Tag Archives: fresh pasta

Veal & mortadella agnolotti

24 Apr

Most of the homemade mortadella we made around the holidays got sliced up (nice and thin!) and eaten as-is. But not all of it.

The stuff makes a fine ingredient for a pasta filling, you know. And this filling is the best to come out of our recent batch of mortadella.

Of course, you don’t have to make your own mortadella to put these agnolotti together. Just go out and buy some of the stuff and get to work.

Now.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in around a tablespoon of olive oil.

Add 1 pound ground veal.

Once the veal has browned a bit add 1/3 cup or so of either white wine or vermouth and turn up the heat.

Allow the wine to evaporate, then turn off the heat and let the veal cool a bit.

Dice 1/4 pound of mortadella (makes no difference if you use a hunk or slices).

In a food processor add the veal, mortadella, 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and one egg, then process until completely blended.

Taste and adjust seasoning as you like. (You could add more cheese, or a little salt, perhaps a dash of nutmeg.)

Instead of using a pastry bag I always put my pasta fillings in a strong plastic bag that can be thrown away after I’m finished. (Of course, you’ll need to cut the tip off in order to allow the filling to be squeezed out.)

Roll out your pasta dough on the thin side and around 3 or 4 inches wides.

If your dough is very moist you can skip this step; otherwise brush a little egg wash along the far edge before rolling the dough around the filling.

Use your finger to press down and form the individual agnolotti (I made these on the longish side, but smaller works great too).

This is basically what it will look like once you’ve worked your way along the entire roll.

All that’s left to do now is cut the individual agnolotti.

I boiled and served these in freshly made chicken broth (or brodo) and topped the agnolotti with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and freshly ground black pepper. The reason I chose to go with a classic and simple brodo is so that the veal and mortadella filling can really stand out.

And it did.

Which is a very good thing.

Hand-cut pappardelle

1 Jun

They only look special.

Fact is, there isn’t all that much to making really nice pappardelle. All you need is a good pasta dough and a little patience. To wit…

Most fresh pasta recipes call for all-purpose flour, which I’m sure is just fine, but I’ve been using “00” flour for a long time and it’s always worked well for me.

There’s nothing wrong with using regular supermarket eggs either. But when making pasta I always use the freshest eggs I can get my hands on. These are from a farm just a few miles from my house.

Tools? You’ll need a fork and a pastry cutter.

Okay, now find yourself a surface that gives you room to work without feeling cramped. I just use the stone countertop in my kitchen but a big cutting board will do just fine. Take 3 cups of flour and, using your fingers, create a well in the center.

Add three whole eggs, three egg yolks, plus around three-quarters of a teaspoon of kosher salt.

Then add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil.

Use the fork to mix it all together.

Using your fork, slowly incorporate the flour into the egg mix. Don’t rush it; just gradually, and in a circular motion, bring the flour into the egg a little at a time.

When a dough just starts to form put away the fork and grab the pastry cutter.

Using the cutter gradually incorporate the remaining flour into the wet mix. There’s no need to be delicate about this. Just scrape the flour in from the sides and cut it right in.

At this stage you’re ready to work the dough with your hands.

Pasta dough isn’t like pastry dough and so you don’t need to worry about being delicate with it. Just keep working it until the egg and flour are fully incorporated.

Whe a nice dough ball forms scrape away any remaining flour from your work surface with the pastry cutter. On the clean surface keep working the dough until it’s nice and smooth. If the dough feels too wet dust the surface with a little flour and incorporate it into the dough ball. The dough shouldn’t feel sticky when you touch it, but it shouldn’t be dry either. Again, don’t worry about being delicate. You could work pasta dough all night long and not mess it up.

When you’re through working the dough wrap it in a plastic bag and let it rest. Most people allow the dough to sit at room temperature for a few hours before making their pasta, which is fine. However, I prefer to make my dough a whole day in advance and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

I also take the bag out a couple times and massage the dough while it’s in the plastic bag, even flattening it down. I do this because the dough becomes smoother and silkier, as it allows the humidity to become more evenly distributed throughout the dough. The next day I make sure to take the dough out of the fridge and let it to come up to room temperature before making my pasta.

I’ve got a restaurant-grade electric pasta machine and so the sheets I produce can be pretty nice. But don’t let that intimidate you. A sheet of pasta is a sheet of pasta. As long as the dough is made well you’ll be in good shape, no matter what machine you use. Sometimes I don’t even use a machine, opting for hand-rolling instead. As for thickness with pappardelle, I run the sheets just under the No. 2 setting on my pasta maker. This will make for a slightly thick noodle, so adjust as you like.

No matter which rolling method you use, the idea is to wind up with pasta sheets like this. The sheets don’t come out of the machine looking this perfect; just square the edges using a cutter or a knife. The length of the sheet should be as long as you’d like the noodle to be. This sheet is around 9 inches long.

Roll the sheet like so, but make sure to do it very gently.

Then take a very sharp knife and cut the roll into pieces the width of the noodle you want. These are a little under an inch wide.

Once the entire roll is cut immediately unroll each individual noodle and place on a pan or baking sheet covered with course semolina flour.

The pappardelle can rest this way until you’re ready to cook them. Cooking time will vary depending on how thick you’ve rolled out the sheets, but these only took 2 minutes.

See? Nothing to it!

How to make potato ravioli

19 Apr

They only look like the ones your mother used to make.

Far from it, actually. These ravioli are filled with potato, not ricotta. The only cheese inside is a little grated Reggiano, and that’s for flavor, not texture.

I know what you’re thinking: Must be pretty heavy. Like pierogi maybe. Cannonball type stuff, right?

Nope. These are pretty light as ravioli go, so long as you treat the filling just right.

Start with around 2 pounds of Russett potatoes. With a fork pierce the skin in several places and bake until the flesh is thoroughly softened. It’s totally cool to microwave the potatoes instead; after all, we’ll only be using the flesh, not the skins. Just don’t boil the potatoes, okay. Far as I’m concerned that always makes for a heavier filling.

Once the potatoes are baked allow them to cool just enough so that you can work with them without burning your fingers. Remove the skins and run the potatoes through a ricer and into a mixing bowl.

Mix in one egg, three tablespoons melted butter, 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a dash of nutmeg, salt (don’t be shy here, okay) and pepper to taste, and enough milk to moisten the potatoes. I’d start with 1/4 cup and add from there as needed; the idea is to achieve a nice and smooth filling, but not a runny one.

For good measure stir in some extra virgin olive oil, at which point the filling should be good to go. Taste it and adjust as you see fit. You can now get right to work on making the ravioli, or refrigerate the filling until you’re ready. It will last in the fridge a few days.

All that’s left to do now is put the ravioli together (here’s my fresh pasta dough recipe in case you need one). These pasta sheets are very thin, rolled out to the 1.5 setting on my pasta machine, which ranges from 1-10, thinnest to thickest. You can see that the filling is creamy without being runny; that’s the consistency you’re looking for.

To keep the ravioli from having air pockets carefully lay down the top pasta sheet with that in mind. I always begin at one end and slowly roll the top sheet down over each dollop of filling. To me that works better than lowering the entire top sheet down onto the bottom sheet at once.

One at a time start to form the ravioli; again, being careful to allow all of the air to escape.

This is how things should look. It’s not the end of the world if a little air is left inside the ravioli; just do your best to keep it to a minimum.

All that’s left to do now is get out your pasta cutter and cut the ravioli. As I said, the dough is thin and delicate. When you boil the ravioli (in very well-salted water, of course) they should only take around 3 minutes.

The great thing about this filling is that it goes great with most any kind of sauce you can conjure. This is a really simple sauce that I made here. I just sauteed some garlic and a little hot pepper in olive oil, then added lots of sweet butter, white wine and chopped parsely. In a couple minutes enough of the wine had reduced so that the flavor was just right. Easy peasey.

Then again, I have some leftover filling from the other night and I’ll be making a small batch of the ravioli for dinner tonight. This time it’ll be a Bolognese sauce, I think.

Which is a lot more like what mom might have made.

Poof, you’re a pasta!

3 Jan

The feeling around here is that I have never met an ingredient—a solid one, a liquid, or any other kind—that I would not somehow, some way fit—or, if necessary, force—into a pasta recipe. Take this butternut squash. It was supposed to be a side dish for another cook’s menu, but when the woman wasn’t watching (okay, it was 5 a.m. and she was still asleep in the bed that we share) I absconded with said squash and prayed for a not too harsh punishment.

A lying, cheating, conniving man does what a lying, cheating, conniving man must do.

Lop the top off, cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven, preheated to 400 degrees F. (Do this as quietly as possible, lest you cause another in the house to prematurely awaken.)

As the squash is roasting dice a medium-size red onion very finely and saute in 4 tablespoons butter until the onion is softened. Do this on a low flame and slowly so that the onion and the butter do not burn. (Smells emanating from the kitchen have been known to move even the deepest of sleepers to rise. You’re on your own here. Risk is an essential component to a full life.)

Start checking the squash for doneness at around 30 minutes. The flesh should be soft enough for a fork to go through easily. This squash roasted for around 50 minutes. Allow to cool then scoop out all the flesh and discard the skin.

In a food processor put the squash, the onion (including the butter it cooked in), 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, a good dose of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Process for around 30 seconds or so, or until you can get a sense of how moist the mixture is going to be.

Start adding a little cream and continue processing. The idea here is to make a nice rich filling but not a wet and runny one. I added the cream in a couple stages and wound up using around 1/4 cup.

Here’s the filling when it’s done. It’s about the consistency of a very moist ricotta. (If you are wondering, the answer is No, the food-processing stage did not awaken my beloved.)

At this point the pasta shape is up to you. I’d first thought about making ravioli but decided to go with cappelletti (little hats) instead.

Like so…

… and like so…

… and, well, you get the idea.

I decided to serve the cappelletti en brodo,  or simply in broth. There was a lot of turkey broth in the freezer from Thanksgiving and so I boiled and served the pasta in that. I also topped each serving with some crisp chunks of cooked homemade pancetta and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

It was only at this point that I knew I had been forgiven.

Beet ravioli with poppy seeds

17 Feb

Don’t let the crappy picture fool you. These were some of the best ravioli I’ve had in a while. The reason the picture sucks is, well, I made the things on Valentine’s Day, see. Lots of great wines were sampled prior to eating time and so I was not, shall we say, in a mood to responsibly handle a camera. I managed to freeze a few ravioli and shoot the following day, but during boiling they did not hold up so well.

What are you gonna do!
Casunziei, as these ravioli are known, are normally made in a half-moon shape, but as you can see I went in another direction. The beet and ricotta filling is a nice combo, but it’s really the butter sauce and poppy seeds that make this dish really special. The first time I had casunziei was many years ago, at Al Di La in Brooklyn. It’s their signature dish. If you’re ever around you must give it a try (their Trippa alla Toscana too, but that’s another story entirely).
Anyhow, other than the part about making your own pasta dough, and of course being comfortable filling and shaping ravioli, these casunziei are super easy.

It all starts with the beets, and I scored one large enough to handle the whole pasta course. Roast it in aluminum foil until done; when cooled peel off the skin.

There’s a lot of moisture inside a beet, and it’s best to get rid of it. Most recipes call for running the beets lightly through a food processor but I just used my hands over a colander.

I even used a paper towel to make sure the beets wouldn’t be wet.

This turned out to be around a cup’s worth of beets. In a bowl I added the beets, 1/2 pound of ricotta, a scant 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt and pepper to taste. Most recipes call for the addition of eggs here, but I went without.

Then just mix it up, like so.

If you’re a pasta maker then you know the drill. If you aren’t, just do it. It’s not as difficult as it looks.

What’s the worst that could happen?

They could wind up looking like this, or maybe they won’t. You’ll never know unless you try.

Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid. — Goethe

Saucing these things could not be simpler. Just melt a lot of butter in a large pan that can accommodate the ravioli you’re making. When the ravioli are done boiling scoop them out of the water and add them to the pan, along with enough (well-salted) pasta water to keep things moist. Grate some more Reggiano over the ravioli and sprinkle a good amount of poppy seeds over them too. You can add a little more cheese and poppy seeds once you’ve plated.

And that is that.

Ravioli al uova (with egg yolks)

19 Jan

This is gonna be fun.

If you like soft egg yolks, that is. And fresh pasta. And cheese, of course.

I sure enjoyed making these ravioli, a specialty of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region if you wondered. And they aren’t nearly as difficult to put together as you might think.

No lie.

It helps if you are comfortable working with fresh pasta dough (here’s how I make it). These ravioli are large (5 inches around) and so make sure to roll out a wide pasta sheet (say, 8 inches or so). These sheets aren’t rolled to the thinnest possible setting, but they are fairly thin (just under the No. 2 setting on my machine.)

The filling? Basically what you have here is a “nest” made out of ricotta and goat cheese (see the filling recipe below). After placing the cheese mixture on the pasta sheet, hollow out a place in the center large enough to accommodate an egg yolk. After the yolk is placed (be careful here, you don’t want it to break) make sure that the cheese is higher than the yolk. If it isn’t gently add more cheese all around the circle.

Lay another pasta sheet on top. (If the dough is on the dry side use an egg wash first; that’ll help the two pasta sheets come together.)

And cut with whatever tool you have around. This 5-inch pastry cutter works great, but even the rim of a wide wine glass can do the trick.

Press down on the edges to make sure they’re secure, and they’re ready to be boiled.

These ravioli need to be handled gently, and so I put them into the water and take them out with a large slotted spoon. Do not dump them into a colander!

Don’t bother doing a complicated sauce because it isn’t at all necessary. This is a brown butter sauce, which I managed to ramp up with some black truffles I had around (it was a special occasion). But the brown butter alone would be great too, especially with a little grated cheese once plated. What I do is take the ravioli right out of the boiling water and place them into the pan with the butter, then gently spoon the butter over the ravioli while on medium heat.

Plate it (again, gently).

And there you go.

Like I said, fun. And easy.

Recipe for the filling
Good for six to eight 5-inch ravioli

1 pound fresh ricotta
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together, in no particular order. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Lemon pasta dough

12 Jan

I don’t know what my friends Marla and Jeff imagined might become of these Meyer lemons. A drink perhaps, possibly a delicate Italian baked good. Grown in their backyard in Texas and shipped here for the holidays, the lemons were a very nice surprise. It has been some time since I’ve been to visit them in Austin and I’d even forgotten that they had the trees.

Some discussions commenced about how best to use the lemons, but the truth is that I knew right away what to lobby for.

Actually, I didn’t really lobby at all.

Very early one morning, long before the associate and the house guests stirred, I zested a couple of the lemons.

Then two cups of 00 flour went onto my work surface, along with 2 large eggs, one egg yolk, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, plus the zest.

Still no sound of anybody getting out of bed and my plan was nicely taking hold.

A little more flour and a few minutes of kneading and the dough ball was ready for the fridge.

The next day, at lunchtime coincidentally,  I took out the chitarra and got to work on
the meal’s main ingredient (once the dough had come to room temp, that is).

The batch of dough made about 3/4 pound of this stuff, enough for a light lunch for four.

Butter, cheese and peas. That’s it.

Being an early riser has its benefits.