh pasta takes no time to cook, so you essentially want the sauce to be finished before you drop the pasta in the water. I started with bacon. I used like three or four pieces cut into small bits. I like to eat some before I add it to the pasta, which is why I used that many pieces, and I like them to be small and crispy so they are texturally different from the rest of the pasta, which is why I cut them so small.

All is right in the world.

All is right in the world.

Once they were nice and crispy, I took them out of the pan, drained the fat, and added a little bit of olive oil, a little bit of butter, and some shallots and garlic to the pan.

Smells like heaven.

Smells like heaven.

Then I deglazed the pan with white wine (always a good idea to have wine open, for just such a situation) and added the cockles. Oh, I forgot a step, when I got home I put the cockles in a shallow dish with water, ice and a little bit of cornmeal, the water keeps them alive, the ice keeps them cold, the cornmeal makes them open up a little and purge the sand that is inside. Don’t know why, just does. (Incidentally, when I bought the clams, I was trying to be a good earth protector and not take another plastic bag, and just put the mesh clam bag in the shopping bag I already had. The fishmonger told me that I better take the bag, because clams might spit. I didn’t flinch. She was correct and I would have had clam spit in my bag. There must be some sort of milestone that I have hit, when considering clam spit becomes a normal part of the day. Also, is fishmonger an okay word for a woman that sells me fish and shellfish? It doesn’t sound particularly nice.)

purging.

purging.

In you go!

In you go!

Cockles cook quickly, and so I cooked the pasta at this point too. In just a few short minutes, they looked like this…

delicious and sand free

delicious and sand free

Then I added the pasta, some chives, lemon zest and the bacon that I hadn’t eaten and it looked like this

Tasty and not too late!

Tasty and not too late!

It was delicious. I had the leftovers for lunch today, and I was a happy girl.

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