The biggest benefit of eating locally this month is that it’s brought our family closer together in so many different ways. The kids love helping in the garden, as well as in the kitchen. But when their interest inevitably runs out, my husband and I are left to continue the work together. Cooking together in the kitchen is a little less messy, and a whole lot more romantic, than working up a sweat in the garden, so using ingredients we’ve grown or searched out together from local farmers has quickly become our date night of choice.
Before we left for our recent camping trip, I harvested a basket full of Roma tomatoes from the garden and left them to ripen in a window while we were away. The day we got home, I went out and picked a half basketful more. We also harvested quite a bit of basil and oregano. We’re pasta lovers, so it was obvious what we needed to do with these blessings from the garden. It was time to make marinara.
We made the simple sauce with the fresh ingredients from our own backyard, as well as with garlic from a local farm, and pantry staples — olive oil, salt, and pepper. We started by boiling the tomatoes, followed by a quick ice bath so we could more easily peel them (pro tip: cut small X’s in the tops of the tomatoes before you boil them so the skins come off easier). We also removed as many seeds as possible from inside the fruit before processing the tomatoes in a blender. After sautéing the garlic and oil, we added in the basil and oregano until fragrant, and then put all the ingredients into the slow cooker. By morning, the house smelled amazing.
While making the tomato sauce was fun, it was more of a messy and tedious job than what I’d typically think of as a date night. But, I found a simple recipe for homemade ravioli, which fit the bill perfectly. We sent the kids off to play in their play room and had a lot of fun learning to make our own pasta together. Mitch focused on preparing the filling (we decided on the sausage option because we had the ingredients — it did not disappoint!) and I kneaded the dough. We doubled the amount of warm water that the recipe called for in the dough, so don’t be afraid to add a little extra if it’s not coming together for you.
After covering the dough and letting it rest for fifteen minutes, we sliced it in half and began rolling the dough with a standard rolling pin on a floured surface. This is where we put our heads together and deviated from the recipe. Instead of placing the filling onto the flattened dough and cutting later, we used the Pampered Chef rolling cookie cutter (we thought about using the heart-shaped head, but settled on the fluted square instead). It cut out perfectly sized squares that added a cuteness factor to the pasta. After placing the filling on one square, we’d place a second square over the top and crimp the edges together with a fork before setting aside to dry for one hour.
All that was left to do after they dried was boil them for ten to twelve minutes, transfer into the crockpot with the marinara, and serve with some crumbled cheese. This delicious meal was perfect for a date night in and our kids absolutely loved helping us eat in. In fact, our four-year-old told us “this has excellent flavor” at least six times and our two-year-old licked her plate clean. Best of all, the entire family had helped grow many of the ingredients all summer long. Leave your favorite local recipes that make a great date night in the comments!