Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Springtime Pasta-bilities

We've had our fair share of sun - and rain - lately. The adage April showers bring May flowers is certainly true, but our March showers have brought us a bounty of blooms, as well.

Magnolia trees are flowering everywhere!

Their delicate pink petals cover the ground beneath the trees. It's so peaceful and almost otherworldly.

Also common in our area are flowering Bradford Pear trees. Even though the blossom smell is a little unpleasant, the masses of tiny white flowers make up for it in spades.

One with a nice smell and clusters of beautiful blossoms is the quince shrub. I've seen these growing wild and also tamed into sculpted bushes, and both look quite nice. A few of these flowering branches in water would make an amazing bouquet!

Of course, one of the most popular trees around here is the redbud. These little flowers are going to pop open any second!

All of the trees are flowering. They make our springtime walks so enjoyable!

Closer to home, we've got real progress. Our viburnum bushes will be in bloom any day, and they have a wonderful smell. The blossoms are tiny and pink - really lovely.

The squirrels have eaten most of our peony bushes, but a few in the front yard survived. This unlikely stalk will be a full-grown bush within a month! Peonies are one of my very favorite flowers and make an amazing - and effortless - bouquet.

Our tulip petals are just starting to open up. We just have a small patch of tulips this year...we're saving our stash of bulbs for our next home!

One of my favorites - the violet - is out. When the grass dries, I'll pick many of these to press and dry for cards in the summer and ice bowls in the winter.

It's almost like we have a violet carpet right now!

Of course, there's the plant whose identity is an absolute mystery. It's a perennial, and it grows about 2 feet tall in the summer. Does anyone have a guess? I absolutely love lime green plants. I have some lime green zinnia seeds that I'm planning on planting this year - I can't wait!

We've had some other surprises popping up lately. Last week I saw not one, but two cats in our pine tree! This is Sylvia...

...and this is Octavio. I don't know who they belong to, if anyone, but I set out some food for them and hope that they stay safe!

My snapdragon seedlings have been growing like crazy. I've told myself over and over that it's perfectly normal - and necessary - to thin them out, but I really don't like throwing any away.

Despite my best efforts to be stern with myself, I ended up repotting about 20 seedlings. If all grow well, we're going to have a snapdragon forest in our back yard!

I tried something new in the kitchen recently. Now, it's no secret around here that I'm coveting the KitchenAid pasta attachment set...the roller, the slicer, and the ravioli stamp. It's also no secret that my husband is ultimately sensible, and said that it sounded like something that we could invest in, but later this year. For some reason, he didn't see the urgency. Sigh...so sensible! I really want the set, so I was a little dismayed to discover how easy it was to make pasta...by hand.

I decided on the spur of the moment to make tortellini a few weeks ago...a little over an hour before supper. I did a little research and saw that most basic pasta recipes are fairly similar.

Basic Pasta

3 cups flour
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
water as needed

Combine your dry ingredients and create a "well" in the center. Add eggs and mix until combined.

Your dough will be really dry, so once the eggs are fully incorporated, add the olive oil and continue to mix. If your dough still seems dry, add a bit of water until you've reached the consistency you want: not sticky or tacky, but not dry, either.

Let your dough rest for 20 minutes under a towel to keep it from drying out. Once it's rested, pull off a portion of the dough, leaving the rest covered. Generously flour your work surface and get your rolling pin out. Roll, roll, roll your dough until it achieves a paper-thin state. It should be nearly translucent. I wanted to tell Todd that this took an hour, but honestly, it just took a few minutes. Although, I should point out that the KitchenAid attachment would've been even quicker! ;)

Once it's rolled out, use a cookie cutter to cut out circles for your tortellini. Quick and easy! Once you've cut up your dough, pull out another piece from the main ball and repeat until all dough is cut. Be sure to keep a towel over your dough circles...they dry out really easily!

Next, choose your filling. I was in a hurry, so I quickly defrosted some spinach and added a pinch of spinach and cheese to the center of each circle.

Wet your finger with a little water and run it along the inside edge of one side of the circle. Then, fold the circle over and press the edges to seal.

To make the classic tortellini shape, just wrap that piece of dough around your finger and seal the edges. Set your sealed tortellini on a plate to dry.

I've heard that pasta should be dried before being cooked. I let my tortellini sit out for about 15 minutes, and that worked out well. Really, your first group of tortellini will be ready to boil by the time you've finished sealing and wrapping your last group.

Then, just boil in salted water for 5 minutes and...you're done. YUM!!

Honestly, I can't believe how easy it is to make homemade pasta, and I know I'll be doing it again soon, KitchenAid or no KitchenAid. Todd couldn't believe how tasty it was...he said that it was the best pasta he'd ever had! And this recipe makes a LOT of tortellini...about a pound. We had a few meals of tortellini with pasta sauce, and then I made a huge vat of spring vegetable soup with the remainder of the tortellini.

You should give it a try...all you need is a little elbow grease and a free hour. You'll be rewarded with an unbelievably tender and flavorful meal.

Good luck!


  1. The tortellini really was amazing!


  2. Anything for you, my dear! :)

  3. Mmmmm... that pasta looks delicious!

    Those kitties sure are adorable. I'm not normally a cat person, but I do worry about the little critters... I hope someone out there is looking for them at the end of the day. It's nice of you to be looking out for them!

  4. I know...they're so cute! They may belong to our neighbors...I've seen them in their yard. We always try to look out for 'the locals' here! :)