Make your own pasta

In the mid 90's I traveled to Québec City quite a bit. One night, I went to a pub in Old Québec with Luc (a friend and customer). This pub featured a unique pasta concept. They gave you a little card with a list of meats, vegetables, sauces and pasta shapes. You would check off what you wanted in YOUR pasta meal and they would create it custom. Since then, I've seen this is a few other places, especially buffet type restaurants. So I set out to replicate this at home, except that I went a bit overboard.

Make your own pasta night at our house, is simple. I cut up many different food options featuring meats, vegetables, sauces, herbs and spices. People go around the "buffet" table with a pasta bowl, and they put all the ingredients that want for THEIR pasta meal in the bowl. I also cook (ahead of time) two different pastas. For this purpose, spaghetti, linguini and other longer thin pastas are not ideal. Go with rotinis and pennes. Rotinis are great for this use, because they have all sorts of nooks and crannies that hold the sauce well. Pennes (the ones with the lines on them) hold onto flavours very well too.

So people go around choosing their ingredients and they hand their bowl over to me, so I can stir fry it (wok style, in lots of olive oil) with the nooddle of their choosing. Fun! Last time we did this, Diane counted the ingredient options. There were 27. Enough to suits everyone's taste (Classic Italian, hot, asian, fusion, California, you name it).

So there is no recipe here. Just a list of ingredient suggestions. Once you're done chopping and slicing all these glorious ingredients (get organic where you can), place them in small bowls (I need to use everything I have, even tupperware bowls) and arrange the bowls on the buffet table so to separate colours. Looks nice that way!

The only recipe part of this is, that when you stir fry the stuff, be sure to stir fry the meats, vegees, sauce and other stuff to get it cooked and really hot and THEN add the noodle of your choice. Stirring a bit more to get the noodles hot too and well blended with the other stuff. But if you put the noodles in too early, they will overcook (given that they are already cooked). Here it goes:

Possible ingredients selection for make your own pasta:

  • Mild italian sausage. Cooked and chopped in good size pieces.
  • Hot Italian sausage. 
  • Chicken breast. Cooked and chopped in lengthwise pieces.
  • Shrimps (raw). These will cook fast enough when you stir fry the meal.
  • Tofu (if you have any crazy vegetarians in your group). Cubed.
  • Tomatoes (lots). Diced. use regular tomatoes (not Roma) because these have more juice in them and will help with the stir frying later.
  • Baby spinach.
  • Carrots. Julienned and slightly cooked ahead of time.
  • Zucchini. Sliced and quartered.
  • Peppers. Sliced. Green ones, red ones, orange ones, yellow ones. Go crazy!
  • Jalapeno peppers. Finely chopped. make sure you warn people to go easy on those, unless they're macho like my son, in which case, go crazy.
  • Mushrooms. Washed touroughly and sliced.
  • Snow peas. Strung.
  • Baby bok choy.
  • Celery. Chopped.
  • Onions. Diced.
  • Green onions. Sliced.
  • Green beans.
  • Yellow beans.
  • Broccoli.
  • Avocado.
Jar and can stuff: 
  • Sliced black olives.
  • Artichokes. Quartered.
  • Hearts of palm. Sliced lengthwise.
  • Baby corn.
  • Pesto.
  • Sundried tomato pesto (president's choice makes a good one).
  • Sundried tomatoes. Cut lengthwise.
Herbs, spices and other stuff:
  • Fresh basil. Chopped. Keep a few leaves aside for your grandchild so you can get accused of having favourites.
  • Garlic. Lots and lots. Smashed and chopped.
  • Ginger. Very finely chopped.
  • Chili pepper flakes.
  • Italian herbs.
  • Toasted pine nuts (a must of Sabrina is invited).
  • Plain tomato sauce is usually all you need.
  • If people want a creamy texture, make sure to have a liter of cream next to your stir fry stations, and offer a splash. You know, that fat content really enhances everything!
  •  Pesto is written above.
On the dinner table:
  • Make sure to buy fresh Parmigiano Reggiano for this meal.
  • Goat cheese.
  • Lots of bottles of very cold san Pellegrino.
  • Limes. Quartered.
  • Fresh bread.
  • Butter.
  • Olive oil & balsamic vinegar.
  • Wine (lots). 

If it can help convince you, please see the Buy local and organic page of this site. Organic produce rocks in a big way. Try them once, and you may never go back!