Tag Archives: tortellini

Chestnut & ricotta tortellini

26 Jan

I almost forgot about these. They’re from the holidays, a time when good Italian chestnuts are available in abundance, even here in Maine.

It’s a pretty simple equation, really. I see nice chestnuts, I buy nice chestnuts. I worry about how to use them later on.

And so one morning, as our holiday houseguests were still sleeping in their beds, I roasted a couple pounds of chestnuts (here’s how) and got to thinking, naturally, about filled pasta.

Big surprise.

Crumble the chestnuts (this is a pound’s worth shelled) by hand and saute in a stick of butter. After a few minutes pour into a food processor and run it until the chestnuts take on a granular quality.

You can see that this isn’t completely smooth. That’s the way I like it, as it gives the filling some texture, but if you prefer it smoother just process the chestnuts longer, possibly adding a bit of cream.

To complete the filling just mix in ricotta (1/2 pound would be the minimum, a full pound max), some grated nutmeg and a touch of lemon zest. If the filling is on the stiff side add cream or milk as needed, but that’s really all there is to it.

The rest is Tortellini Making 101. Roll out your pasta sheet and spoon out the filling like so, leaving a good couple inches in between each dollop.

Cut the individual squares.

Fold diagonally in half.

And press down along the edges to seal. (If your dough is on the dry side you may need to brush the edges with egg wash before folding over.)

Then simply bring the two top edges together and press so that they join.

Cover a tray or work surface with course semolina and rest the tortellini on top until you’re ready to cook them.

You can serve these a lot of different ways (brown butter comes to mind), but I went with a simple en brodo, which means that I boiled and served the tortellini in a fresh homemade chicken stock and then topped things off with parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Like I said, this all happened around a month ago now. But if memory serves no complaints were filed—and the houseguests have already scheduled their return.

Phew!

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.

How to make tortellini

27 Nov
Standing in my kitchen making fresh pasta is to me what curling up near a fireplace with a good book is to a lot of other people.
Nothing is quite so satisfying.
And so when a cold rain settled in for the weekend recently it didn’t take long for me to decide what to do with myself. On Saturday morning I went and got fresh eggs from a nearby farm, because fresh eggs make better pasta than store bought. After lunch I prepared the pasta dough, wrapped it in plastic and set it in the fridge overnight to rest. By Sunday afternoon,when an even heavier storm was moving through, I was ready to get to work.
For the filling I decided to go traditional. Right here we have a raw chicken breast, an egg, a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, breadcrumbs, fresh nutmeg, and a piece of mortadella.
The first thing to do is cut up the chicken and the mortadella (I had that hunk on hand but four slices from the deli counter should do), then run them through a food processor by themselves.
Then add about 3/4 cup of the grated cheese, maybe 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, the egg and a little ground nutmeg, plus salt and pepper.
After running all the ingredients through the food processor pinch the mixture with your fingers. It should be firm but not stiff. If it’s stiff add a little milk or cream and process until fully melded.
Since there’s raw poultry in the mix it’s not cool to taste it to check that it’s properly seasoned. So scoop out a little with a spoon and boil it in water a couple minutes. Then adjust seasonings as you like and taste test until you’re happy with it.
For tortellini I roll out the pasta sheets with a machine, not by hand; on my machine I find the No. 2 setting to be the right thickness. Here I stuffed the filling into a sturdy plastic bag, cut a small hole in one corner, and am squeezing the filling onto the pasta sheets.
After doling out the filling you need to make the cuts in the pasta sheets; the individual pieces should be pretty much square.
Shaping the tortellini is basically a two-step deal. Here’s the square that you start with.
All you do is fold one corner onto another. (If the dough is moist enough then the pasta ends should close up just by lightly pressing down along the edges. Otherwise use an egg wash along the edges before making the fold.)
Hold the filled pasta shell with both hands and then simply bring the two top corners together and pinch them closed.
And that is pretty much all there is to it.
Nine times out of ten I serve these the traditional way, en brodo, meaning simply in broth. Usually that means a chicken broth, and you can boil the pasta right in it rather than first boiling it in salted water.
This particular time a rather forceful companion expressed a clear desire for something a bit more colorful, and so I went with a simple fresh tomato sauce.
At times it is in one’s best interest to be accommodating.