I’m back! Did you miss me? I’ve been travelling in Cyprus and Italy, soaking up the sights, sounds and most importantly flavours of those beautiful places, and giving myself a bit of a digital detox along the way. Back in Munich the sun is shining (finally) and I’m busy cooking and creating again. Best of all, I am so inspired by all the incredible food I ate while travelling that I am full of loads of delicious ideas to share with you.
One of the most fabulous meals I ate while we were away was in a small village in the hills of Northern Italy. So simple, so good, just delicious, fresh ingredients, cooked with a lot of love and probably devoured much too quickly by yours truly. We sampled a few dishes chosen by our excellent host that day, but among the antipasti, prosecco and other treats on offer, the stand out for me was a simple Tortelli pasta, stuffed with cream cheese and sweet, spicy peppers, served in a butter sauce. My mouth is literally watering as I write this, it was that good. Naturally, as soon as I got home I set to work, recreating this flavour of my holiday in my Munich kitchen.
A lot of people think making pasta is a bit scary, or that it requires a special pasta machine or loads of time. I am here to tell you that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Egg, flour, oil, filling, into some salty water and served with a simple sauce. As always, home made will knock the socks off anything that you can buy and you’ll be able to pat yourself on the back for being so clever when everyone oohs and aahs at the dinner table. This recipe will serve four people as a Primi or first course for a larger meal, or feed two as a more filling main.
I like to use a food processor to mix up the pasta dough (then, I like to use a food processor for just about everything) but you can get your Italian Nonna on and knead it by hand if you like. The filling below is what I had on holiday, but go ahead and let your imagination run wild as to how you’d like to fill these. A traditional filling is pumpkin, or perhaps spinach and ricotta, or head in the ravioli direction with beef or chicken. Experiment and enjoy.
This recipe might look long, but it’s a bit of a process recipe, once you have the hang of making your own pasta it is truly easy.
Homemade Tortelli Pasta
for the pasta:
- 100 g plain flour, Italian ‘00’ or German ‘405’ if you can get it
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- a pinch of salt
- extra flour to roll out
for the filling:
- 150 g small stuffed red peppers, the kind for the deli counter or in a jar
- 100 g cream cheese
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
for the sauce:
- 125 g unsalted butter
- 12 fresh sage leaves, finely sliced
- 100 g walnuts, chopped
- plenty of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- To make the pasta, weigh the flour into the bowl of a smallish food processor, add the egg, oil, and salt, then process until the mixture forms a dough or begins to clump together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead briefly, adding a little more flour if the dough is at all sticky, then wrap in cling film and leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling by puréeing the peppers and cream cheese in a food processor or blender until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then chill until needed.
- When you are ready to make the tortelli, unwrap the dough and divide into three equal parts. Keeping two covered with the cling film, roll one piece out thinly on a lightly floured surface until it is roughly 30x15cm. The trick with pasta dough is that you need to stretch it a little as you roll, so hold one end and use the rolling pin to stretch and push away the dough. It will spring back a little, but be patient and keep rolling until it is the size you need, turning and dusting with more flour if it is sticking to the bench at all. The pasta should be thin and nearly see through - it will puff up as it cooks. Repeat with the remaining two pieces.
- To fill the tortelli, lay one sheet of pasta on the benchtop (or a cutting board if you don’t have a stone benchtop) and prepare a small bowl with water. Spoon small, walnut-sized rounds of filling along one side of the pasta sheet, leaving a gap between each mound of filling and the edge. Dip your finger in the water and wet the edges where the pasta will join, then fold the top half over the filling and press around the edges of each ball of filling to seal, trying not to seal in any air if possible.
- When the tortelli are firmly sealed, use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut them out, then transfer to a plate. Dust with flour and place in the fridge while you repeat with the remaining pasta. You should end up with 15-16 tortelli, I make 5, 5 and 6 from the pasta sheets. Any leftover filling makes a delicious dip so don’t throw it out!
- To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the sage leaves, cook over medium heat until the butter begins to brown, then turn the heat right down to low and add the walnuts and a couple of grinds of salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat a large pan of water. When the water is at a rolling boil, season generously with salt, then add the tortelli, stirring very gently to make sure they don’t stick together. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the tortelli are all floating and cooked though.
- Serve immediately, divided between 4 warmed plates, drizzled with the butter, sage, and walnuts and with plenty of Parmesan on the side. Buon appetito!
TIPS & TRICKS:
Allowing the pasta dough to rest before rolling it out will give the gluten time to relax. Trust me, this will make your life easier.
Unlike pastry, you actually WANT to stretch pasta dough as you roll it! Hold onto one end and push the rolling pin away with the base of your other palm. Don’t be afraid of using a little flour if it is sticking.
Tortelli freeze beautifully! Flour them well and stack them between sheets of baking paper in a freezer proof container. Cook from frozen, allowing a few minutes more in the boiling water to cook them through.