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Homemade Tortellini!

I’m going to wait on writing more on bread, and instead I’m going to talk about something else…tortellini! When they are made from scratch, they are simply divine. I learned how to make them last year from my friend Stefano, a Michelin Star chef, when I helped him out at his restaurant, ‘Al Caminetto’. I highly recommend eating there, the food is exquisite…a somewhat modern take on traditional Northern Italian dishes, using a lot of wildcrafted herbs and local, organic ingredients.

I learned to make these tortellini using the flours we have in Italy…. if you live in another country, you can make substitutions using similar flours, or go to an Italian grocery. It helps a lot if you have a pasta roller. If you don’t, well I guess you can use a rolling pin. I am giving one idea for a filling, but do whatever you want! The hard part is getting the dough right. Take note that I measure in weight and percentages, because that is how we roll in Italy, but you can probably convert it to volume pretty easily. I think part of what makes this so good is the use of manitoba flour, so find that if you can.

Kickass Tortellini Recipe
For the flour, you want to use this ratio:
40% semola (I think in the US it is called semolina)
40% 00 flour (can substitute all purpose)
20% manitoba flour (can substitute bread flour)

Recipe for 4 people (note that you need 100 g flour mixture per serving):

160 g semola
160 g 00 flour
80 g manitoba
4 eggs (1 egg per 100 g)
pinch salt

Spinach-ricotta filling:
300 g ricotta
100 g boiled and chopped spinach (or some other vegetable. My favorite is agretti.)
1 egg
salt, pepper, nutmeg
1 clove mince garlic.

To work the dough:
Some people mix the dough directly on the counter, but I do it either in a bowl or I pulse it a few times in a food processor. Mix together flours. Add salt. Add eggs. Mix together until homogenous. Knead it a few times, but not too much or it will get tough. You want to start to develop the gluten (there is a lot in the manitoba… it helps give strength to the dough), but not so much that it gets tough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Mix together the filling ingredients! Season to taste. That part is quite easy. Don’t skimp on the nutmeg.

Ok, this part is the ‘tricky’ bit. Get a pot of salted water boiling. Take your dough out of the fridge, and we are only going to work with a smallish amount of dough at a time, so keep the dough we aren’t working with covered with the plastic wrap! Otherwise it will dry out and that’s no good. Put some of your filling into a piping bag, or into a plastic bag with a hole cut in a corner. Cut off a chunk of the dough (size of a large lemon), and start putting it through your pasta roller, starting on the biggest setting, and decreasing the setting gradually. When you are on one of the largest settings, each time the past comes out, fold it in half, and put it through again. This makes the dough stronger. I do this about 10 times, until the dough seems to be a bit stronger. Keep decreasing the thickness setting until you get to the SECOND to last setting. Otherwise it will be too thin and fall apart. The pasta sheet should be the same width as the pasta roller. One thing that helps to reduce stickiness is to keep your work surface sprinkled liberally with semola.

Take a pizza cutter, pastry wheel, or knife, and divide your sheet in 2, lengthwise. Then cut the other direction, cutting the pasta sheet into approximately 2 inch squares. Take your bagged filling, and squirt a small amount in the center of each of the squares, about the size of a small hazelnut. You have to work fast, or your pasta will dry out! This next part takes some practice, but maybe you’ll pick up faster than me. I put the formed tortellini on a cookie sheet or plate that is liberally sprinkled with semola, and once I have 20 or I so I dump them in the boiling water. This is to pre-cook it so that they don’t get soggy while you are finishing everything up. Only cook them for 1 minute! then take them out with a slotted spoon, toss in some oil, and put in a bowl. Ok, onto making the tortellini shape:

This is what each square should look like. Put it in your left hand!
Fold it in half along the diagonal, and squish the edges together really well
Squish it like this making a little ‘hat’
Twist the right ‘arm’ to the right, keeping your left hand position the same
Put the twisted right arm over the untwisted left arm
Where the two arms cross, squish it quite well with your thumbs. You want it to hold together, and you also don’t want it too thick.
Ta-da! This is what it should look like.
Ok, so you’ve put them on a floured plate-like-thing, and have boiled them for 1 minute, and tossed in oil. Repeat this process until they are all pre-cooked. Get your sauce ready, and when you are ready to eat, boil them again, until they are done. It should only take a couple of minutes.
Sorry for my bad photography. But they are oh so tasty, and beautiful!Except in the eye of my camera, of course.

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