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Having lived in and around Bologna for three years of my life, there is probably no region in all of Italy as close to my heart as Emilia-Romagna. From the magnificent Byzantine frescoes in Ravenna to the two towers in the city of Bologna, and the riches of a magnificent small town like Modena, there is plenty to do besides eat.
However, Emilia-Romagna is considered by many Italians to be the culinary apex of the entire peninsula. Traditional dishes like piadina, lasagne alla bolgnese, tortellini in brodo, tortelloni, tagliatelle al ragu and passatelli rule the world of breads and pastas. Every now and then, when I haven't made a trip back to Italy in too long, my taste buds begin to itch for those mouthwatering flavors of Italian comfort food.
We have a lot of family events currently arising as my eldest son, Benno, is graduating from high school. Naturally, this means big family-style Italian meals with grandparents, cousins and the whole lot. Since my mother has the world's greatest homemade gnocchi covered, I thought I'd make one of my favorite nods to Emilia-Romagna: fresh tagliatelle. My fresh tagliatelle with garlic, rucola and sundried tomatoes is what's on the table this week.
Cutting fresh pasta such as the tagliatelle, tagliarini or pappardelle is easy. All you need is a cutting board, some flour and a good, sharp knife. Even better is that the recipe for basic pasta dough is hard to mess up, as only two major ingredients are included, flour and eggs. Like the Italians in Emilia-Romagna, I prefer my pasta slightly chewy and, most importantly, recognizably simple.
My fresh tagliatelle with garlic, rucola and sundried tomatoes is my homemade rendition of an Italian classic.
FRESH TAGLIATELLE WITH GARLIC, RUCOLA AND SUNDRIED TOMATOES
Makes 4 servings.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
18 sundried tomato halves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pound fresh tagliatelle, preferably homemade (recipe below)
2 bunches rucola (aka arugula), stemmed, washed and spun dry to yield 4 cups
Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large spaghetti pot and add 2 tablespoons salt.
In a 12-inch sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until light golden brown.
Add sundried tomato pieces and wine, and remove from heat.
Drop tagliatelle into boiling water and cook until tender (about 1 minute).
Drain pasta in colander and pour into pan with sundried tomatoes. Return to heat and toss in the rucola.
Stir gently for about 30 seconds until rucola is slightly wilted and serve immediately.
Makes 1 pound.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for kneading)
5 large eggs
Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden board. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork, beat the eggs together and then begin to incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well. As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape (don't worry if it looks messy). When half of the flour is incorporated, the dough will begin to come together. Start kneading the dough, using primarily the palms of your hands. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, set it aside and scrape up and discard any dried bits of dough.
Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 10 minutes, dusting the board with additional flour as necessary. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature before using.
Roll out the pasta dough to the thinnest setting on a pasta machine. Cut the dough crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Place the tagliatelle on a sheet tray that has been dusted with semolina flour, cover with a clean dishtowel, and set aside.
(Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind twenty-four restaurants including Eataly, DelPosto, and his flagship Greenwich Village enoteca, Babbo.)