Hand made tortellini
I know, I know – you’re all about to hit exams, or just got back home from work to screaming kids…and now I give you a recipe for hand made, from scratch tortellini? Well, on the plus side, you don’t have to make your own feta, but apart from that, yes: I want you to experience the joy/extreme stress of hand making your own filled pasta (If you don’t know what tortellini is, it’s a stuffed pasta that you can get at the supermarket, usually in those Frescarini packets). Why (you may be asking rather hysterically)?! Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, I am the sort of person who likes experiencing the whole made-from-scratch thing, especially with things you can easily pick up at the supermarket (like butter, or condensed milk…which I didnt post about because it turned out like dulce de leche…kinda lumpy, but still delicious). It’s fun. It gives you an earthy domestic feeling of superlative smugness, and even if you’re a dude, I think you’d appreciate the possible scoring (of whatever variety) afterwards with any female (or male I suppose) friends you have over for dinner. You don’t need a pasta machine, or a fancy pasta cutter for tortellini. An afternoon, a long rolling pin, and a bit of bench space are the only things I ask of you.
Making gnocchi a while ago has gotten me rather addicted to making things from scratch, you see. I did say it was fun, didn’t I? I guess it’s also relaxing, and incredibly rewarding. Great food for a failed exam/assignment, say. Or a stressful day. (You can see where I’m going with this, right?) So really, it’s ideal for an afternoon of calm, and even if your dough doesn’t feel right (like mine) at first, you can sit back and breezily order pizza. It’s not easy, this stuffed pastsa business, but it honestly is a good break from those hours of readings you’ve just done, and a good break on the eyeballs. Also, I lied a little because the sauce for this is just store bought pesto sauce. To be fair though, basil season is well and truly over, so sit-a-long-time supermarket stuff is the only kind left.
If you’re not convinced, you can try my ravioli made with dumpling wrappers, which doesn’t require you to make any dough or roll anything out. Then once you’re addicted, you can try this! Another recipe in my bookmarks that has inspired me to roll up my sleeves for from-scratchdom: Barefoot Kitchen Witch, I love your herb layered ravioli sheets!
Before I proceed with the recipe details, I just want to say: you can fill your tortellini with anything you want, okay? I just provided a filling as example. If you have leftover chicken, for example, you can chop it up really small and mix it together with some herbs, chopped garlic and cream cheese maybe. Second, I want to thank Frike at Sweet Smart for this brilliant post for making pasta dough from scratch, without a machine. Though it’s a Jamie recipe, she made it a per person guide which was super appreciated! The only thing I’d possibly change is using 1/2 a cup of flour per person to start with, as my dough was quite solid. To be fair though it did turn out delicious! As with most fresh pasta you can make this ahead and refrigerate (keeps a few days) or freeze it (keeps about a month), and it will be minutes away the next time you want some. EDIT: Just discovered and made this super simple eggless pasta dough from Amelia at Z Tasty Life. I used 3/4c flour per person + 1/2c water to start with. Was a beauty of a dough to roll out, and much silkier and smoother. Would recommend this if you’d like to make your life a bit easier!
Tortellini with a spinach, feta and red pepper filling.
Before we start, a note on rolling pins. You (ideally) want a long (25cm or longer), relatively heavy rolling pin that isn’t warped in any way. If you’re thinking of buying one, try going to a vintage store or similar, as this will save you a bit of cash and the second hand ones will not necessarily be worse than new (new cheaper rolling pins tend to be made of soft woods that tend to get nicks in them easily, and proper ones I imagine are quite expensive). Hard woods that don’t leave a dent when you press on them with a fingernail are best, as these will last you ages. Also they don’t warp as easily, so your sheets will be even and rolling will be easier. This is not the place for a wine bottle unfortunately, as you’ll be rolling a lot and I do care about your sanity.
Dough – from Sweet Smart. You can make ravioli or just plain noodles with this dough – the original site is for making fettucine type pasta (wide flat noodles)
1/2c plain flour + 1 egg + pinch salt + some water if needed per person, plus extra flour for rolling out.
Place flour in a heap on your benchtop or in a medium large bowl, making a small well. Crack egg(s) into the well, and add pinch of salt. Beat the eggs with a fork slightly, then start mixing the flour into the eggs (with fork if in a bowl, or hands if on a bench), to form scraggly doughy bits. Pour these out onto your bench now if using a bowl (yeah…I prefer using the bench to start with, so you don’t have another bowl to wash. But you can re-use the bowl for filling). Bring the scraggly bits together and knead it (press it down and pull the edges into the middle, and repeat) until it forms a uniform dough. Mine felt rock solid, but softened up later. You just want eerything to form a ball and stick together! You may need to sprinkle it with more flour if it sticks too much to your hand or a sprinkling of water if it’s too dry. Form the dough into a ball, cover, and let rest on the side for about half an hour.
1 large onion, chopped finely
3 cups packed fresh washed, chopped spinach (chop at 1 inch intervals horizontally and vertically)
1 red pepper/capsicum, chopped very finely
about 100g creamy style feta (Bouton D’or is my favourite)
a Tablespoon or so of grated parmesan or normal cheese (optional)
more salt to taste
dry or fresh chopped herbs
cooking oil (preferably extra virgin olive oil!)
Heat a very small amount of cooking oil in a large frypan on medium low heat. Throw in the onion and cook on one layer until translucent and softened (if you want you can also add some dry oregano or basil at this stage). Lower heat slightly, and add red peppers, and let cook on one layer until softened, about ten minutes. The main point of this slow cooking is to let the water in the veges cook off, and sort of caramelise the onions and red pepper to maximise their sweet, smoky flavour, without burning them to a crisp *drools a little*. (Add fresh chopped herbs now if you’ve got some) Add spinach, keeping it all on one layer, and cook until wilted and sort of dried up. Remove from heat and dump in a bowl, with the feta, and mush it all up together with a long-tined fork. You could puree it in a food processor but I personally like some texture and substance in my food. It should sort of stick together when you pick up a lump of it, sort of like mince, but not as gross (I thought it was gross before I stopped eating it, for your information!) :D
Taste, and add a little more salt if necessary.
Rolling out your dough
Take the number of people you’ve made dough for an times by two – then cut up the dough into that many portions. Lightly flour your working surface. Take one portion of your dough and roll it into a sausage shape (aim for a cylindrical sausage), covering the other portions of your dough. Start rolling your dough out, in one direction so you get a long strip (or you could do a square actually, no one is stopping you). When it’s about 3mm thick, you’re going to want to keep lifting the dough up so it doesn’t stick or snag when your roll it out. Aim for a rectangular or square shape – to do this, you can fold the curved edges in to form a rectangle or square at about 2mm thick and roll it out. Keep lifting and rolling until it’s about 1mm (1/32 inch) thick, definitely less than 2mm or 1.5mm even. Try and get it even. Now, no one said this was going to be particularly easy! But at least you can cancel going to the gym this week.
Cut the pasta sheet into evenly sized squares, about 5cm in width (just under 2 inches). If you have a long rectangle, cut it in half long-ways, and then using that width as a guide, cut it into squares then. The reason I specified a long strip before, because then you can just cut it down the middle rather than going across and then ending up with a bit at the end. Don’t worry too much if your squares are not perfect, or if they have some curved bits on, as long as you can seal your dumplings in the end, it’s all good. using the tip of your finger, brush two of the edges of each square with a little bit of water (I like to just brush crosses along the cuts on the just-cut up sheet to save time).
Filling your pasta
Grats, you’ve made it to the fun part! Using a half teaspoon measure, pick up a slightly heaped teaspoon of filling and plop it into the middle of a pasta square. Pinch two opposite corners together, and press down to seal the edges (don’t worry if your squares aren’t perfect and don’t line up, but make sure to get two opposite corners together). Then pinch together the other two opposite corners, pressing tightly (here’s a picture of individual tortellini to give you an idea). Repeat until you’re out of squares, then roll out the rest of your pasta dough, and fill ’em up! When you set them aside make sure to keep them apart, as they sometimes stick.
Now you’ve got all your tortellini made! Heat up half a medium large saucepan full of water on medium high heat, and bring to a rapid boil (covered). Uncover, and put one person’s worth of tortellini in the water, being careful not to splash yourself too much. You want to make one lot at a time, making sure the tortellini is all on one layer (so you could do two lots in a super large frying pan or saucepan, or have two pots boiling at the same time if you really have to have it served at the same time). Once they float to the top, let boil uncovered for about eight to ten minutes, rolling them over in the boiling water every now and then. The easiest way to test if one is cooked is to simply bite into one (after a bit of blowing so you don’t burn yourself) – there should be no solid white bits, but the dough should not fall apart easily (it’s meant to be sightly spring-y). Once cooked to your liking, fish the tortellini out with one of those large holey spoons (so you drain the water out) and plate.
Toss sauce through (I just used store bought basil pesto, but use your own stuff if you have it – I’ve got a post on making your own basil pesto, but you can substitue cashews in and other fresh herbs), and serve!
If for some reason you can’t finish your cooked tortellini, or if you wanted to make some for lunch the next day, keeping it in the fridge overnight is not a problem. Just add a little olive oil, and stir through (with your sauce is fine). If the sauce is quite wet (ie. tomato), leave on the top shelf in your fridge, uncovered (or cover it, but with a non-sealed lid or plastic with holes poked through). If your sauce is relatively dry (ie, pesto), cover and refrigerate. When you’re ready to eat it again, just microwave on medium high heat until heated through (to ensure even heating you can mix it a little halfway through heating).
I hope you enjoy the process as much as I did, despite worrying that I’d have to get take out considering how solid my dough was when I kneaded it together! Most of all though, enjoy eating your creation :) What are your favourite fillings? Any other advice? Comment away!