Creamy Ricotta, Mint, and Garlic Pasta with Peas: In the Woods

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This particular dish, from The Camping Cookbook, is supposed to be served hot, but I thought it would make a nice cold lunch for us to eat after setting up camp on the first day.  So I ended up making all of this ahead of time, at home (which means that technically I didn’t make it in the woods).

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Start by boiling up about 150g of your favourite short pasta. The original recipe calls for ziti, but I love fusili so that’s what I used. Cook it according to the package directions, and drain it and return it to the pot when it’s ready.

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While that’s cooking, cut yourself about 1 tablespoon fresh mint and chop that up.

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Thaw about 1/2 cup frozen peas (or fresh, if you’ve got ’em). I added this element to the recipe for the sake of vitamins. Don’t want to get scurvy while camping.

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Mash up as well some roasted garlic (I roasted a few heads of this the week before and it pretty much went into everything).

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While the cooked pasta is still hot, stir in 1/3 cup ricotta cheese and 1/3 cup heavy cream (I wimped out here and used half and half).

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Add in your mint, peas, and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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We served this cold with a nice toasted garlic bread I prepared in advance: slice up a small baguette so that you have individual pieces but they’re still stuck together at the bottom.

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Chop up some fresh herbs: parsley, basil, and oregano (dried is also fine).

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Mush up some roasted garlic.

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Smush those all together with some pepper.

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Add softened (this is too softened) butter and mix.

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Insert the butter between the slices and wrap in tin foil until you’re ready to eat.

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You can toast the bread directly on your camp stove, or you can put it in an Outback Oven, or you can roast it directly over the campfire.

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Either way, it’s excellent.

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Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

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I’ve gotten into the habit of occasionally buying those hot roasted chickens from the grocery store.  They’re just so darned cheap and handy, not to mention tasty.  Last weekend, the Pie was out of town, and sometimes I forget to actually eat when he’s not around, so I bought the chicken to give me some incentive.  One leg at one meal, one leg at another, and I was set.  But I still had the body of the chicken left to deal with.  I dismantled the remainder of the carcass, including the breasts, and whipped up this quick pasta dish to greet the Pie when he came home.  He went back for seconds so I think I did a good job.

So.  Chicken.  You’ll need about 2 cups shredded chicken.

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About 1 cup ranch dressing.

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An onion, some garlic, and a head of broccoli.  Chop those up.

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Cook 4 slices bacon.

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Make them super crispy and then put them somewhere to drain.

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Start your pot of boiling water to make your pasta.  You’ll need enough noodles for four.  I used linguini.

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Grab a pot and chuck in a few tablespoons olive oil.  Add in the onions and cook until translucent and smelling fabulous.

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Then add in the broccoli and garlic and stir that as well.

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Next, add in a few pinches dry mustard and pepper and paprika (you’ll see the paprika added in a later photo but that’s because I had to wait for the Pie to pick it up from the store on his way home).

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Pour in about 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup cream, and the 1 cup ranch dressing.

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Chuck in the chicken, then cut up the bacon and chuck that in as well.

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Stir that to heat things up.  You’re not really going to want to cook this for a long time.

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Then add in a few tablespoons pesto.  And some more cream if you want it thicker.

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Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Dump the sauce over top and toss to coat.  Serve immediately, although it’s equally fantastic the next day.

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Turkey Meatball Rigatoni with Pesto

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Happy Canada Day!  Today is a holiday here in the Great White North.  Last Monday was also a holiday for those of us in Newfoundland, and I cooked this recipe up on that particular day.  We are trying to consume the contents of our pantry and freezer before we move (and we’re doing a pretty good job) so this gets rid of a chunk of the stuff in there.

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Anyway, my landlord is doing some renovations to her house, which is directly behind ours, and she needs our yard for access.  The first thing I said to the Pie when he got up and joined me in the kitchen last Monday morning was, “Oh good, you’re clothed — there’s a man in our tree.”  And there was.  And there were several in the backyard.

Morning View

And in the front yard.

Rock Collection

And in the side yard.

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And everywhere.  All.  Day.  Which made Gren very grumpy.

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And all the shops were closed so we had to make do with what was around for our dinner.  So start making up some meatballs, okay?  Preheat your oven to 375°F and grab a baking sheet. Ignore the small highway being created in your backyard.

Dirt Road

Finely grate up a medium-sized carrot.  Chuck that in a bowl.

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Slice up some green onions.

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Then dice ’em.  Chuck those in the bowl with the carrots.

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Then add a few spoonfuls minced garlic.

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Plop in 2 eggs.

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And about 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs.

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Give that a thorough stirring.

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Add in some ground turkey, seasoned with salt and pepper.

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Stir that all together, then use your hands to squish it into golf-ball-sized meatballs.

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Plop those onto your baking sheet and let those cook in the oven for 20 minutes.

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To test for doneness, cut one open and see that there’s no pink inside.

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Grab yourself some pesto, too.  However much you want.  I like lots.  You can buy it or make it yourself, it’s up to you.

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And slice up some tomatoes.  I used grape tomatoes here.

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Boil up a pot of water and cook up some pasta.  We used rigatoni, because it was something we needed to get rid of.

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Drain the pasta.  Dump the tomatoes and the meatballs into the pot with the pasta.

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Add the pesto.  Stir like there’s no tomorrow.

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Serve it up hot!

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Chicken Orzo Salad

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The Pie’s parents, Mrs. Nice and Papa John, are in town on a visit for the Pie’s graduation (B.Sc. Honours in Geography and Computer Science, booyah), so I get a good number of opportunities to cook new things that I think might appeal to them.  This one I made with Mrs. Nice in mind, and reminds me somewhat of that amazing orzo salad we had at Ferryland a few years ago.

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Prep your vegetables.  Dice up half a large red onion, 1 red pepper, and half a large cucumber (I cut out the seeds).  I also halved 250g grape tomatoes and defrosted 1 cup each frozen corn and frozen peas.

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Prep your dressing.  In a small jar (or other container with a lid), dump 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 teaspoons dried savoury (or basil, or oregano, or whatever you want), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, and 3 tablespoons vegetable oil.

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Close the lid tightly and give that a shake.  Let it sit for a while.

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Fill a large saucepan with about 4L of water and salt it generously.  Put it on to boil.  When it’s boiling, remove the lid, turn the heat down a bit, and pour in 450g orzo pasta.

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While that’s on the go, cut up about 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts into small cubes and  pitch those in a frying pan or skillet with a bit of vegetable oil.

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Sauté those until fully cooked and browned on the outside.  Remove from the heat.

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Drain your orzo and plop it in a big bowl. This bowl was not big enough.

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My peas and corn were still a little frozen so I added them to the still-hot chicken pan to let them thaw properly.

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Then I chucked in the rest of the vegetables and stirred that around.

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Then you just add your veg to your pasta.  Give that a good stir.

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Give your dressing another shake and toss that with all the rest of your salad (don’t worry about the amount — it will be absorbed into the pasta) and serve warm or cold.

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Pork Medallions in Tomatoes

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This recipe mostly started because I received this can opener from Ando and Teedz for Christmas.

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They told me that they wanted photographic proof when I figured out how to use it.

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So here you go. The instructions are a little vague, saying simply that you put it on a can and rotate it slowly.

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And if you think that there was something lost in translation, the French version says pretty much the same thing, but with more poetry. Literally, it tells you to sprinkle some poetry on it.  The accompanying diagram implies that you do something like this:

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Which of course doesn’t work. There’s just not enough leverage.

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However, if you use it like an old army (or camping) can opener, it works quite well.

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And now that I’ve gotten that 14oz can of tomatoes open, I should figure out what to do with it, eh?

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I’m so excited with the possibilities that my hands are shaking.

I also have a lovely pork tenderloin here, from which I have removed the silvery skin and excess fat.

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So I sliced it into medallions, which I seasoned with salt and pepper.

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And chopped up an onion and some (rather overgrown) garlic.

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Then I heated a bit of olive oil in a cast iron skillet and browned the medallions, setting them aside when they were fully cooked.

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Then I chucked in the onion and garlic and gave that a stir.

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Lovely and soft now. I also squeezed in some lemongrass, oregano, and basil. Sounds like an odd combination but I like the lemongrass with the tomatoes.

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Then I added the tomatoes and brought it to a simmer. Smells so good!

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For a bit of starch, I added a generous sprinkle or two of this teeny star pasta, stellette. It takes pretty much no time to cook, about 7 minutes. If you want to skip this part, you can serve the dish on a bed of rice instead.

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When the pasta was ready I chucked in the medallions to reheat.

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And that is that. A hearty, hot, and quick meal for a cold, dark, winter’s night!  How’s that for poetry?

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Snow Day Dinner: Pasta Carbonara

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As I said before, the charming Fussellette braved icy streets and our own half-assed driveway-shoveling job to make it to our house on Friday for a gluten-free extravaganza.  I decided to make pasta carbonara, not only because it’s freaking amazing, but also for another, rather peculiar reason.

Chel (she of the wedding cake), back before she married Invis, was dating this other fella who was from England.  And when she went to the UK to meet his parents, the fella’s mum made a pasta with a white sauce that Chel (who hates cheese and most things creamy) absolutely adored.  Problem is, of course, that the breakup didn’t go so well and she has since married someone else, someone who doesn’t know anything about this recipe.

So for the past year or so she has been puzzling this out.  She knew it wasn’t an alfredo, and she pooh-poohed my suggestion of a béchamel.  Last week she suggested it might be a carbonara.  Now, despite the fact that this woman is a tech genius, it didn’t occur to her to look on the internet herself and experiment with the various recipes.  Instead, she comes and asks me.  Silly girl (love you squishee!).  So it’s up to me to see if what I cobble together tastes like the heaven that SHE ate some time ago.  Also remember that she lives in Toronto, so it’s not like she can pop over for a bite.

So here goes.  I pulled inspiration from a bunch of different carbonara recipes, so I think you can be pretty flexible with your ingredients.

This is a pasta that you toss before serving, so it’s recommended that you use something like a penne, or that which is easy to stir around.  We had our fresh gluten-free linguini, so we just had to suck it up for this occasion.  This is also a recipe that you make on the fly — aside from cutting up the vegetables ahead of time, you pretty much have to do this all as you cook and then serve it immediately.

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So let’s start with what prep work we can get out of the way.

Take 12 or so slices of bacon and cut them into little bits.  You can also use pancetta or prosciutto, or any other strongly flavoured cured pork.

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Dice up an onion, a handful of mushrooms, and the florets from one head of broccoli.  You could also use zucchini, sweet peppers, any number of vegetable.  Go with what you’ve got in your fridge.  Don’t try to be too fancy.

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Finely grate up about two hefty handfuls of parmesan cheese.  Because I have tiny munchkin hands, I got the Pie to do this part (also because I hate grating cheese and I’d already skinned off part of my finger).  His hands are sizeable.  He can cover my whole face with part of one hand.

Put one handful of cheese in a pretty serving dish and put it on the table for garnish.  Take the other handful and dump it in a measuring cup with 1 cup whipping cream and 4 egg yolks.

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Give that a good stir and set it aside.

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Set a pot of slightly salted water to boil (if you’re using fresh pasta, add a few drops of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together). Cook your pasta.  You need to time it so that the vegetables are ready at the same time the noodles are.

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In a very large, deep frying pan, heat up about 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Chuck in your bacon and fry until it’s crispy.

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Chuck in the onions and stir for a few minutes until they start to become translucent.

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Then add the rest of your vegetables, and cook, stirring often, until they are all tender and bacon-flavoured. I also sprinkled on some herbes de provence for extra flavour.  Thyme or oregano would also work well.

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When you drain your pasta, reserve about half a cup of the cooking water.  Toss the pasta in with the vegetables and add a bit of the water.  Use only as much as you need to help coat the pasta with sauce.  If you like your sauce thick, add a few tablespoons.  If you like your sauce thin, add the full half cup.

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Remove the pan from the heat and pour in your cream/egg/cheese sauce.  Toss to coat the pasta and then serve immediately.

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Garnish with the extra parmesan, and go back for seconds.  Serves 4 generously.

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Snow Day Dinner: Gluten-Free Linguini

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Fussellette has recently discovered that she is a celiac and can no longer digest wheat gluten.  So now when we have her for dinner we have to take that into account, and can no longer offer the very dough-heavy meals that are traditional favourites for our Newfoundland friends.

Friday here in St. John’s was a snow day.  The whole city, including the court systems, the municipal and provincial governments, were shut down due to a sudden snow squall.  Fussellette decided to brave the winter weather, however, and made it to our house for dinner.  In honour of the weather, I decided on some form of comfort food, and in my mind that usually equals pasta.  For Fussellette, that means gluten-free pasta. This recipe makes enough for four servings.

Fortunately Sobeys has a large selection of gluten-free flours to choose from.  Just remember, however, when you’re baking with gluten-free flour, such as a rice flour, you still need a thickener, such as a starch, and a binding agent to replace the gluten.  Usually the binding agent is something called xanthan gum.

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So to make this pasta, I had to do some mixing.

In a bowl, mix 1 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 2/3 cup arrowroot starch, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 1 teaspoon fine sea salt.  Whisk that together thoroughly.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks.  Save the whites for an omlette or meringue or something.  Add in 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons water and mix again until it’s fully combined.

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Now comes the fun part.  You can simply pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl and stir, or you can do it on the counter in the old fashioned way.  Dump the dry stuff carefully out on your work surface.  Using a scraper, make a deep well in the centre.

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Carefully pour in the egg mixture.

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Using the scraper again, and your hands, start mixing the flour into the egg.  Work quickly, or your egg may form a river that will wind its way off your counter top.  The scraper, I found, is handy for cutting through the dough to make sure it mixes properly.

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It should be cohesive but not tacky. Feel free to add more flour or water if you’re not getting the right consistency. Form the finished dough into a long cylinder and cut it into four sections.

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Flatten those sections, wrap them tightly in plastic, and refrigerate them until you’re ready to make pasta.

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You have a few options in how to make your pasta.  You could roll it out by hand and then cut it into long strips, but there is so much room for error in that, especially if you are working with a gluten-free pasta that barely sticks together on its own.

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I opted to use a pasta maker.  This one here seems to be the standard one.  My parents own the same one so I know how to use it.  Most people who have a pasta maker own this one.  You can find them pretty cheap in second-hand stores.  I guess people get them as wedding presents and then never use them.  That’s where this one came from, and it had never been used before we busted it out.

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So we used our awesome machine to thin out and cut our pasta into linguini.  We were originally going to go with spaghetti but we were concerned the pasta wouldn’t hold together all that well if it were smaller.  I recommend using two people to operate a pasta maker.  It may be awkward trying to figure out whose arms go where, but it’s handy to have one person operate the crank while the other feeds the dough through the machine and pulls it out the bottom to prevent tangling.

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We laid the cut pasta out for a few hours to dry a bit, just to make sure it wouldn’t completely dissolve when we cooked it.

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To cook, add a pinch of salt and a few drops of olive oil to your water before you boil it.

Fussellette said that this pasta was better than the stuff she finds at the store, because once the gluten-free pasta is dried it is hard to cook it all the way through and she says it’s often chewy on the inside.  Because this stuff is fresh it takes only about 6 minutes to cook and you know it will be nice and tender throughout.

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Stay tuned on Wednesday to see what we did with it!