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updated: 10/17/2012 12:51 PM

Making fresh pasta makes me giddy

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  • Browned butter and sage dress up homemade sweet potato pasta. The pasta attachments for a stand-mixer make fresh noodles nearly effortless.

      Browned butter and sage dress up homemade sweet potato pasta. The pasta attachments for a stand-mixer make fresh noodles nearly effortless.
    Deborah Pankey | Staff Photographer


When I first started reading David Hagedorn's Page 1 story about making fresh pasta, it reminded me that I borrowed my mother-in-law's hand-cranked machine so my sons and I could make our own noodles. It's been sitting on a shelf in the garage for more than a year now, and while my sons haven't had the fun of making homemade spaghetti yet, I have.

I was invited to Culinary Adventures columnist Penny Kazmier's house earlier this month to be part of her monthly gourmet cooking group. I love the concept of her "Hungry Chefs" club: The hostess develops the menu and buys the ingredients and the others come with aprons on and knives in hand to prep, cook and enjoy the meal.

At Penny's fall-themed gathering we made mango chutney (see page 8) and Sweet Potato Egg Noodles, a recipe that helped get her into the finals of the 2011 Cook of the Week Challenge, which she eventually won. (Get the noodle recipe at

Another Hungry Chef newbie and I accepted the pasta challenge. The pasta attachments for a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer helped the process go a bit faster, but I have to imagine my human-powered machine works in much the same way.

Keeping the dough well-floured was key, as was making sure the machine was set to the proper gage so you could work the dough through the machine several times to achieve the desired thinness. When those first fettuccine noodles splayed out onto my hands, I was just giddy. And when I scooped them from the boiling water (they cook in mere minutes) and enjoyed them tossed with brown butter and fried sage, my grin got even bigger. It was the best pasta I'd ever tasted ... though I admit to being slighted biased.

This weekend I'm going to share that pasta making joy with my sons. Really.

Join me: I've got pasta on the brain this week, and since October is National Pasta Month who can blame me.

If you've been jonesin' for homemade pasta too, but aren't ready to take that step to make it yourself (though it really is an easy step to take) join me and Saranello's executive chef Mychael Bonner as we prepare a fall-inspired lasagna later this month at the Wheeling restaurant.

Bonner, a pasta-making master, has come up with a twist on one of my favorite Italian dishes, and I'll join him in demonstrating Butternut Squash Lasagnette from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at the restaurant, 601 N. Milwaukee Road, at the Westin.

Chef Mychael will reveal his secrets for creating this pasta-and-vegetable-layered Italian masterpiece and you'll get to enjoy a slice as part of a three-course meal (with wine) that's included with the class.

The class costs $24.95 and a portion of the proceeds from the class and from the sale of this dish (it will be featured for a limited time on the Saranello's menu) will be donated to Buehler YMCA in Palatine.

To make a reservation for the class or for lunch or dinner, call (847) 777-6878.

Best plate forward: Has our Cook of the Week Challenge encouraged you to mix things up in the kitchen? Has reading about our home cooks helped boost your culinary confidence? Then maybe you're ready to follow in Cook of the Week Challenge judge Suzy Singh's steps and try out for Fox TV's "Master Chef."

Chef Gordon Ramsay along with restaurateur Joe Bastianich and acclaimed Chicago chef Graham Elliot are looking for talented, amateur cooks in America who want to change their lives.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, Elliot and staff will be at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, 361 W. Chestnut St., Chicago, for open auditions. Applicants should bring one dish that best represents them (there will be a few minutes to plate the dish but no kitchen, so come prepared).

If you're interested, preregister at or simply show up with your dish and a smile.

Beet it: Can a vegan recipe top a meaty creation? Find out Sunday during Lemon Tree Grocer's Meat vs Beet event.

The Downers Grove specialty store, 935 W. Burlington Ave, recently started carrying several items in the Karyn's line of vegan and raw products. To launch the new products, Lemon Tree's chef Tim Canning will face off against holistic health leader Karyn Calabrese (the Karyn in Karyn's) in a culinary challenge. From 4 to 6 p.m., shoppers can sample meat and meatless dishes side-by-side. Sustainable and organic wine will available for sampling as well.

• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram @PankeysPlate.

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