I was recently prompted to write about why I cook, and it took me a good amount of introspection to answer that question. I love to cook for a lot of reasons, but I think what drives me to the kitchen most frequently is the desire to reconnect with recipes past. Making extracts, breads, hard cider, bitters, I’ve been slowly trying to make my way through old recipes I’ve found archived in vintage cookbooks and dishes that have been handed down through my family. I love the idea that someone else, many years ago, was standing in the same position, mixing the same ingredients, kneading the same type of dough in the same rhythmic motion, and enjoying the same fruits of the earth just as I’m enjoying them, right in that moment. That’s a large part of why I love delving into traditional Greek recipes, just imagining the same type of stew on the table through generation after generation brings me such a strong sense of contentment that I find it difficult to put down into words.

I never really got to know my grandparents, my Yiayia and Papou passed away in Greece when I was very small, and my Hungarian Grandmother passed away from lung cancer shortly after moving to Oregon to be closer to us when I was about 7 years old. I didn’t get to spend much time with them during their time here, but after years of hearing stories about them I feel like I know the eccentricities of each of them.

And when I make their old family recipes, I like to imagine them going through the same motions, stirring, tasting, kneading, sprinkling. I imagine them doing the same in their own kitchens, my Papou and Yiayia’s tiny rural island kitchen in Greece, and my Grandma and Grandpa’s teensy beach bungalow on the shores of Lake Michigan.

I’d heard stories about my Yiayia making hilopites from scratch, which are these insanely tiny square cut noodles, and after years of enjoying freshly made pasta from various Italian restaurants, I finally decided to try my hand at pasta-making myself. I was fairly intimidated and had somehow gotten it into my head that making pasta dough was an extremely difficult undertaking, which turned out to be entirely untrue. It’s not the making of the pasta dough that’s the hard part, it’s the shaping that can get tricky, depending on the type of pasta you’re trying to make.

I decided to make one of my favorite pastas, orecchiette, which is a noodle that is shaped by hand. I used this helpful video as a guide, and after about a dozen weirdly-shaped test circles, I was popping out disc after disc of orecchiette. I made a roasted tomato and red wine sauce to go with them and topped it with a pan-fried herbed and buttered leg of chicken. It made for an amazing meal full of complimentary flavors, one that is going to become a staple in our kitchen, and pasta-making is a skill that I certainly plan on passing down to my own children (someday).

Homemade Orecchiette With A Roasted Tomato Red Wine Sauce & Herbed Pan-Fried Chicken

Ingredients

Homemade Orecchiette Pasta

  • 1 and ½ cups semolina flour
  • 1 and ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs whisked slightly
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup water

Roasted Tomato Red Wine Sauce

  • 16 roma tomatoes cut in half with seed pulp scooped out and discarded
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup Swanson chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Pan-Fried Herbed Chicken

  • 4 chicken legs with thighs attached skin on and bone in
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon savory
  • 1 teaspoon oregano

Instructions

  1. Begin by making the orecchiette. Mix together the dry ingredients until well blended. Pour them into a mound on a large flat working surface. Make a hole in the center of the mound that is deep and wide, but with high edges so that when you pour the liquid ingredients into the hole they do not overflow and run down the sides of the mound. Pour the liquid ingredients (eggs, olive oil, water) into the hole and use a fork to gently begin whisking in the hole to slowly incorporate the dry ingredients until the mixture in the center becomes thick.
  2. Once it thickens, give it a good few whisks into the entire pile of dry ingredients and then begin kneading the mixture. Knead the mixture for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and bounces back within a couple seconds after you poke it. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 1 hour.
  3. Roll out the dough in a rectangle until it is about 3/4 inch thick. Cut it into 1-inch wide strips, and roll the strips between your palms so that they round out a bit into a rope of dough. Cut a 1-inch square from the strip. Shape the square into a sphere, and place it on your work surface. Run a butter knife’s serrated edge over the sphere while pressing down so that it curls up a bit around the knife.
  4. Take the curled sphere and invert it over the tip of your thumb to form a saucer, then set it on a wire rack to dry. This video helps give a good visual for the shaping technique; they go over it at about 8 minutes in.
  5. Repeat the process until you’ve used up all the dough. Allow the orecchiette to dry for an hour. To prepare, cook in boiled water for 10-15 minutes or until softened and cooked through. Any orecchiette that you are not going to immediately prepare will keep for a long time if kept in a sealed bag or jar in the freezer.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay the tomato halves on a baking sheet and drizzle and rub them with the olive oil, then sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven for 1 hour, then reduce the oven’s temperature to 300 and roast for an additional 30 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool until warm enough to handle.
  7. Place the roasted tomato halves in a blender with the remaining ingredients and blend until a puree has formed. Pour the sauce into a medium-sized saucepan and keep warm over the lowest heat setting on the stovetop, stirring every 10 minutes, until heated through, then serve over pasta.
  8. In a small bowl mix together all of the herbs and spices until blended. Rub down the chicken legs with the olive oil, and then rub them down with the spice mixture. Set aside. In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the chicken legs, two at a time, and lower the heat to medium. Pan fry them until they’re cooked through, about 10-13 minutes on each side. If the chicken begins to stick to the pan, add another tablespoon of butter to the pan. Remove them from the pan when their juices run clear. Serve immediately over the plated pasta and tomato sauce.

This is a collaboration between Campbells’ and the AOL Lifestyle Contributor Network. Compensation was provided by Campbell’s via AOL Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Campbell’s.

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