Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Italian Soirée: Red Pepper and Ricotta Tortelloni

I spent hours scouring the internet for inspiration on this one. I planned a red pepper filling for the pasta but wanted to compare a couple of recipes to adapt and recreate one of my own. Astoundingly I couldn't find any at all. Plenty of spinach and ricotta, plenty of pumpkin or squash and ricotta but no red pepper. So this is all mine.

Pasta is a very satisfying thing to make as it combines the relaxation of kneading with creativity and origami. There is something to be said for pootling in the kitchen with the heat from the oven and Radio 4 on in the background as you create all manner of delicious treats.  Pasta needs to rest for 20 mins before using it so make the dough first, then move on to the filling and accoutrements.  My pasta dough recipe is a basic egg pasta from The Silver Spoon. It's quick and easy to make and providing you roll it out thin enough the end result is always silky and light.  It is much easier if you have a pasta machine but you can roll by hand if not.  Pasta is very elastic and springs back stubbornly so factor enough time into your preparation if you need to do this.

I finished the pasta with a light tomate concassée with a parmesan crisp as I didn't want anything too complex to overpower the taste of the filling.  The effect is delicious, although the lemon didn't come through the cooked tortelloni so I have added more to this recipe to address this.

I really must get something done about picture quality as well. The light in the kitchen is very yellow so any photo taken after dark has a tendency to look very dark and odd.

Basic Egg Pasta
  • 200g 00 grade flour (available from all major supermarket chains or Italian delis)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • salt to taste
  1. Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a mound on the work surface or in a large bowl
  2. Make a well in the centre and add beaten egg mixture
  3. Using fingers, gradually incorporate the flour , then knead for about 10 minutes.
  4. Extra flour or water can be added at this stage if the mix is too wet or dry.
  5. Knead the dough by pushing down with the heel of your hand, folding the squashed dough back on itself and repeating the process. The dough will feel grainy at first but the more you knead it will lose the graininess becoming smooth and silky to touch. The kneading process will take approximately 10 minutes.
  6. Once the dough has the required texture, form a ball and place in a bowl and rest on the work top for at least 15 mins. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth to prevent the dough from drying out.
  7. At this stage you can make a start on the filling:
Red Pepper and Ricotta Filling
  • 3 red peppers, quartered and de-seeded
  • 100g of ricotta cheese
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 6 basil leaves, shredded
  • rind of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to season
  1. Place the quarters of pepper on a grill pan or griddle.  Your aim is to scorch the skin so if you use a grill place them skin side up, or if you use a griddle place them skin side down.  Grill/griddle for approximately 20 mins or until the skin has scorched and blistered away from the flesh of the pepper. The pepper will also start to soften, this is OK.
  2. Once the pepper has blistered sufficiently enough to peel remove them from the heat and leave to cool down.  They will carry on cooking from the residual heat. Once they are cool enough to handle peel off all the blackened skin and place in a processor, discarding the skin.  If you don't have a processor you can finely chop the pepper and stir in all the ingredients until completely mixed.
  3. Spoon ricotta, parmesan, lemon rind and finely shredded basil into processing unit and pulse until incorporated but not so much that it is a fine paste.  
  4. Season to taste.
Rolling the pasta
  1. First divide the dough into two balls and leave one in the bowl covered with the damp cloth to prevent drying.
  2. Roll the first ball out until it is approx 1cm thick and will go through the machine
  3. Send the pasta through the machine on the widest setting, holding the pasta in one hand and turning the handle with the other. Then send the pasta through on the second setting and repeat 3-4 times taking the setting down each time.
  4. Fold the strip of pasta back on itself and send it through the machine on the first setting again. Repeat 3-4 times taking setting down each time.
  5. Now cut the strip in half and place one piece under a damp cloth to prevent drying.  Fold the other length in three by bringing one side in and then layering the other side over the top of that.
  6. Now send it through the machine on the first setting, this time width ways not lengthways. Do this 3 t0 4 times reducing the setting each time.
  7. Now fold the pasta back on itself and put it through the machine on each setting, one after the next until you have a thin sheet of pasta (1.5mm) with a lovely sheen.  It will be thin and fragile so handle with care and use each sheet as it is ready so it doesn't dry out and become brittle.
  8. Note: any pasta that you do not use can be wrapped in cling film and frozen. Just make sure you defrost thoroughly and re-knead again before use.
Making the parcels
  1. Now cut each strip into squares approximately 5cm x 5cm.  I make a paper stencil to do this and then cut around it with a sharp knife
  2. Place a teaspoon of your filling mixture in the centre
  3. Fold the squares corner to corner to form a triangle and seal the edges with a dab of water
  4. Wrap each triangle around your index finger, press points together and gently push the rest of the dough back to make the classic tortelloni shape.
  5. Place on a large plate or tray sprinkled with flour to prevent sticking. Approximately 8 per person would be a generous serving.

Making the parmesan crisp
  • 100g parmesan, grated
  1. Lay out a sheet of backing parchment on an oven tray 
  2. Use a biscuit cutter to sprinkle grated parmesan in a round shape on the parchment.  Repeat for as many crisps as you require
  3. Grill under a hot grill until complete melted and golden brown
  4. Remove from heat until they cool and then carefully lift off the parchment and place somewhere safe until required.
Making the sauce (a basic tomate concassée)
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 3 large beef tomatoes peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • salt to taste
  1. Lightly sauté the onion and garlic in the oil on a low heat for approximately 10 mins or until soft but not discoloured
  2. Add the finely diced tomato and stir over low heat until soft and breaking up into a sauce.  I don't want this too smooth as I need the texture on the pasta.
To compile the dish
  1. Cook the tortelloni in a pan of boiling water for 5 mins, or until they start to float in the pan, drain well and plate
  2. Lightly cover pasta with tomato sauce
  3. Position parmesan crisp and garnish with basil if you like.
  4. Serve

Reading back now I realise why I nearly had a nervous breakdown while preparing this.  In direct contrast to Jamie Oliver's latest show I suggest you give yourself at least 3 hours for this one.  It's not fast food but it certainly is delicious.  I do wish this final image was better as it really doesn't show it off at its best. 

1 comment:

  1. As one of the lucky dinner guests, I thought I should confirm how delicious and fun the whole meal was.

    Jane's right about the photo. It really doesn't do the main course justice. In real life, it looked as lovely as it tasted.

    The tortelloni were so prettily and delicately constructed. The ricotto and red pepper filling provided a satisfying spiky contrast to the silky pasta. The still-spikier sauce (concassée?) brought the whole dish together

    As for the parmesan crisp - there is literally nothing better in the world than Jane's parmesan crisp.

    Well, other than love, peace, maybe understanding and cats. So its probably the fifth best thing in the world ever. And yet it looks like a damp stain in the photo.

    I think Jane should try to take the perfect parmesan crisp photo. The semi-opaque and shiny nature of the subject should afford her many artistic opportunies.

    And of course, should several dozen parmesan crisps need to be constructed for the exercise, I'd be more than happy to help dispose of them.