Fresh Pasta

I’ve been making fresh pasta on and off for about two years now. It’s been a long, steep learning curve with a lot of lumpy, feathery or overly-elastic balls of dough destined for the trash bin. Many weekends I would despair that the process is too arcane to be learned from a book and that the tactile magic required to make it like some Piedmontese nona would require a bankrupting trip to the motherland, or at the very least a couple of weeks worth of classes.

But I kept at it, spurred on by the near-pornographic descriptions of fresh pasta making and eating found in audiobooks like Bill Buford’s Heat and Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding. Little by little I got better, mostly by scaling back my efforts to just the simplest recipes and easiest shapes and focusing on my technique, checking at every stage to make sure the texture of my dough matched the descriptions I would read in The Pasta Bible or the fantastic Cooking By Hand by Paul Bertolli.

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Il Falcone (Courteany, BC)

Via: https://www.ilfalcone.ca/

I recently sat down with farmer, philosopher and garlic guru Brent Garstin at his bucolic Comox Valley farm for a secret project that hopefully I’ll be able to share in a bit. Brent dropped all kinds of knowledge on me, including where to get some of his award-winning garlic to eat.

Crystal was then gracious enough to pick me up from the middle of nowhere so I treated us to dinner at the restaurant Brent suggested. Neither of us had ever eaten there, but I had high hopes after Brent said, “they do things there the right way, authentic… People that I trust say it’s the best in town.”

Those people were right.

Located at the end of the main drag in Courtenay and easily spotted thanks to its copious grape vines and nearly-neon orange paint job is Il Falcone. We arrived around six and scored a couple of seats in their small dining room just before the dinner rush hit. On the way by I peeked in the open kitchen and saw a guy laying out sheet after sheet of fresh pasta and knew we’d made the right choice.

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Spot Prawn Tortelloni

My parents are coming from Ontario to visit so we’ve been busy this week cleaning up the yard, trimming back the encroaching  forest and sowing the last crop from the garden so when they arrive they’ll have a place to lounge in the sun and something to snack on. I intend to do quite a bit of grilling for them, but not every meal. Here and there I’ve packed away freezer bags full of pre-made nibblets for the nights when we’ve had a bit too much adventure.

One of these instant meals includes a heaping helping of our local Spot Prawns, which I’ve still got frozen in water-filled bags from back in June. I mentioned that spot prawn makes a fine stuffing for dumplings of all shapes ‘n sizes and that goes for stuffed pastas as well!

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Tagliatelle with Duck Confit, Toasted Walnuts and Spring Vegetables

Pasta with Duck ConfitThe last damp ghosts of winter have been exorcised by this weekend’s sunshine, and everyone (myself included) have been out in their gardens preparing for a beautiful and bountiful spring. I have dirt under my nails, scratches all over my arms, a slight buzz from sunstroke and a mid-afternoon beer. I could not possibly be happier.

In my enthusiasm to “get ‘er done”, I’ve left dinner far too late. But, never fear! I’ve got all that Duck Confit in the fridge, and plenty of slightly scrumpy vegetables to sing back-up. I’ve got a pasta recipe that I conceived of last year that is so easy to throw together, and so freaking satisfying that I just have to bust it out. It’ll be the cherry on my perfect day parfait. (more…)

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