Christmas Eve dinner at our house always involves what my number two daughter refers to as “The Noodle Cranker.”
It’s a pasta maker my husband and I bought years ago when we had hours to lazily turn the handle, lingering over each other’s witty anecdotes while sipping wine and anticipating a calm and leisurely meal. Now it only comes out on Christmas Eve. I followed Giada De Laurentiis’ pasta recipe but something went soggily awry. I did use part whole wheat pastry flour and I know that wasn’t wise but I just can’t bring myself to make pasta with cake flour and all-purpose flour – what about our blood sugar levels? Giada is a demi-goddess who doesn’t concern herself with mortal woes like glycemic indices. I love Giada, don’t get me wrong. Though unlike my husband, I manage to stay focused on her cooking.
I have had good luck with many of her recipes in the past and I should have known better than to be switching out ingredients. As always, I could not help myself; Christmas is like any other day, in that regard. The sodden, un-noodly slop we ended up with would have been disheartening for my children but they were tightly focused on boxes from my in-laws that were the dimensions of American Girl dolls. As my husband and I made some dried pasta, I recalled that this isn’t the first year I resorted to plan B. Every year we experience it anew as we enact the noodle cranker ritual, complete with the last minute miracle of finding a box of pasta tucked away in the cupboard, ready to fulfill our Christmas dreams.
At least my marinara was good.
No-Fail Marinara I Can Make in My Sleep
Saute a finely chopped onion (I prefer yellow onions due to their relative mildness) and two minced garlic cloves in olive oil with a dash of salt. Once the onions are translucent, pour in two 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (I used diced and whole this time). Fire-roasted tomatoes can be a pleasing change here, if you like a smoky flavor. Bring it up to a gentle bowl then reduce to simmer. Add some basil (I didn’t have fresh but I froze some whole leaves in the fall and they worked well), about 1/4 cup of red wine, or perhaps an 1/8 of a cup of vermouth, and allow to simmer. I made it before church, left it covered and on low where it cooked gently for an hour while we were away. Though I don’t think I am supposed to recommend this or I will be hearing stories about someone whose cat fell in. Even a box of fusilli can’t salvage that kitchen mishap. If you do leave your pot untended, see that the lid is secure. Oh, and I said I can make it in my sleep but that’s another thing not to try.
Merry Christmas, Blessed Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year.