Monday, March 24, 2014

kale and ricotta tortellini.

You know how whenever someone tells you no, it makes you want whatever you were just denied that much more?  That sentiment is what drove me to the kitchen this weekend to make tortellini.  Our wedding caterer has advised us that my dream of eating bowls of squash and kale tortellini showered in Parmesan during our first evening as husband and wife is unrealistic.  It kind of breaks my heart and I'll get over it (eventually) but until then I'm going to drown my sorrows in bowls on homemade tortellini.  Because if I can't get someone to make it for me, it's time I go and make it for myself.  

Homemade tortellini are a beautiful thing.  They are a labor of love, but the end result truly justifies the time and energy they require.  Here, tender pasta gives way to the creamiest ricotta filling.  The sauteed kale provides a nice earthy bite that pairs brilliantly with the cheese.  Serving these doesn't require much more then boiling them and then sprinkling them (liberally) with cheese but if you want to get real crazy, making some tortellini en brodo isn't a bad idea.  

Kale and Ricotta Tortellini
Pasta recipe from Lidia's Family Table by Lidia Bastianich.  Filling recipe is my own.  

Pasta making looks a lot more intimidating then it actually is.  I promise.  Don't let the length of this recipe deter you!  I think it makes for a great weekend activity when you have a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon ahead of you.  Turn on some good music, set up your pasta making station, and you'll be all set for an afternoon of fun. While I did my best to explain the process below, I really find if you are new to pasta making that a picture is really, really helpful.  This guide is awesome for showing you how to fold the tortellini into their cute little shapes (something I am still trying to master) and this guide excels at showing you how to make the dough and roll it out.  Once you master the rolling of the dough, the pasta possibilities are endless (ravioli! lasagna!).  

For the Poor Man's Two Egg Pasta

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large whole eggs
¼ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons water

For the Kale and Ricotta Filling  

2 cups washed and thinly sliced lacitano kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
12 ounces ricotta
1 1/2 ounces parmesan

Make the Filling: Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the kale and stir so everything gets coated in the oil.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Cook until the kale begins to wilt and cook down, about 5 minutes.  Place the cooked kale in a bowl and allow too cool. Put the cooled kale in a paper towel and squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the kale. Return the kale to the bowl and add the ricotta and parmesan.  Stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.    

Making the Dough:  Measure the flour and shake it through a sieve into a medium sized mixing bowl

Drop the eggs into a small bowl or measuring cup; beat briefly with a fork to break them up. Pour in the measured amounts of oil and water and mix well with the eggs. 

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour. Toss and mix everything with a fork until the flour is moistened and starts to clump together. 

Lightly flour with your hands, then gather the clumps-or use a flexible plastic dough scraper-and begin kneading right in the bowl, folding the ragged mass over, pushing and turning it, then folding again. Use the kneading action to clean the sides of the bowl. 

When you have formed a cohesive clump of dough, turn it out onto a small work surface lightly dusted with 1/2 teaspoon of flour and continue kneading for 2 to 3 minutes, until the dough is smooth and shiny on the outside, soft throughout, and stretchy. 

Form the dough into a disk and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature for 1/2 hour. Store, very well wrapped, in the refrigerator for a day, or for a month or more in the freezer. Defrost frozen dough slowly in refrigerator, and let it return to room temperature before rolling. Defrosted dough will need a bit more flour.

Rolling the Dough: Have your dough at room temperature and cut the dough into 4 pieces.  Work with one piece at a time and keep the others covered.  Have a large trade tray or baking sheet nearby, lightly sprinkled with flour, on which to lay the dough strips. 

Turn the knob to the widest setting  - you’ll work at this setting for a while . Press the first piece of dough into a rectangle, then fold it in half, and roll it through the machine two times.  Fold the now elongated rectangle in thirds, turn the dough 90 degrees (so the fold in on the side) and roll it through. 

Catch the dough; fold it and roll it through again with the fold on the side.  Repeat the folding and rolling six more times (total of 8) to straighten and smooth the dough.  Like kneading this will make if more resilient and workable. 

Resent the roller to the very next setting (slightly narrower) or skip to the third (even narrower).  Roll your strip through, short end in first (don’t fold it again).  Let the rollers grab and move the dough – don’t push it or pull it through – and catch it on your hand as it comes out. 

Reset the machine even narrower; you should be on the third or fifth setting by now.  Pass the strip through once again; it will lengthen rapidly, and you will need to catch and support it as it comes through the rollers.  Flour the strip lightly and cut the dough in half so it becomes a more manageable size.  You should now have 2 long strips about 5 inches wide and 13ish inches in length, dust them with flour so they don’t stick.  Cover the strips with a towel until ready to stuff and shape the tortellini.  Repeat the above procedure with the remaining 3 pieces of dough. 

Stuffing and Shaping the Tortellini:  Fill a small bowl with water and set aside. Take one of your strips of dough and cut it in half so you have 2 rectangles about 2 ½ inches wide.  Cut each rectangle into about 5 pieces (so you create 10 2 ½ inch squares).  Place about 1 teaspoon of filling (recipe below) in the middle of each square.  Dip your finger in the bowl of water and run it along two edges of the square.  Fold the square into a triangle, pressing the top together and then working your way along the sides. Draw the bottom two corners of the triangle together to form a kerchief shape. Press tightly to seal. Toss with flour, set aside on well-floured baking sheet, and cover. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.

Cooking the tortellini: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon or two of salt. Lower the tortellini into the water a few at a time with a slotted spoon. Stir the pot occasionally to prevent the tortellini from sticking to the pot or each other. Cook until all the tortellini have bobbed to the surface of the water, about 5 minutes. Taste one to check for doneness.

Freezing the tortellini: If not cooking the tortellini immediately, freeze them on a sheet pan and transfer to a freezer-safe container once solid. Tortellini will keep for about 3 months. Cook directly from the freezer, but increase the cooking time by a minute or two.

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