|Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini with Asparagus, Leeks and Pancetta|
For me, this is all about redemption.
Inspiration Behind the Dish
Last month I published my first attempt at a tortellini dish that I made from scratch. Everything about the dish was satisfactory to me except for the shape of my pasta. I'll be honest and note here that the flaw haunted me, so I needed to exorcise my demon to retain my sanity. In addition, I also used the opportunity to document with more detailed pictures the process of making the tortellini.
I used my tried and true pasta dough recipe which can be found on pages 102 to 104 of Cook Like A Rock Star by Anne Burrell with Suzanne Lenzer. I pulled from a number of sources for the tortellini filling including Two Peas and Their Pod, food.com and Cooking with Manuela. In addition, I relied upon a number of YouTube videos in order to shape each tortellino. I paired my tortellini with a seasonal vegetable side dish from page 174 of Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking By Michael Chiarello with Janet Fletcher. I would hope that this dish would be at home at any Italian trattoria.
For the filling:
8 ounces chopped spinach, rinsed
10 ounces ricotta cheese, drained overnight
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
For the pasta dough:
4 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water, plus more as needed
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the vegetable side:
1 1/2 pounds medium asparagus, tough ends broken off, then cut into 1-inch lengths
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 cup leek, thinly sliced, white and pale green sections only
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Prepare the filling. Place the wet spinach into a nonstick skillet and season with salt, then place over medium low heat and cover until wilted, approximately 5 minutes. After the wilted spinach has cooled, combine the it with the ricotta, parmesan and egg, then season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside while the pasta dough is prepared.
2. Prepare the pasta dough. Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, olive oil and water in a small bowl, then set aside. On a clean flat surface (I recommend a rimmed baking sheet in the event the well breaks), place the flour and dig a well in the middle so the flour resembles the shape of a volcano. Add the salt to the well, then pour in the wet ingredients. Using a fork, stir the eggs in a circular motion while simultaneously adding flour to the eggs slowly until the eggs are thick enough not to spill over the side of the well. Add the remaining flour to the eggs, and once it has become a homogeneous mixture, knead the dough by rolling it over onto itself with the heels of the palms of your hands, then turning it 90 degrees and repeating the process until it is tacky but not sticky adding more flour or water, as needed. While kneading the dough, ensure its consistent throughout by periodically piercing it with your finger to test the inside. Once the dough is kneaded, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for one hour, however the dish can be prepared one day ahead up to this point.
4. Roll the dough. Open the setting of a pasta roller to its widest. Cut off a portion of the pasta dough and flatten it, ensuring to re-wrap the remaining pasta dough that isn't being rolled. Dust a clean working surface with flour and pass the portion of the dough through the pasta roller, then fold it into thirds and pass the dough through the roller a second time at its widest setting, dusting the dough with flour if it feels too sticky, as needed. Fold it into thirds again, passing the dough through the pasta roller a third time at the widest setting and again, dusting the dough flour if necessary. Adjust the pasta roller to the next thinnest setting (i.e. if the roller is widest at setting 1, switch it to setting 2), and pass through the pasta roller just once at that setting. Continue to pass the dough through the roller once at the next thinnest setting, dusting the dough with flour as required, until your pasta sheets have reached the desired thinness. (My Atlas machine has six settings, but I rolled my dough to setting 5.)
5. Shape the tortellini. Once the pasta sheets have been rolled to the desired thickness, use a ring mold to cut circles into the pasta sheets and retain the excess for another use.
Place 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the center of each, then using your finger, wet with water the edge of one-half of the circle, as demonstrated by the grey shaded area in the picture below.
Fold the circles in half and seal the filling inside, ensuring that no air has been trapped inside the tortellini.
Fold one corner towards the center and, using a finger, wet the tip as demonstrated by the grey shaded area in the picture below. Fold the second corner towards the center to seal the two corners so they stick together.
As you finish each tortellino, place them onto a flour dusted sheet pan and put the sheet pan in the freezer so the pasta doesn't dry out.
6. Prepare the vegetable side; boil the pasta and finish the dish. Bring two pots of salted water to a boil over high heat-one medium and one large. While waiting for the water to reach its temperature, render the pancetta in olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat until slightly crisp, approximately 5 minutes. Add the leek to sweat.
While the leek sweats, add the asparagus to the medium pot and cook until tender, approximately 3 or 4 minutes then drain and add the asparagus to the skillet with the pancetta and leek. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat the seasonings.
Add the tortellini to the large pot and boil until they float to the top, approximately 2 minutes. Remove the cooked tortellini with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. To present, spoon a tablespoon or two of the vegetables onto a plate, then top with 4 to 5 tortellini, then serve immediately.
Unlike my previous tortellini attempt, I am pleased with the shape of the pasta I made. In addition, my suspicions were correct! By using a ring mold with a larger diameter, I was able to have better control over the final shape of the tortellini. Also, I might suggest to make the tortellini gradually, as each pasta sheet is rolled to the desired thickness before rolling more pasta dough so it doesn't dry out. Lastly, Mrs. Stuntman thought the vegetable side was seasoned perfectly and paired well with the spinach and ricotta filling. She even requested I prepare it again.