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Entries in pasta (3)


Tortellini! Recipe and Video Tutorial

Photo © 2010 David Mandel // Ampersand Industries

A few weeks ago, my dad gave me a hand-crank pasta machine that he hadn't used very much, hoping, perhaps, that a new machine would cure me of my curious wafflemania. It worked like a charm. I am now totally pastamanic.

This weekend, while fiddling around with the machine, I decided to make filled pasta. But there was one problem. I had no ricotta, no ground meats, no beautiful vegetable purées with which to fill my pasta. But there was a fresh carton of plain, whole-milk greek yogurt. Why couldn't that be a filling for tortellini or ravioli? Friends. Friends! It can be a filling for tortellini. A gorgeous, silky, tart filling. When both my husband and my son (he of long months of entrenched mistrust of all things pasta) devoured it and asked for more, I knew I had a winner on my hands.

And so my husband and I put together this wee (ok, "wee" is a bit misleading, since this thing clocks in at 20 minutes) video tutorial illustrating from start to finish how to make the semolina pasta dough I used (no eggs!), the filling (eggs here!), and the classic tortellini shape. This was our first crack at making a video. I hope you guys like it. But be forewarned. There is a fair amount of 1) me talking and 2) my ghostly pale skin throughout this video; only the brave should venture forward:

Click here for the recipe and video:

Click to read more ...


On top of Spaghetti

On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese...
First things first: Before I can discuss the easiest, tastiest meatballs I have ever made; before I can crow about virtuously saving three pints of cherry tomatoes from near-certain ruin; before I can boast about the perfect sauce-to-pasta ratio; I must speak now of the pasta itself. Benedetto Cavalieri--in Italian, I think this means "take all your money and leave you still smiling." Because, well, this pasta is not cheap. It's tough to find here in SC since Whole Foods stopped selling it, but I have been known to pay $8 for a package. Wait, wait, wait! Before you harrumph off, let's be clear: this is very dense pasta, the package is larger than the typical 1 lb box, and I have been able to feed 8 people comfortably from single package. So, $1 per person isn't that bad when you think about it. This pasta is made from durum semolina and is very slowly dried. It takes much longer than typical pasta to cook; although quick cooking is one of the undeniable upsides of pasta, the long cooking time of this pasta allows lots of starch to seep into the pasta water; that in turn makes for some super-excellent thickening power.

Benedetto Cavalieri Spaghettoni
I have been hording a package of Benedetto Spaghettoni for months now, and last night I decided to break it out to beat back the Monday doldrums. So totally worth it.

Now, back to the meatballs. So simple it's not even a recipe--just mix 1 lb of ground sirloin (or chuck or half-pork-half-beef or turkey thigh) with 1 egg, salt, pepper, grated parmagiano, thyme (I used dried--go for fresh if you've got it), and a handful of panko breadcrumbs. And then the secret ingredient. 1/2 of a medium shallot, grated over a fine rasp-style grater. When you do the shallot this way, it sort of turns into shallot jam, and the flavor gets mixed up all throughout the meatball, and, well, it's heaven. I made 1.5 inch-ish meatballs, which gave me about 15, but I ate one as a tester, so, well, SO. I browned these in olive oil a heavy dutch oven over medium heat. I drained most of the fat but left the good brown bits in the bottom and then poured in the tomato sauce I had made the day before and brought that back to a simmer.

Oh, I didn't tell you about that tomato sauce yet, did I? Well. A thing of beauty. I don't buy them very often, but somehow there are always tiny grape or cherry tomatoes in my house. Both my mom and my mother in law give them to me because the kiddo loves tomatoes. And I love them, too. But for all of their supposed ease of use, honestly, I am often oppressed by these tiny tomatoes. Good God, woman, why? Well, I know you can just toss them in a salad--yes, I got that memo. But, well, I am scarred by a story told to me by a cousin, oh, 25 or more years ago; it involves biting into a whole cherry tomato and being greeted by something other than tomato inside. So, yes, I feel compelled to cut up every single one of those little suckers. And if I'm gonna cut up teeny tomatoes, I may as well start peeling grapes. So, yeah, I am often looking at little clamshell pints of these things thinking, oh a tomato would be tasty now, but it will be ten minutes before I can cut up enough to feed a small wood sprite. It's a slippery slope from there to boxed mac and cheese. But. BUT! This pasta sauce! It may solve my tiny tomato dilemma forever! So simple: heat olive oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium heat; add whole tomatoes and one shallot, chopped; add 1 t salt; cook, stirring occasionally until all the tomatoes have burst open; run through a food mill to weed out the skins; return to pot and add 1/4 c or so red wine and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce; add salt, pepper, and sugar (if needed) to taste. THAT IS IT.

So, to put it all together, cook the pasta,* adding some of the starchy water to the sauce before draining; toss the pasta in with the sauce (if you use a whole package of the B-C pasta, you will have a fair amount of pasta left over, just toss it with olive oil and save it for tomorrow, preferably with a 1/4 c or so of the pasta water for mixing in with whatever you make next), and cook for a few minutes; serve with plenty of black pepper and shaved parmagiano reggiano.**

*Obviously, you don't have to use my decadent pasta to have this turn out well. I do recommend, though, the fattest spaghetti noodle you can find. A good, hearty meatball needs a good, hearty pasta to stand up to it!

**Mr. Batali (deference, please, people!) often says that parmagiano is the "indisputed king of cheeses." Well, probably, but I usually prefer pecorino romano in dishes that call for parmagiano. Well, I tried it my way, and then I tried it with King Formaggio, and, well, the parmagiano is just better here. It stays drier and doesn't melt as easily, and its grainy texture is a good foil to the tender meatballs. Point, Mr. Batali.


I'll Take an Egg with That

The egg looks sort of like a dollop of whipped cream here. That's not far off...
Friends, aren't little children supposed to hate eggs? Aren't they supposed to run and cry "ew, gross!" when confronted with a runny, yellow yolk?

Maybe I need to try the whole pairing-lettuce-with-a-favorite-food thing with eggs instead of strawberries. Sweet Fancy Moses, people! The kiddo loves an egg product--any egg product. Quiche filled with spinach? Check. Omelets full of otherwise forbidden vegetables? Check. Runny poached eggs on pasta? Check.

What? You've never put a poached egg in pasta? Oh, please, please, please run right out and try this! You will not be sorry.

I make a kind of stand-by pasta dish which is a grown-up version of buttered noodles (adapted from Mario Batali's bavette cacio e pepe, a staple at his restaurant Lupa--do not punish yourself by missing his restaurants because you are too cool for school--they rock!) and which I adapt to whatever I have in the house: pasta, pecorino romano, pepper, olive oil, and butter to which I might add toasted breadcrumbs, roasted cauliflower, cavolo nero (God has never made a better tasting green thing!), shrimp, pancetta, olives, capers--you name it, I've added it.

Tonight I was feeling like being healthy, so I used spinach and roasted cauliflower and eased up on the butter. And then at the last minute, I got a decadent impulse, and I poached an egg for each of us. Heaven. As soon as you get your steaming bowl of noodles, you mush up the egg so that the runny yolk oozes out into your pasta and makes a thick, delicious sauce that even butter can't hope to match. It's like carbonara without the public safety warnings.

Is it bad that we ate two hours ago and I am still salivating?