TORTELLONI CON RIPIENO DI SPINACI E RICOTTA
PASTA PARCELS FILLED WITH SPIINACH & RICOTTA Serves 6
1 kg fresh spinach, picked over and washed in several changes of water
200 g fresh ricotta
A pinch grated nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
1 small egg, beaten
175 g freshly grated Parmesan
150 g unsalted butter
For the pasta dough:
4 large eggs
400 g plain white flour, Italian 00 flour, pasta flour or combination of plain flour and fine semolina or semola for dusting
- Make the filling first. Cook the spinach with just the water still attached to its leaves after washing, in a large covered saucepan. Let it cook until just wilted, then drain thoroughly and cool.
- When it is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cooked spinach dry in your hands, then chop it finely.
- Mix the spinach and the ricotta together. Add the nutmeg, the salt and pepper and half the Parmesan. Blend together with one egg. Set aside until required.
- Now make the pasta. Tip the flour out on to the worktop and make a hollow in the centre with your fist.
- Break the 4 large eggs into a bowl and blend together. Pour the eggs into the flour, then begin to knead together until you have a smooth ball of elastic dough. Leave to rest, wrapped in Clingfilm or in a clean cloth, for a minimum of 20 minutes.
- Once rested, roll the dough out into fine, silky and cool translucent sheet.
- Using a pastry wheel or a sharp knife, divide the sheet lengthways into 2.5 inch wide strips. (You can also use a pasta machine to make the strips, see La Sfoglia Recipe for further instructions) and keep the strips moist by keeping them covered with slightly damp cloths. Now to shape the Tortelloni!
There are many different ways of shaping Tortelloni, but here are a couple of simple ways that work for me:
Begin to work with one strip of pasta at a time. Cut into equal sized squares about 1 inch to 1.5 inch square. (Cut out just a couple of squares of different sizes to begin with, to see what size works best for you but do make sure that whatever size you settle for, they are all the same size in the end.) Drop 1/2 teaspoon of the filling in on to each square, slightly off centre. Fold in half to make a triangle and seal the open edges securely. (If the pasta is beginning to dry out, dab the edges with a little bit of cold water to moisten and help seal.) Wind around the tip of your index finger, pressing the two outer corners of the triangle together firmly. Push off the end of your finger. Using your thumbs, fold the third corner outwards and backwards to create the shape of a beautiful belly button!
Cut the fine dough into circles with a 1 to 1.5 inch diameter and put about 1/2 teaspoon of filling on the circle, slightly off centre.
Fold in half and seal the open edge firmly, (If the pasta is beginning to dry out, dab the edges with a little bit of cold water to moisten and help seal) then hold between your middle and index finger. Wrap the two extremities around the tip of your index finger. Push the filled tortellone off your finger with your other hand and turn it half inside out with your thumbs. Press the ends together and move on to the next one!
Cooking, Dressing and Serving:
Bring a large, deep pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop the filled Tortelloni into the water and boil until just floating on the surface and tenderly soft. Drain carefully, removing them with a slotted spoon from the surface of the water, and arrange in a warmed serving dish. Meanwhile, melt the butter until warm and golden, not browned. When all the cooked pasta has been drained and arranged in the serving dish, pour over the melted butter and mix carefully to distribute.
Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and serve at once.
La Carbonara Egg, Bacon and Cheese Pasta Sauce
Traditionally served with Bucatini (hollow, fat spaghetti) - this is the traditional and original recipe for a classic Carbonara.
400 g Bucatini or Spaghetti
200g fatty pancetta, guanciale or best quality streaky bacon, cubed
4 eggs, beaten
6 tbsp grated Pecorino or Parmesan or half and half
Lots of freshly milled black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Put the pasta into the water and stir it around thoroughly. Replace the lid and return to the boil. Remove or adjust the lid once the water is boiling again. Cooking according to the packet instructions until al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, fry the pancetta in a frying pan until crisp and running freely with the fat, turning frequently to prevent burning.
- Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl with the cheese and plenty of black pepper.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain (reserve about ¼ litre of the cooking water) and return the pasta to the saucepan.
- Pour over the eggs and cheese and the pancetta immediately and stir everything together, so that the eggs lightly scramble and pull the dish together, using the pasta water to help moisten and distribute. The fat from the pancetta should also sizzle and fry as it mingles with the pasta. Serve at once.
1 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed to a puree
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 anchovy fillets (either salted or canned in oil, rinsed and dried)
1 small dried red chili pepper, chopped finely (more if desired)
1 to 2 heaped tbsp rinsed and dried chopped salted capers (or capers in brine)
220 g canned whole tomatoes, roughly crushed with a fork – or equivalent passata
Very large pinch dried oregano
Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
150 ml dry white wine
Handful of de-stoned black olives
Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
- Fry the garlic and half the oil together with the anchovy fillets and the dried chili pepper, stirring until the anchovy dissolves.
- Add the capers and the tomatoes and stir together really thoroughly.
- Simmer for a few minutes, and then add the oregano, seasoning, wine and olives.
- Stir and leave to simmer gently for at least 15 minutes, though if longer, it does no harm!
- Serve over freshly cooked pasta, traditionally spaghetti or penne, tossed together with a little extra olive oil and a generous handful of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley.
RAGU ALLA BOLOGNESE
CLASSIC BOLOGNESE RAGU
Makes enough to lightly (and correctly!) dress 400g pasta)
This classic sauce for pasta is traditionally used to dress tagliatelle or layered in a Lasagna. The really important thing is to keep the meat looking like chopped meat rather than mince.
100 g pork loin boned
100 g beef steak, boned
100 g prosciutto crudo
100 g unsalted butter
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, de-stringed and finely chopped
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
50 g pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
1 heaped tbsp tomato puree diluted with 1 glass hot water
Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
1 1/2 ladles hot broth or water or red wine
100 g chicken livers, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
6 tbsp double or single cream
1 small truffle, cleaned and thinly sliced, optional
- Chop all the meats (except for the liver) together finely with a heavy knife.
- Melt half the butter and fry together the vegetables and pancetta or bacon for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring.
- Add the chopped meats and stir together to seal all over. Add the diluted tomato puree. Season with the salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly, cover and leave to simmer very slowly for about 2 hours.
- During this time never let it dry out, but stir frequently and keep adding a little hot water or broth or red wine as and when required.
- After about 2 hours, when all the meat is tender, add the very carefully cleaned chicken livers and simmer for just 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and then stir in all the cream, (and shave in the truffle if using). Keep just warm under required, or use at once to dress Tagliatelle or in a Lasagna. The sauce definitely does improve with standing and reheating.
Making Fresh Pasta
You will require a dough scraper and a rolling pin or a hand cranked pasta machine.
Per person: 1 large egg + 100 g plain white flour, Italian 00 flour, pasta flour or a combination of semola (or finest possible semolina) and 00 flour (about 30% semolina/semola to 70% flour) and a little extra flour or fine semolina for dusting – but always bear in mind that no two batches of flour are identical, and that no two eggs are ever quite the same either - so if you do have to add a little more beaten egg or a touch more flour to your mixture, it is never an indication of failure on your part and the worst that might happen is that you’ll end up with more pasta than you were expecting or planning to make!
To begin, put all the flour in a pile on a work surface and plunge your fist into the centre to make a hollow. Break the eggs into a separate bowl and beat together until blended to make sure the flour absorbs the eggs evenly and ensures the texture of the dough will be uniform as this will make it easier to roll out and means it will dry evenly, and therefore not break or split during the cooking process. Begin to knead the eggs roughly into the flour with one hand, and then use both your hands to knead everything together.
This is not like making pastry, so it is not the moment for a delicate approach, but on the other hand if you are too heavy-handed you will cause the dough to dry out too much and you might overstretch the gluten, and so it will never roll out smoothly! This is a process that just takes a bit of practice.
Knead the flour and eggs together until you have a really smooth, pliable ball of dough. Use the dough scraper to control the dough and keep the work surface clean – it shold look You will know exactly when the moment to stop has come because all of a sudden and quite without warning - the dough suddenly drops in temperature and feels cool against your skin. I am not saying that the dough goes dramatically cold, just cools as a result of the thermodynamic process that has just occurred in the dough as a result of the two proteins, the fat and the friction doing its thing! Test the dough to make sure it is really springing back at you like a kiss the second you prod it gently with one finger, or give it a loving pinch, then stop kneading and rest the dough under a clean cloth for about 20 minutes, this will relax the gluten and make the dough more manageable when it comes to rolling it out. You can keep it like this in the fridge for 12 hours or so before rolling it out, but like many things that are refrigerated, remember to allow the dough to return to room temperature before trying to use it.
After resting, roll out the dough as thinly as possible with a strong long rolling pin. Continue to roll it over and over again until your dough is really elastic, smooth and shiny. It should cool down considerably as you work it, and you will feel it dropping in temperature as you go along. When it is ready the sheet of dough will feel like a brand new, wrung out, damp chamois leather, but must not be brittle. Keep it moist by covering it with a slightly damp clean cloth when you are not working with it.
If you use a pasta machine instead of the traditional rolling pin, break off a piece about the size of a small fist from the rested all of dough. Flatten this section out with your hands and push it through the widest setting on your pasta machine, cranking the handle quite fast. Fold this in half and repeat. Do this twice or more, until you hear the pasta snap as the rollers force the air pocket to burst. This is the moment when you can say “la pasta ha cantato!” (the pasta has sung!) and it means that you have achieved the correct surface tension for perfect pasta. Move the machine down to the next setting. Repeat twice. Continue in this way, changing the setting after every second time. Continue to wind it through the rollers to the last or penultimate setting on the machine, depending on how fine you want it to be. Lay the sheet of pasta carefully on to a floured surface to dry until papery, when you can cut it into tagliatelle, tagliolini, pappardelle, tagliatelle or whatever your chosen shape; or use immediately while still moist if you wish to fill it to make ravioli or tortellini etc.
Now take another lump of dough the size of a small fist and begin again. Do this with all the pasta. Keep an eye on the sheets of pasta you have rolled out. Put them on a floured or semolina dusted surface to dry, but remember they will not be easy to cut if they are too dry. To keep them moist, cover with slightly damp, clean cloths.
You can cut your pasta into the desired shape as soon as it is dry enough to roll up without it sticking to itself. Once cut, you can use the pasta immediately, or let it dry out further. If you are making a filled pasta shape such as Ravioli you must use soft, moist pasta otherwise it will not be possible to close each one securely. In this case, fill the pasta at once, and then leave the shapes to dry, but ensure they are not touching each other or piled into a heap. Do not refrigerate fresh pasta – it should be used quickly at room temperature, or frozen for later use.
To freeze fresh pasta: Best to open freeze on trays, then bag up and label.
Keeps for about 1 month once frozen.