home made orecchiette al sugo di pomodori gialli

to be happy is a good thing. if happiness is your goal, then it sure doesn’t hurt to be an optimist and to learn to think positive (i’ve had to learn). duh, it’s often such hard work to be happy, non? sometimes i downright rebel against the thought to wake up to a day full of trying to be happy. it’s exhausting. but it can be just as exhausting – if not even more so – to be blue. i assure you, i’ve been there. i don’t like the look blue gives me, wrinkly and worried and gray. it’s not a darling look. especially pointless when there is no imminent, particular reason for being blue. just a waste of the day, really. so, often times, i’ll end up with the determination to live towards happiness, come what may, and all doubts and worries aside. here are a couple of happy thoughts, a list of the best things in the world, so to say, that help me transcend in the general direction of good humoured, blissful, pink cloudy, candy cotton happiness (and we all know the world needs more of this). alas, the happy list, exclusively for you, my friends.

the happy list – things the world needs more of…

pink peonies
long, tight hugs
crisp hotel bed sheets
hot bubble baths with scented oils (when from a decadent label, the effect is double)
weekend (girls’) nights in
a good cocktail (not to sweet, not too sour or bitter, definitely not creamy)
the blank pages of a brand new notebook
a handwritten note or letter in the mail (i tear them open with vigour)
a day at the beach (being sun kissed gives you that sexy feeling)
firsts (first kisses, learning something new, a new city…)

those are the things daydreams are made of. when something goes wrong, i let my mind languidly linger on these thoughts – and i can’t help but smile, eventually. it’s magic, if you believe in it. others call it the power of self-fulfilling prophecies. either way, we take that happy smile anyday, right?
also, home made pasta (any kind) is something that lifts my spirit, immensely, like, always, without fail. i don’t get it how people can cut pasta out of their lives? honestly, ‘i just really prefer plain vegs to pasta’ – said no-one ever! seriously, such jolly crap. try making your own, put all the love in the process, and see for yourself that pasta is a good thing. it’s bound to make you happy, fill you with warmth and make you so satisfied. hardly anything can compete with it. add a home made passata / sugo – and you’re in food heaven.

home made orecchiette al sugo di pomodori gialli
home made orecchiette pasta with yellow tomato sauce
for the home made orecchiette
recipe adapted from macella hazan
1 cup semolina flour, the yellow flour from hard wheat, ground very fine
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
up to1 cup of lukewarm water

combine the semolina, flour and salt in a bowl. create a well in the center. add a few tablespoons of water at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon (or your fingers, ahem) to incorporate the flour until the flour has absorbed as much water as it can. don’t make it too sticky! remove the dough from the bowl, place it on a floured work surface. knead it thoroughly with your palm (really, there is a whole bible about the technique of pasta dough kneading… but don’t worry, you can’t really mess it up! just go for it and invest your biceps) for at least (this, however, is important) 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic (bingo!). wrap in plastic and let rest at least 15 minutes.

take half the dough (leaving the other half in plastic) and roll the ball into a long, thin “worm”, about 1cm in thickness. with a sharp knife, slice into very thin disks. place the disk in the palm of one hand, place the thumb of your other hand in the center of the disk, pressing and twisting your thumb, to create a little ear or cup-like shape. tepeat with the remaining dough, placing the orecchiette (which, btw. means ‘little ears’, cute, huh?) on a clean kitchen towel in the meantime.

note: you might want to consume them immediately. or you might find you made a whole lot of orecchiette and that there are plenty to store for later. so if you are not using them right away, spread them out onto the kitchen towel and leave to dry for 24 hours (at least). you can then store them in an airtight container in the fridge for a long time. 

when cooking them, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. taste the pasta after a few minutes for doneness (fresh pasta cooks a lot faster than dried pasta, i found… rough times: fresh pasta takes about 4 minutes, completely dried one about 13-15 minutes, depending on size). drain, and make sure you spare some of the cooking water to pour over the pasta again later or mix with the sugo, as it adds creaminess and prevents the pasta from sticking together in the pot.
for the passata di pomodori gialli
1 kg (good) yellow (of course you can also use any other color) tomatoes
1 cup (or more) basil leaves
1 tsp. good salt
1 generous pinch sugar
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove – if you want to eat the passata right away
more basil
pecorino cheese
sterilized jars – for storing the passata
directions for the passata:
it’s a fact that many people don’t know what passata is, therefore a tiny excursus. passata is actually more or less just pure tomatoes, cooked only for a short amount of time, ‘passed’ through a passe-vite (i.e. pureed or what’s the word? mashed?) and stored in sterile jars. voilà. you then turn the passata (aka raw tomato sauce base) in a sugo whenever you feel like it. i confess, thought, that i started to prefer my sugo pure and simple, i.e. just in the state of a basic passata. that means i include a little salt, a little sugar, maayyyyybeee a garlic clove, definitely lots of basil – and not much more. that’s good to go on pasta, fruity, flavorful, without overpowering the bite and texture and goodness of the pasta. add a bit of pecorino (for saltiness and ooomph) and you won’t ever miss a heavily spiced sugo again, promise. 
start by cleaning the tomatoes and cutting them in half. remove the juice and seeds (you can omit this step, but i feel it adds more creaminess to the sauce if you do). squash with your hands or a knive a little, then put in a large, steep saucepan. add some olive oil, sugar and salt. bring to a boil and stir often. the tomatoes will fall apart entirely and turn into a sauce after like 10 to 15 minutes. then pour through a passe-vite (i.e. mash) – the skins will remain in the sieve-like device, which is good. discard them. if you want to store the passata, sterilize a couple of jars in hot boiling water. place the cleaned, entire basil leaves in the jars. pour the hot tomato passata in the jars over the basil. seal immediately. now to sterilize them and make them last heat a large pot of water and completely submerge the jars (standing upright) in water. let sit in the boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. tip: you can wrap a kitchen towl around the jars for cooking, so that the glass doesn’t get broken through the action in the pot. turn off heat and let the jars cool down in the water before removing. check lids for closedness (?) and store the passata in a dry, dark place for up to 6 months. 
now… if you want to turn it into a proper sugo (pasta sauce), then you can add an onion, a garlic clove, some pepper, a bay leaf, some more basil… etc. but i find that the better the tomatoes are, the better the passata turns out to be, and that i can resist to add more stuff. i like some things pure and simple. so i usually just heat the passata up in a little more olive oil, add a clove of crushed garlic and maybe some fresh basil. a liiiiittle more salt if you must, but this is a fruity pleasure, really. and you’re done!

by the way… for the committed readers: remember this quest i was on? well, it was that cacio cheese i was looking for, especially for this orecchiette dinner… it was a hassle – but also so totally worth it. here you see it in all it’s glory. 

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