Italian Cheeseburgers with Homemade Pasta and Cheese

I’m back from New York with a rekindled enthusiasm for home cookin’. Not only did I eat at a lot of delicious New York restaurants, I also cooked several meals for my family, including pork chops with an improvised honey vinaigrette reduction and chicken cacciatore.

Also, my best friend Kelly just moved home and this was our first full day of hanging out in seven months. After we planted flowers and gardened outside, we decided to make a homemade Italian meal. For inspiration, we turned to the famous Marcella Hazan and her Classic Italian Cooking book.

We made her Italian hamburger recipe and paired it with her homemade macaroni instructions. The burgers were so juicy and flavorful, the lack of bun was completely forgotten, although you do need a knife and fork to easily eat it.

Making our own macaroni was truly satisfying and with two people working it went by more quickly than expected. We spent about an hour preparing the meal.

Serves 6

Ingredients for the burgers:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1.5 pounds ground beef
1 piece of white bread
3 tbs milk
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cups breadcrumbs
one ball fresh mozzarella cheese
one can of whole peeled tomatoes

Ingredients for the pasta and cheese:
2.25 cups white flour
3 eggs
2 tbs water
1 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
2 tbs. milk
1 tbs. butter
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. To make the pasta dough, put flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Whisk the eggs and add them to the well. With a fork incorporate the eggs with the flour. When it’s getting doughy, use your hands to knead it. If it’s too dry, add a bit of water. Use the pasta press on the biggest setting to knead the dough after this. Fold the dough in half before running it through. Do this eight times. Then make the setting thinner and run dough through once. Do this till the dough goes through the “6” setting.

Lay the dough strip on a cutting board and cut it into 1.5-inch squares. A good measure is your index finger at the middle knuckle to the tip of the finger.

Now comes the fun part. Use a clean large comb and place a pasta square on top of it with the top corner facing perpendicular to the teeth of the comb. Place a wooden chopstick on the bottom corner of the square and roll the dough onto the chopstick, while lightly pressing onto the comb. This will make a penne pasta shape with grooves. It’s really satisfying! Place each piece of pasta onto a floured baking sheet.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, place the 3 tablespoons of milk in a bowl. Cut off the crusts of the bread and add the bread to the milk. Let it soak up all the milk and then mash it up with a fork. Place the ground beef in a bowl and add the milk bread, salt and one egg. Mix thoroughly with your hands and form into 6 thick patties.

Pour the bread crumbs into a pie plate and coat each side of the burger with the crumbs. I used Italian bread crumbs for extra pizzazz.

Heat a large skillet with the vegetable oil over high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the patties and cook four minutes on each side. Turn down the heat if it looks like it’s burning. Place patties in a greased casserole dish.

Open and drain the can of tomatoes. Flatten open each tomato and remove the seeds. Pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the mozzarella into six thick slices. Top each patty with a tomato and a slice of mozzarella.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on how you prefer the doneness of your  burger.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water. Stir occasionally and when the pasta water has returned to a boil, just cook it for 30 seconds more. Test for doneness. It should have a bite to it, but not feel too undercooked.

Drain and place pasta in a serving bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons milk and 1 tablespoon butter and stir. Stir in the cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

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