Homemade Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Sauce

Gnocchi in Salsa di Gorgonzola

“The future ain’t what it used to be” and today’s post is the proof. You may have noticed last week’s “Coming Soon …” photograph depicted a recipe called “Jack BRICKhouse CHICKEN” and, as a result, you may have deduced that was to be today’s recipe. Well, guess again. That recipe is scheduled for next week — has been all along — and cannot be rescheduled for reasons that will become apparent in the post. I must admit that it came as a surprise for me to learn that I cannot read a calendar and my newly found malady did leave me in a bit of a lurch for this week’s post. All’s not lost, though, since I’ve a bagful of recipes from my recent visit with Zia from which to choose. Because so many of you were interested in my family’s risotto, I set to work writing that recipe and blog entry. All was going swimmingly until Saturday morning when I noticed that Stefan, of Stefan’s Gourmet Blog, posted his recipe for Risotto with Peas & Mint. The very next day, Nick, of Frugal Feeding, posted his recipe for Tomato and Basil Risotto. That’s when I began to rethink my post. The third and final blow was struck when Paul, of That Other Cooking Blog, posted his recipe for Risotto al Nero di Seppie (squid ink risotto). Deciding that my post could be postponed a bit, I went back to the bag of recipes from my visit home and pulled out today’s gnocchi recipe. Even so, if all of this talk of risotto has you yearning for the creamy rice dish, be sure to check out those 3 recipes and, while you’re at it, spend a little time looking around each blog. You will not be disappointed.

One of the first things we kids were allowed to help make in the kitchen were gnocchi. Mom and Zia would make the dough and then hand us a piece to roll into a log, though we called them snakes. With a butter knife we were taught how to cut the snake and, depending upon the gnocchi’s use, we might even have been allowed to try to roll them across a fork’s tines to make the grooves. By “use” I mean whether dinner guests or family were to dine on the fruit of our labor. Mom always put her best gnocchi forward for company and she took charge of the groove-making, reshaping any malformed gnocchi along the way. Unlike today’s recipe, however, Mom’s gnocchi were always served with her meat sauce.

Although I’ve enjoyed gnocchi with gorgonzola at restaurants, I never thought about replicating the recipe at home until several years ago. My Entertainer Friend mentioned how much he enjoyed gnocchi with bleu cheese and I thought I’d come up with a recipe and treat him. Over the years, I’ve tried a number of variations, using several spices and herbs, and eventually switched from bleu cheese to gorgonzola, but I always came back to the simple recipe I’ll share today. It’s yet another example of “Less is More.” As for my Entertainer Friend, now that I’ve reminded him, I’d better start planning that gnocchi dinner.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Sauce Recipe

yield: roughly 1.5 lbs (680 g)

Ingredients

  • 2 large russet potatoes, once cooked, peeled, & riced = 18 oz (510 g) (See Notes.)
  • 2 cups (10.2 oz; 290 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • corn meal or additional flour for dusting surfaces
  • 5 oz (142 g) gorgonzola, crumbled, more or less to taste (See Notes)
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream, more or less to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • grated or flaked Pecorino Romano cheese for garnish — Parmigiano Reggiano may be substituted

Directions

To make the gnocchi

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400˚ F (204˚ C). Use a fork to pierce the potatoes numerous times.
  2. Place potatoes on center rack and bake until cooked, from 50 to 60 minutes, depending upon potato size.
  3. Meanwhile gather the other ingredients. Allow the egg to come to room temperature.
  4. Once cooked, remove potatoes and set aside until they can be safely handled.
  5. Slice each potato in half, lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out all of potato, reserving the skin for some other purpose.
  6. Run cooked potatoes through a ricer or food mill. (See Notes.)
  7. Use the riced potatoes to create a mound on a floured work surface. Make a well in the center of the mound, as you would when making pasta dough.
  8. Sprinkle the top of the well’s walls with 3/4 cup of flour. Place the egg in the center well after the potato has cooled enough so that the egg won’t cook.
  9. Using a fork, slowly combine the potato & flour with the egg. Once the dough renders the fork useless, continue mixing the dough with your hands.
  10. The dough should come together within 4 to 5 minutes. It will be ready when it is firm and a little moist-to-the-touch without being tacky. Add more flour as needed but remember: the less flour used, the better.
  11. Form a ball with the dough and divide it into fourths.
  12. Take one-quarter and divide it in half. Roll one of the sections into a log with a width of your preference. We normally roll them about an inch (2.5 cm) thick — the width of an index finger.
  13. Use a sharp knife or board scraper to cut the log into segments, each 1/2 (1.3 cm) to an inch (2.5 cm) long.
  14. If grooves are desiredFlour the back of a dinner fork, place a segment at the top of the tines, use your finger to roll it over the tines, creating gnocchi with grooves on one side and a dimple where your finger rolled it.
  15. If grooves aren’t wanted: Use a finger to push and roll each segment across the work surface, creating smooth surfaced gnocchi with dimples where you’d placed your fingers.
  16. Place the gnocchi on a lined baking sheet that’s been dusted with flour or corn meal.
  17. If not going to be cooked within a few hours, place the gnocchi-covered baking sheet in a freezer and once the gnocchi are frozen solid, place them in containers/bags suitable for freezer storage.

*     *     *

*     *     *

To cook the gnocchi

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over high heat.
  2. Once the water boils, add the gnocchi and stir gently.
  3. When the water resumes boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and notice when the gnocchi begin to float. This should only take a couple of minutes when fresh and a few more when the gnocchi are frozen. Gnocchi will be ready about 1 minute after the last start floating. If in doubt, taste one.

*     *     *

To prepare the gorgonzola sauce

  1. While waiting for the water to boil, heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Once the cream is hot, add the gorgonzola and stir until melted. Taste and adjust, adding more cream or gorgonzola to suit your own taste. If you prefer, you can add a bit of the water used to cook the gnocchi to thin the sauce without adding more cream.
  3. Don’t forget to taste and season with salt & pepper, if required.

*     *     *

To assemble and serve

  1. Use a hand strainer — “Spider” strainer — to remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and place in the serving bowl. Add the gorgonzola sauce and mix gently until all are coated.
  2. Serve immediately, garnished with grated/flaked Pecorino Romano cheese.

*     *     *

Variations

Like most Italian dishes, there are many recipes around for making gnocchi. No matter which recipe you choose to follow, 2 rules will apply. 1) The fluffier the smashed/riced potato the better, and, 2) the less flour the better. Keep those 2 rules in mind and you’ll be well-rewarded with a most palatable platter of puffy potato pillows rather than the much less than spectacular spud scuds.

One popular variation for preparing gnocchi is to bake them before serving. Follow the directions above for making and cooking the gnocchi, as well as making the gorgonzola sauce. Use all the sauce to dress the gnocchi and place in a baking dish. Top with grated cheese or bread crumbs that have been moistened by olive oil or butter. Bake in a 375˚ F (190˚ C) pre-heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until hot & bubbly with a golden brown topping.

Even after being reduced, some may want a thicker sauce. (Bear in mind it will thicken once taken off the heat and begins to cool.) If you want a very thick sauce, you can start by making a roux. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a small sauce pan. Add an equal amount of AP flour and whisk until fully blended. Allow to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let the roux darken or it will color your cheese sauce. Add the half the cream and whisk till incorporated. Add the remaining cream and keep whisking as it heats and begins to thicken. Once thickened, about 5 minutes, add the gorgonzola and keep whisking until melted. If too thick, you can adjust by adding more cream or some of the water used to cook the gnocchi.

*     *     *

If they’re all identical, no one will believe you made them.

*     *     *

Notes

Much like making pasta, making gnocchi is not an exact science. The moisture in the potatoes, the size of the egg, the humidity, and even the brand of flour can all affect the amount of flour required. As was mentioned, use as little flour as possible to create a firm, slightly moist-to-the-touch dough that isn’t at all tacky.

I used 2 large russet potatoes that weighed 26.8 oz (760 g). Once baked, peeled and riced, they weighed a total of 18 oz (510 g). For accuracy I weighed the flour, starting with 2 cups or 10.2 oz (290 g). When I was finished, the remaining flour weighed 4 oz (114 g), meaning I used a little over 1 cup of flour for a little over a pound of riced potatoes. Lastly, to determine the yield, I weighed the frozen gnocchi before bagging. Your yield may vary due to the above-mentioned factors.

Not everyone has a potato ricer or food mill and I seriously doubt that my Nonnas had either one. They used a large fork to smash the potatoes and there’s no reason you can’t do the same. You can, also, use a potato masher or a box grater, if need be. Just be sure to use a fork to fluff the smashed potatoes as much as possible before proceeding.

It had been some time since I last made this dish when I prepared it for Zia. As a result, I misjudged and used a full cup (236 ml) of heavy cream with 5 oz (142 g) gorgonzola. That resulted in a very runny sauce. Thankfully, gnocchi was to be our primo piatto so I was able to reduce the sauce to the consistency I wanted without affecting the rest of the dinner. Today’s recipe uses half the amount of cream I used for that dinner.

It’s not a bad idea to have extra gorgonzola and cream on-hand the first time you make this sauce, just in case your idea of the perfect gorgonzola sauce differs from mine. You can add more cheese or cream, as required.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again … 

Blueberry

I don’t care what the weatherman says. The calendar says it’s June and that means it’s ice cream season. Time to dust off the ice cream machines and get those canisters into the freezer. Now I’ve shared several ice cream recipes but this one, blueberry swirl cheesecake, is Number One among family, friends, friends of family, and families of friends — but don’t take our word for it. Try it for yourself. You can find the recipe by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you … 

Jack BRICKhouse CHICKEN

*     *     *

Advertisement

Porcini Mushroom, Leek, and Goat Cheese Ravioli Filling

Last week I demonstrated how easy it is to make ravioli, tortelloni, and manicotti using wonton wrappers. Now that you know what to do with the wrappers, today I’ll show you how to make a filling.

Given the stated purpose of these two posts, it wouldn’t make much sense to use a filling that was overly complicated to prepare or that required a dozen ingredients. Using only dried porcini mushrooms, leeks, garlic, and goat cheese, this filling could not be easier to make and yet packs a great deal of flavor into each pasta. With the longest step in the process being the wait for the mushroom-leek mixture to cool after being sautéed, you can easily make enough wonton wrapper ravioli in an afternoon for that evening’s dinner. Yes, you can do this.

Thursday I’ll be leaving for Michigan, where the Dial-Up Modem is King. As a result, the Kitchens must close temporarily and there can be no post next Wednesday. My next entry is scheduled for Wednesday, June 5th.

*     *     *

Porcini Mushroom, Leek, & Goat Cheese Ravioli Filling Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • .7 oz (20 g) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 oz (85 g) leeks, chopped fine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
  • 10.5 oz (298 g) goat cheese
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper

*     *     *

*     *     *

Directions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to boil, remove from heat, and add mushrooms. Allow mushrooms to soak for at least 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms to paper towels, being careful not to disturb sediments in liquid. (Reserve mushroom liquid. See Notes.) Use another paper towel to blot the mushrooms dry before chopping them to a small dice. Put aside.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter over med-high heat. Add leeks and mushrooms, lower heat to medium, and sauté until mixture just begins to change color — about 6 or 7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, salt, and pepper, and continue to sauté until liquids are gone. Do not allow to burn.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool fully before proceeding.
  5. Once cooled, combine mushroom-leek mixture with goat cheese and stir to thoroughly combine.
  6. Filling may now be used to fill you favorite pasta.

*     *     *

Variations

This recipe is not set in stone. Don’t have any leeks? Use half the amount listed in sweet onions. Don’t like goat cheese? Use ricotta. No porcini? Use 3 to 4 oz (85 to 113 g) fresh crimini mushrooms. Don’t like this filling at all? Don’t worry. You may prefer to use either of these 2 fillings: the traditional Bartolini ravioli filling or the Bartolini sausage ravioli filling. Still not quite what you’re looking for? In a few weeks I’ll be posting an asparagus-based filling recipe.

*     *     *

Notes

There’s really no way of determining how much pasta you’ll be able to fill with today’s recipe. That will depend upon the type and size of the pasta you wish to make. Because of this, I wouldn’t invite 10 guests to dinner the first time you make a homemade stuffed pasta, whether or not you use wonton wrappers. Better to wait until your 2nd attempt or at least wait to make your guest list until after the pasta is made.

When making this filling, I allowed the goat cheese to warm a bit so that it would be easier to combine with the other ingredients. Depending upon the pasta to be filled, you may find it easier to chill it again before using it to stuff your pasta.

Do not discard the liquid used to rehydrate the porcini mushrooms. Once the sediments have settled, pour off the liquid, leaving those sediments behind. The liquid can then be stored/frozen for later use in soups, sauces, risotto, or pasta dishes, to name a few.

Although you can use any sauce yo wish to dress pasta using this filling, I chose to, again, keep it simple. Once it was cooked and drained, I gently tossed the raviolo in some melted butter and garnished it with flaked Parmesan cheese, as seen in this post’s opening photo.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

BBQ Shrimp

Gamberetti alla Griglia

This weekend is a 3-day weekend and start of the grilling season. I thought it only fitting to feature Grandpa’s Barbecued Shrimp as this week’s blast from the past. Easy to prepare, whether you serve them as a snack, appetizer, or main course, you and your guests will love them. You can learn how Grandpa did it by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Baked Haddock

*     *     *

Where East Meets West: Wonton Wrapper Pastas

Today’s entry is the fulfillment of a promise that I made to Norma in the Comments section of the Bartolini Cannelloni recipe post of last March. (Norma, by the way, is a cookbook author whose wonderful blog, Garden to Wok, is filled with tasty recipes and gardening tips.) She asked if egg roll skins could be used in place of pasta dough to make cannelloni. Well, Norma, it took 2 months and I used wonton wrappers but here’s the promised post.

Back before I started buying ravioli molds but after I learned I was unable to use Mom’s tiny cappelletti mold, I saw someone on a cooking show use wonton wrappers to make ravioli. That’s all I needed to see. Before long I was making ravioli and tortelloni using the wrappers without any problems. In fact, I’d probably still be using wrappers if I hadn’t seen another TV cook use a large ravioli mold one day. Soon I was making ravioli and cappelletti of all sizes and I never bought another wonton wrapper.

When I’ve shared our ravioli recipes, some have mentioned that the process seemed difficult and time-consuming. Using wonton wrappers eliminates one of the more difficult elements, that of making and rolling out the pasta dough. With that out-of-the-way, the rest of the process is a snap and this post will show you just how easy it is to use wonton wrappers to make stuffed pasta. Along the way, we’ll make round ravioli, manicotti, square ravioli, and tortelloni, all of which are pictured in the unfortunate photo above. It’s a long post but the method for preparing each pasta will “stand on its own” so that you need only reference the section(s) that interest you.

*     *     *

How to make Jumbo Ravioli (Ravioloni)

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a floured work surface.
  2. Place about a tbsp of filling in the center of the wrapper.
  3. Use your fingers or a brush to moisten the 4 edges on the wrapper.
  4. Place another wrapper on top.
  5. Use your fingers to remove as much air as possible while pressing to seal the edges.
  6. Use a pastry wheel or sharp knife to trim uneven edges.
  7. Use a fork’s tines to press and further seal the 2 wrappers.
  8. Reserve on a lined baking sheet for later cooking or freezing.

*     *     *

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These ravioli are about 3.25 inches (8.9 cm) square, after trimming. Remember that when cooked, they will expand a bit more.

*     *     *

How to make Ravioli

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a floured work surface.
  2. Use a pastry wheel or sharp knife to cut the wrapper in half.
  3. Place about a tsp of filling in the bottom half of each part.
  4. Use your fingers or a brush to moisten the top half of each part.
  5. Fold the top half and cover the bottom half of each.
  6. Use your fingers to remove as much air as possible while pressing to seal the edges.
  7. Use a fork’s tines to press and further seal the 2 ravioli.
  8. Reserve on a lined baking sheet for later cooking or freezing.

*     *     *

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These ravioli are about 1.6 inches (4.0 cm) square.

*     *     *

How to make Large Round Ravioli

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a floured work surface.
  2. Place about 2 tsp of filling in the center of the wrapper.
  3. Use your fingers or a brush to moisten the wrapper area around the filling.
  4. Place another wrapper on top.
  5. Use your fingers to remove as much air as possible while pressing to seal the edges.
  6. Carefully place a large biscuit cutter over the covered filling. Make sure that the cutter surrounds the filling without touching it.
  7. Press down on the biscuit cutter hard enough to sever the wrappers.
  8. Remove excess wrapper from around the cutter.
  9. Remove the raviolo from the cutter and reserve on a lined baking sheet for later cooking or freezing.

*     *     *

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These ravioli have a diameter of 2.5 inches (6.4 cm).

To make Small Round Ravioli use a smaller biscuit cutter. Mine was 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.

*     *     *

How to make Tortelloni

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a floured work surface.
  2. Use your fingers or a brush to moisten 2 adjoining sides of the wrapper.
  3. Place a little more than a tsp in the corner opposite the moistened sides.
  4. Fold the moistened half of the wrapper to cover the other.
  5. Use your fingers to remove as much air as possible while pressing to seal the edges.
  6. Use a fork’s tines to press and further seal the 2 sides.
    1. At this point, you’ve created a triangular-shaped raviolo. You can stop here or continue and make a tortelloni. 
  7. Use you finger to make an indentation in the center of the triangle’s hypotenuse. (And you once thought you’d never use geometry in real life, didn’t you?) 
  8. Bring the two opposing corners together, moisten one, and press together to seal.
  9. Bend backwards the remaining corner.
  10. Reserve on a lined baking sheet for later cooking or freezing.

*     *     *

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Although it’s not possible to give the exact size of your tortelloni, it’s safe to assume that these would be too large to be used in soup. Any stuffed pasta used in soup should be bite-sized so that the diner needn’t cut them before eating.

*     *     *

How to make Manicotti/Cannelloni

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a floured work surface.
  2. Place about 1.5 tbsp of filling along the bottom edge of the wrapper.
  3. Use your fingers or a brush to moisten the opposite or top edge of the wrapper.
  4. Carefully and tightly roll the wrapper and filling towards the moistened edge.
  5. Place the finished manicotto/cannellono, sealed-side down, on a lined baking sheet for later baking or freezing.

*     *     *

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In my family, cannelloni are meat-filled and manicotti are cheese-filled. These manicotti/cannelloni are about 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) wide, perfect for creating a double row in many baking dishes.

*     *     *

Variations

The size and shape of your pasta is limited only by the size of the wonton wrapper. If you haven’t a biscuit cutter in the size you want, try using a glass or jar to cut your pasta. I’ve never used egg roll wrappers but imagine that the processes would be the same, only much larger. Frankly, I’d never use an entire egg roll wrapper to make a single stuffed pasta. Instead, I’d cut it into halves or quarters before using.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Notes

No matter what size or shape of ravioli that you make, be sure that there is no filling along the edge where the dough is to be sealed. It will only interfere with the seal and the pasta will probably open up during cooking. Equally important is to make sure that the pasta edges being sealed are moistened with water. Mom, Zia, Lidia Bastianich, and Mario Batali all agree: egg or egg wash is never used to seal pasta for it can harden during the cooking process, making the edges of your pasta pillows unpalatable.

As you may have noticed in the photos, I used a cheese-based filling when making each stuffed pasta. The recipe for that filling, porcini mushroom, leek, and goat cheese can be found HERE. If you don’t wish to use that filling, you may prefer to use either of these 2 fillings: the traditional Bartolini ravioli filling or the Bartolini sausage ravioli filling.

At the very beginning of this post I stated that my objective was to show how simple it is to make wonton wrapper pasta. As you’ll see next week, the filling I used here is flavorful yet, also, uncomplicated and easy to prepare. The same holds true for dressing the cooked pasta. Although you can certainly use any sauce you wish to dress your ravioli or tortelloni, you needn’t complicate matters. The large ravioli pictured above were dressed with melted butter and garnished with Parmesan flakes and fresh parsley. You could just as easily use olive oil in place of the butter, and, grated cheese in place of the Parmesan flakes. By keeping it simple I hoped I’ve demonstrated just how easy it is to prepare a homemade stuffed pasta dinner using wonton wrappers. In short, yes, you can do this!

*     *     *

 It’s déjà vu all over again … 

Fazzoletti PastaSince today’s post used square wonton wrappers, I thought I’d stick with the theme and send you back to the post where we made fazzoletti, little handkerchiefs, pasta. Nothing more than pasta squares, these are among the easiest of pastas to make at home. You can see how they’re made simply by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Porcini mushroom, leek, and goat cheese ravioli filling.

*     *     *

Cappelletti in Brodo, The Super Bowl of the Bartolini

When I shared the recipe for Mom’s Brodo several weeks ago, it was with today’s post in mind. While it may be true that her broth was used in a number of recipes, from chicken cacciatore to risotto, for many of us, it was at its best when served with Cappelletti, yet another jewel in the Bartolini Crown of Recipes. Traditionally served at Christmastime, cappelletti are a type of stuffed pasta said to resemble small hats. Search the internet and you’ll see them made much like the making of tortellini. I’ve watched cooking shows touring Bologna and have been mesmerized at the sight of women quickly fashioning cappelletti by hand. As the camera moves back offering a wider shot, it is really quite impressive to see all the freshly made little hats prepared that morning. That is not what you’re going to see here today.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Forming those little hats is a most time-consuming practice unless you’ve enough experience to become proficient. The women I’ve watched will make more cappelletti in one day than a Bartolini would have made all year — and then some. There is just no way Mom or Zia could devote the time to make enough little hats to serve their families later that day. You read that right, later that day.

When I was a boy, few families, if any, owned freezers other than the small compartment atop their refrigerator. As a result, there simply was no place to store freshly made ravioli or cappelletti. This meant that Mom and Zia got to work making pasta at 5:00 AM on every holiday. As such, either ravioli or cappelletti were made on any given holiday and never both. So, in our home, Mom served ravioli for our Christmas Day dinner, while cappelletti was served for lunch on New Year’s Day. There were days, however, when the cappelletti lunch was nixed in favor ravioli that night. It wasn’t until a large freezer was bought and placed in the basement that it became possible for ravioli and cappelletti to be made ahead of the actual holiday — allowing Mom and Zia to get some much-needed rest on those holiday mornings. Not only that, but it, also, became possible to have cappelletti for lunch AND ravioli for dinner on the same holiday. What joy!

Yet, even though they could now prepare their pasta in advance, there was still no way that either Sister could afford the time to make little hats. Initially, they made cappelletti as they did ravioli, rolling out large sheets of dough, covering half will little balls of filling, and then covering them with the “free” half of the dough sheet. Using a spoon handle, the mound in the dough were sealed and then cut using a pastry wheel. Remember that cappelletti are served in soup and shouldn’t need to be cut before being eaten. Each must be small enough to fit comfortably on a soup spoon, making this a time-consuming process in its own right. There was — and is — no need for hats. Speaking of which and just to be clear, although we call our pasta cappelletti, they actually are small ravioli, raviolini.

Everything changed again when Mom started using dies (moulds) to make her ravioli and cappelletti. Her cappelletti became miniaturized, smaller than any she’d made before. I have that die and, unfortunately, I’ve yet to be able to master it. The compartments for the filling are far too small for my hands to fill. I never saw Mom use the die and I must be missing some secret trick to its use. Now, Mom’s die made 40 cappelletti, each ¾ inch (1.9 cm) square, while my die will make 48 cappelletti, each 1 inch (2.5 cm) square. That ¼ inch may not seem like a lot but it’s enough to separate success from failure on my pasta board. Even so, I know that I’m not done trying to learn how to use that die if for no other reason than self-satisfaction.

This post will not be as detailed as previous posts when depicting the use of a ravioli die. You can find more complete instructions in my Ravioli dei Bartolini post. No matter the size of the die or the resulting pasta, the steps required are the same. Cover the die with a sheet of dough; place a small amount of filling in each indentation; lightly moisten another dough sheet before placing it atop the first; use a rolling-pin to seal the 2 sheets; remove the now-joined sheets from the die; and, separate the individual raviolo. Sometimes, a pastry wheel will be required to cut and separate them.

When using any die, the most important thing to remember is not to overstuff each compartment. Look again at the 2 dies in the photo above. One has compartments that are open while the other’s compartments have a back and are closed. When using a die that is open, the dough sheet will stretch a little to compensate if you’ve used too much filling. Even so, use too much filling and the dough sheet will stretch to the point of tearing, a very disheartening sight. If you place too much filling on to a die that is closed, that has a back, the excess filling has nowhere to go other than out that compartment’s sides, possibly affecting the seal of not just that one raviolo but all of its neighbors, as well. All is not lost, though, for some of these poorly sealed ravioli.

Ravioli are first boiled in water before being drained and dressed with your favorite sauce. Poorly sealed ravioli will dump their contents during the boiling or draining stage. Little can be done to save them and their tasty filling. Cappelletti, though, are a different matter altogether. As you’ll soon see, these are cooked in brodo and should any split during cooking, the contents aren’t lost but will serve to flavor the soup. It may not be pretty but it will be one tasty bowl of soup.

The recipe for the cappelletti filling is easy to follow and lacks exotic ingredients, a hallmark of Bartolini recipes. It can be made as much as 2 days in advance so long as it is kept covered and refrigerated. Longer than that, it may be frozen and used within a few weeks. In preparation for this post, I made about 500 cappelletti with one batch of filling — and still had enough filling left over to use in another recipe. That dish will be shared sometime in the weeks ahead.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Filling Recipe for Bartolini Cappelletti

Yield: Enough filling to be used with 8 eggs of pasta dough. Recipe found here.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground pork
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground veal (chicken or turkey may be substituted)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano — Parmigiano may be substituted
  • 2 or 3 eggs slightly beaten — depending on size
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • zest of 1 lemon, more if you like

Directions

  1. Sauté meat in butter. Season lightly with salt.
  2. Use meat grinder to process the meats. Add all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until well-combined.
  3. Cover the filling and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  4. Once the filling has rested, you can begin making your cappelletti.

*     *     *

Variations

Our cappelletti are served alone in brodo. Adding other ingredients, aside from a garnish of grated cheese, might serve to overpower the hint of nutmeg or touch of lemon zest flavors within the cappelletti.  My blogging buddy, Stefan, serves his tasty Tortellini in Brodo the same way. Ours is not the only way, however.

Recipes abound that feature tortellini served in brodo with a variety of ingredients. Last October, my friend Linda, of Savoring Every Bite, shared her tasty recipe for one such preparation, a hearty Tortellini Soup. And, not to be outdone, my friend Tanya, over at Chica Andaluza, just last week posted her delicious recipe featuring Tortellini with Leeks and Bacon Broth.  You certainly cannot go wrong with any of these recipes.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Notes

As mentioned earlier, cappelletti are cooked in the broth in which they are served. Bring your broth to the boil over med-high heat before adding the cappelletti. Once the boil returns, reduce the heat to a soft simmer. Too hard a boil may damage the cappelletti. Actual cooking times will vary, depending upon the cappelletti’s size and whether they’re freshly made or frozen. Once the cappelletti begin to float in the broth, they are usually just about ready for serving. I’ll wait another 1 or 2 minutes before tasting one for doneness. Serve immediately with plenty of grated cheese at the table.

Not everyone has the time to make homemade brodo and most of us will turn to store-bought stock occasionally.  Whether you use your own broth or buy one at your local market, make sure it is low sodium. The cheeses within the cappelletti both contain salt and, if you’re not careful when preparing/selecting your brodo, your bowl of cappelletti may be too salty to enjoy. You can always add salt, should the soup need it, just prior to serving.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again … 

I shared the recipe for Steak Pizzaiola about 2 years ago and, since that time, it has become one of the most popular recipes on my site. Easy to prepare, this is one dish sure to please all members of your family — well, except for the vegetarians. Not to worry. We’ll be sharing recipes for our non-carnivore friends in the weeks to come. In the meantime, you can check out the recipe for steak pizzaiola by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Grilled Sturgeon with Lemon-Caper Sauce

*     *     *

Bartolini Sausage Ravioli

Ravioli della Salsiccia dei Bartolini

Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, and Thanksgiving all featured one dish, each and every year, and that was a platter of ravioli. Oh, to be sure, there was the obligatory roast of beef, or pork, or lamb, or turkey cooked to perfection on the table, too, along with all the customary fixin’s. None of it made any difference to me, for my eyes were fixated on the platter of pasta pillows. Everything else was a distraction to which “The Others”, my ravioli-eating competition, would, hopefully, fall prey. “Have some more turkey.” “Want some potatoes with that?” “Save room for dessert.” All music to my ears. As they sampled — and re-sampled — each and every one of Mom’s lovingly prepared dishes, only I remained true to the cause. It was ravioli all the way!

Back then we only had two filling recipes for our ravioli. The meat filling recipe I shared HERE and another, not yet shared, that’s used in soup ravioli (cappelletti) which is traditionally served for lunch on Christmas Day, as well as on other special occasions throughout the year. Well, that was until a few years ago. I had finally mastered the family sausage recipe when a friend asked if I’d ever made his favorite, sausage ravioli. I hadn’t and a subsequent phone call to Zia confirmed that no other Bartolini had either. Well, that just wouldn’t do.

*     *     *

*     *     *

It wasn’t long before I had made a half-recipe of ricotta and followed that with a couple of pounds of sausage, setting aside a pound of the seasoned meat. After cooking some chopped spinach and gathering some grated Pecorino Romano cheese, I was ready to go. I didn’t pay too much attention to amounts. This was just a test to see if these flavors would blend successfully — and they did. My next trip home, Zia and I made a batch of the filling, paying close attention to the ingredients’ amounts. The ravioli not only passed her taste tests, we devoted an entire Ravioli Day to the making of the new Bartolini Sausage Ravioli. If that isn’t acceptance, I don’t know what is. Today’s recipe is the result our collaboration.

Please note. When making sausage ravioli, there is but one commandment to follow: Know Thy Sausage. Compared to most store-bought or strongly seasoned homemade sausage, Bartolini sausage is rather mild — no fennel seed, for example — so I use a little less ricotta than specified in the recipe. That allows the sausage’s flavors to be more predominant. Most sausage meat tends to run on the salty side, as does Pecorino Romano cheese. Because of this, no salt is added to the ravioli filling. Before making your filling, be sure to fry a little of the sausage meat for a taste, adjusting the filling’s seasoning and, if necessary, ingredient amounts, accordingly.

*     *     *

Bartolini Sausage Ravioli Filling Recipe

Yield: See Notes below. 

Ingredients

  • pasta dough — recipe found HERE.
  • 1 lb. sausage meat, cooked and well-drained — recipe found HERE.
  • 1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, cooked and well-drained
  • 1 cup ricotta — recipe found HERE.
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten

Directions

  1. Sauté meat over med-high heat until browned.
  2. Use meat grinder to finely process the meat. (See Notes.) Add all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until well-combined.
  3. Cover the filling and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  4. Once the filling has rested, you can begin making your ravioli.

*     *     *

Ravioli Recap

To see a more complete set of instructions for making ravioli with dies, click HERE.

*     *     *

Notes

When I recently made these ravioli, I made 1 batch of this filling and 2 batches (8 eggs) of Mom’s pasta dough. I came away with 22 doz ravioli and 10 oz (284 g) of excess pasta dough, with which I made hand-cut linguine.  Now, I probably could have gotten away with using 6 eggs to make the pasta but that would have cut it close. I’d rather have too much pasta dough than find out I’ve not enough and have to make more. Besides, the linguine were delicious!

You do not need a meat grinder to make sausage; a food processor may be used instead. Place some meat into the bowl and pulse the blades until a coarse grind is achieved. Do not just turn it on and let it process. You’re not making pâté. When using sausage meat for ravioli, after it’s cooked, place it in the bowl and pulse it a few times until a smaller grind is achieved.

*     *     *

Pasta Equipment

I’ve been asked by a few people to talk about the pasta making equipment that I own. Since this is a ravioli post, I’ll start there.

I’ve two ravioli making attachments. One is for my stand mixer and the other attaches to my hand-cranked pasta machine. I’m not all that impressed with either of them. Both have a hopper, situated in the center, for the filling. Dough sheets are fed on either sides of the hopper, passing over a die as the filling drops. The ravioli are formed by the pressure exerted by rollers. My problem with both is that the dough sheets are thicker than what I am accustomed to using. The resultant ravioli have more dough than those of my youth. (Yes, I’m spoilt, but in the best possible way.) You, however, may very well find these ravioli to be acceptable — and that’s just fine. Be forewarned, though, that if the dough sheets are not thick enough, the filling will “run” between the ravioli, making one big mess.

Here is an instructional video to show you how the stand mixer attachment works. The hand-cranked pasta machine attachment works in very much the same way.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Anyone who has seen my ravioli posts will know that I prefer to use ravioli dies to make my filled pastas. Each will result in a ravioli of a unique size. Starting top-left in the photo below, this die will create 12 ravioli that are 2 inches (5 cm) square. (Bear in mind that, no matter the die used, each raviolo will expand a bit when cooked.) It’s interesting to note that this was the original size of the ravioli that Mom and Zia made by hand until we bambini came into the picture. These were too large for us to handle on our own and our parents had to cut them for us to eat. To help our ravioli dinners go more smoothly, Mom and Zia began making ravioli that were small enough for us little ones to handle on our own.

Which brings us to the die top-right of the picture. This will create 24 ravioli that are 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) square and this most closely resembles the size Mom & Zia made, and Zia continues to make, to this day.

Moving to the bottom-left of the photo, this die will create 40 raviolini that are 3/4 inch (2 cm) square.  Mom used these raviolini, calling them cappelletti, in soup. Try as I might, I’ve never gotten the hang of this die. The filling bowl is mighty small, the dough must be mighty pliable, and I end up mighty frustrated, which brings us to …

… the die located bottom-right of the photo. I use this die to make my cappelletti. Each cappelletti is 1 inch (2.5 cm) square and the die will make 48 of the pasta pillows. They may not be as petite as Mom’s but I can make these.

In the center of the photo is a round cappelletti stamp. This is the traditional shape for cappelletti. There was just no way Mom would ever have found the time to individually stamp enough cappelletti for a family of five. Frankly, I don’t know how she did it with the smallest of these dies but she did, repeatedly.

*     *     *

Lastly, in a recent post, I mentioned that Santa gave me a stand mixer attachment that makes a number of pastas — spaghetti, macaroni of 2 sizes, bucatini, fusilli, and rigatoni. I mentioned that the spaghetti was perfectly made but that some of the other pastas were thicker than what one would purchase at a grocery. This is not a problem for me for the superior taste of homemade pasta far outweighs any concerns about its thickness. Thinking that the eggs in my pasta dough may have been the cause for the difference, I said I’m make some dough using water and semolina flour to see if thinner pasta would result. Well, last week I made the dough and the pasta was no different from that which was made with the “egg dough.” Although I’ve no photos of rigatoni made with a pasta dough made with eggs, I did take pictures of rigatoni made with “eggless” pasta dough and compared it to a manufactured brand.

*     *     *

*     *     *

In the photo on the top, the raw, store-bought rigatoni is on the left and a freshly made specimen is on the right. Beneath that photo is another, similarly arranged picture, and both pastas are cooked. You can see that the homemade rigatoni are thicker than store-bought. The same holds true for the homemade bucatini, both macaroni, and fusilli. It is yours to decide whether that difference in thickness is a deal breaker.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

I know. It’s still Christmas in your home and the last thing you want to consider right now is dinner on New Year’s Day. Well, if you want to make that dinner truly special, you’ll need plenty of time so that you can find a picnic ham, skin-on, to make a Bartolini family favorite on the first day of the New Year. Pork Roast with Fennel, Porchetta con Finnocchio, is a spectacular dish, one sure to impress you dinner guests as you start 2013 off on the right foot. You can find the recipe by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

The Bartolini Clan hopes that Yours was a Wonderful Christmas

and

May Peace Reign in 2013.

Happy New Year!

*     *     *

Friends, Bloggers, and Bartolini! Lend Me Your Orecchiette!

I don’t know about you but when I “finish” writing an entry, I will return to it, editing and re-editing, right up until the minute it’s posted. Even then, I often make changes to it once it’s been published. A few months ago, in an effort to curtail my madness, I started posting my entries at the same time every Wednesday just to give myself a deadline for these corrections. Why do I mention this?

Well, I’ll be writing this entry before I leave for my visit with Zia and family and it will be posted about the time I’m heading back to Chicago. That means I’ll have a week to look at it with little chance to make corrections because of the sorry state of that area’s internet coverage. (If Dante’s Inferno had included a Tenth Circle in Hell, surely this would have been it.) So, I’m going to keep this post relatively short, hopefully keeping my errors to a minimum and, therefore, saving myself much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I should be spending that time visiting with my Zia.

Last week I showed you how to make orecchiette, an ear-shaped pasta that comes to us from the Puglia (Apulia) region of Italy. At the time, I said I would share today’s recipe, a traditional pugliese dish featuring orecchiette, sausage, and broccoli rabe (rapini). This is another simple dish with the flavors of its 3 main ingredients in perfect balance. Although you can certainly alter the quantities to suit your own tastes, try to keep that balance in mind. The dish also offers a little heat because of the red pepper flakes. If you use a spicy sausage here, you may wish to reduce the amount of these flakes or eliminate them altogether. On the other hand, I use my family’s sausage recipe, which is quite mild, so I add a healthy amount of red pepper flakes to the dish. The rest of the recipe is easy enough to follow but be sure to check out the Variations below if, perish the thought, you don’t care for broccoli rabe.

 *     *     *

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 oz Italian sausage
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 10 oz broccoli rabe, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup + a couple tbsp of pasta water

*     *     *

*     *     *

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, to be used to cook the orecchiette. Time the pasta so that it is cooked about a minute shy of al dente, per package instructions, at about the same time that the rest of the ingredients are finished sautéing.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large deep frying pan, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add the sausage meat and use a wooden spoon to break the meat into smaller pieces as it sautés.
  3. Once the meat has browned, about 5 minutes, add the onion & pepper flakes and continue sautéing until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes more.
  4. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  5. Add the broccoli rabe to the pan with a little pasta water and continue sautéing until rabe is done to your liking.
  6. Drain the orecchiette and add it to the frying pan along with the cup of pasta water, using it to deglaze the pan. Finish cooking the orecchiette in the pan as the “sauce” reduces to the consistency you prefer.
  7. Remove to a serving platter, garnished with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.

Variations

For many, broccoli rabe is just a bit too bitter to be enjoyed as-is. If you find it that way, there are alternatives. In the first place, you might try blanching the vegetable in boiling water for a minute before plunging it into an ice bath. To prevent the oil from splattering, pat the rabe with paper towels before adding it to the frying pan in Step 5 above. If you like, you can save the blanching water, salt it, and use it to cook the orecchiette.

Broccoli, Broccolini, Broccoli Rabe

What if you just don’t like broccoli rabe and no amount of blanching is going to make it palatable for you? Well then, you might try substituting one of its relatives. Pictured above are broccoli on the left, broccoli rabe on the right, and the newest member of the family, broccolini, in the center. Although often called “baby broccoli”or “asparation”, broccolini is actually a cross between broccoli and a Chinese broccoli called kai-lan. Like broccoli, broccolini has no leaves and is not as bitter as rabe. Either cousin would make a great substitute for broccoli rabe in this dish.

*     *     *

By any other name …

“Midas Touch”

 *     *     *

Listen up! We’re making Orecchiette!

It’s been quite some time since we made pasta from scratch, so, I thought today would be a good day to make another. Today’s pasta comes to us from Puglia (Apulia), a District along Italy’s Southeast coast, including the “heel of the boot.” Meaning little ears, orecchiette is another pasta named for that which it resembles. And if you’re willing to accept that tortellini were modeled after the navel of Venus, you should have no problem accepting that orecchiette look like little ears.

Coming from Puglia, it’s a safe bet to say that the dough should be made with durum flour and water. And if you want to make authentic orecchiette, that’s what you should do. The fact is that Mom’s family, the Bartolini, came from Marche where eggs are used to make pasta. That’s how I learned to make pasta dough and that’s the recipe I shared here. Now, I’ve tried to make pasta using semolina but certainly not enough times to get a “feel” for the dough like I have with Mom’s pasta dough. So, I now have a container of semolina flour in my kitchen, along with containers for whole wheat,  spelt, bread, cake, and all-purpose flours. Given my poor track record with semolina, I just didn’t feel like buying a bag of durum to add to my flour collection. (FYI, semolina and durum are not the same flour, although both are made from durum wheat.) So, though this pasta shape is pugliese, from Puglia, the pasta dough is marchigiani, from Le Marche.

Now that’s settled, let’s get on with the show. You’ll find that orecchiette are really quite simple to make, albeit repetitive. There are no shortcuts and it is just complicated enough to require your attention throughout. In short, you can watch television or make orecchiette — but you cannot do both at the same time. The process involves taking a golf ball-sized piece of dough and rolling it into a long thin rope. The pasta is then cut, molded using your thumb, and set aside. Easy peasy! Now form another 350 or so “ears” and you’ll have a pound of pasta.

*     *     *

Take a piece of dough and roll it into a ball about the size of a golf ball. Be sure to cover the remaining dough to prevent its drying out.

*     *     *

Remember Play-Doh? Roll out a snake.

*     *     *

My snakes were about 1/3 to 1/2 inch wide. (See Notes below.)

*     *     *

Cut the dough into equally sized segments of about 1/2 inch in length.

*     *     *

Using the tip of a blunt knife, smash the dough segment and draw it towards you. This will flatten the segment and cause it to curl over the knife. Keep a supply of flour nearby to occasionally coat the tip of the knife, as well as for your thumb in the next step.

*     *     *

Invert the curled segment, pulling it over your thumb in the process.

*     *     *

Remove it from you thumb to reveal a perfectly formed orecchietta.

*     *     *

A look at the flip side. I found it best to store them cup-side down until dried otherwise the pasta’s “walls” tended to collapse, leaving a flat disk instead of a concave ear.

*     *     *

Notes

You must take into account the size of your thumb when rolling the dough and cutting it into segments. Although I prefer my orecchiette small, my thumbs are too large to accomplish that and attempts to use another finger tip didn’t work out. As a result, I needed to make my dough roll a little on the thick side. I’m sure that if I made orecchiette more often, I’d eventually learn to make smaller ones. Even so, freshly made “large” orecchiette are still better than those in a box.

Being homemade, part of this pasta’s charm is its lack of uniformity. Don’t obsess and try to get all of the “little ears” to be the same shape and size. You’ll find that those created near the end of your dough supply are far more alike than the ones you made at the start — and that’s just fine. I prefer to think of my orecchiette as being rustic. You should, too.

*     *     *

Coming next week …

Next week I’ll post the pugliese recipe for orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe, pictured above.

By the time many of you read this post, I’ll be well on my way to Michigan. Please understand that while there, I can read your posts and comments but making my own comment or reply is unbelievably slow.  Most may have to wait until I return home.

*     *     *

By any other name …

“Honor”

*     *     *

You, too, can make Pizzoccheri Pasta at home!

Today, I will once again stray from the Bartolini recipe file and show you how to make another pasta. This one, made with buckwheat, is called pizzoccheri, and originated in the most northern part of the Italian peninsula.  I first heard of this pasta, and its namesake dish, from a fellow blogger “MusingMar” when she shared the recipe for this unusual dish last February in her blog, Life Through the Kitchen Window. If you’ve not met Mar, I hope you take a few minutes to visit her WordPress “home”. Similar to my documenting my family’s recipes for future Bartolini, Mar is gathering her recipes as a gift for her children. And what a gift it will be! Her blog features  delicious recipes that are well-written, easy to follow, and beautifully photographed. One day, her kids will thank her but, in the meantime, we’re welcome to have a peak and even “borrow” a few.

When Mar posted her recipe for pizzoccheri, she called it “Italian Comfort” — and is it ever! This pasta dish features potatoes and cabbage, with some butter, garlic, and sage thrown in for good measure. Oh! Did I mention the Fontina and Parmesan cheeses? Yes, this is one hearty dish, made even more so by its buckwheat noodles. And this is where I got involved. When Mar posted her recipe, she mentioned that she makes it with regular fettuccine since she’s been unable to find buckwheat noodles. She asked if I could be of help. Well, I love a challenge, so, of course I agreed.

 *     *     *

"Italian Comfort"

 *     *     *

First, I searched the web and learned that the dish originated along Italy’s border with Switzerland. As Mario Batali is quick to point out, the northern districts of Italy use eggs and “double zero” flour  in their pasta dough and, as you travel south, the flour is mixed with semolina and water is used with the eggs. When you get to the very south, the dough can be all semolina with little or no egg used at all. Well, since this pasta came from the extreme north, chances are its dough was all double zero flour and eggs, without any semolina or water used. Knowing that, I began searching the web and weeded out recipes that didn’t seem to have originated in the north. One memorable recipe used Grappa and Vermouth!?!? Seeing that, I decided to go ahead and trust my own instincts.

Based roughly on Mom’s dough recipe, I used a 4 to 1 ratio, meaning 2 cups of buckwheat flour and ½ cup of  all-purpose (AP) flour. I also used 3 eggs but the dough was too dry and I had to add some liquid. An egg would have been too much so I added about 2 tbsp of water to the food processor. After it rested for 30 minutes, I treated it like I would any pasta dough and cut the pasta by hand. In all, I ended up with a little over a pound of pizzoccheri pasta. While they cooked up just fine, the pasta broke into small pieces when everything was assembled for the oven and, although the finished dish tasted great, it certainly wasn’t the most appealing thing I’ve ever served myself. Not only that, since I used the entire batch of pizzoccheri pasta in the dish, I had plenty — and I do mean plenty — of pizzoccheri to eat during the following week. As luck would have it, pizzoccheri week was followed by the boiled dinner days of March. One could say that I enjoyed more than my fair share of cabbage during that time period and pizzoccheri was off of the menu for a spell.

Finally, this past Friday I decided to try again. Having spoken with Zia, we agreed that my first attempt failed because it needed more gluten to hold the noodles together and that I rolled the dough too thin.  This time around, I used 2 parts buckwheat flour to 1 part AP flour. Again, I only used eggs and the dough handled much better, although still not as easy as regular pasta dough. Once the dough was made, I followed Mar’s recipe and this time the noodles “survived”. This pizzoccheri was not only delicious but it looked great, too. Success!

Today’s recipe is from that final, successful attempt. Although I only made 12 oz. of pasta, you can easily adjust the recipe to make more or less, depending upon your needs. As mentioned above, use a ratio of 2 parts buckwheat flour to one part AP flour and I estimate 1 egg is needed for every 75g of flour. Be aware that buckwheat flour is heavier than AP flour and that’s why I used weight, rather than volume, measurements the second time around. (Where volume measurements are given in the recipe that follows, they are my best guess approximation.) Your dough will be a little more moist than normal pasta dough but should not be sticky. This dough dries faster than most and the extra moisture will be needed as your roll it out and cut the pasta. Work quickly and do not roll it as thin as you normally would for fettuccine or pappardelle. Additionally, do not allow the sheets to dry as much as you would normal pasta before it’s cut into noodles. If it is too dry, the pizzoccheri dough sheets will become brittle and break as you prepare to cut them by hand or when passing them through your pasta cutters. As complicated as this all may seem, once you start working with the dough, especially if you’ve pasta-making experience, you’ll see what I mean. Really, it’s a little tricky but not nearly as impossible as this may sound.

 *     *     *

How To Make Home-Made Pizzoccheri Pasta

Ingredients

yield: approx 12 oz pasta dough

  • 150 g buckwheat flour (about 1¼ cups)
  • 75 g AP flour (about  ⅔ cup)
  • 3 large eggs
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until a dough ball forms, usually within about 30 seconds.
  2. Remove dough and knead on a floured surface for a few minutes. Cover with an overturned bowl or plastic wrap and allow to rest at least 30 minutes and no more than 60. If you must rest dough longer than an hour, refrigerate it until you’re ready to roll it out.
  3. To roll the dough:
    1. If using a rolling pin, roll the dough until about twice as thick as you would when making fettuccine.
    2. If using a stand mixer rolling attachment or hand cranked pasta machine with “1” as the widest setting, pass the dough repeatedly through the rollers, increasing the number setting each time, up to and including the “4” setting.
    3. If your roller gizmo’s widest setting is “10”, pass the dough repeatedly through the rollers, decreasing the number setting each time, up to and including the “6” setting.
  4. Allow dough sheets to dry a bit but not as much as you would for normal pasta dough.
  5. Cut each sheet into 12 inch sections.
  6. If using stand mixer or hand cranked pasta cutters:
    1. Pass the sheets individually through the largest pasta cutters, usually fettuccine-sized.
    2. Place newly cut fettuccine aside on a floured surface and repeat the process for all the dough sheets.
  7. To cut by hand (see poorly focused pictures below):
    1. One by one, lightly flour each sheet, fold it in half, then in half again.
    2. Using a sharp knife or pastry cutter, trim off the  2 ends of the folded dough sheet (sfoglia).
    3. Cut your noodles. Tagliatelle are no less than ¼ inch (6.4 mm) wide. Fettuccine are no less than ⅓ inch wide (8.4 mm). Pappardelle are no less than ½ inch (12.7 mm) wide.
    4. Unroll the cut sections to produce the noodles, place the newly cut pasta aside, and repeat the process until all the dough sheets have been cut.
  8. When finished, cover the noodles with a clean kitchen towel and use ASAP in Mar’s pizzoccheri recipe.

 *     *     *

The dough sheets must be well-floured to prevent them from sticking when folded and cut.

 *     *     *

Now, I realize that  this may seem like a difficult process just to make some pasta, especially for the inexperienced pasta maker. As I’ve mentioned, if you’ve made pasta at home, my precautions will make sense and this will probably not seem so difficult. If you haven’t,  I’d suggest you start with a regular pasta dough recipe (see Mom’s Pasta Dough) before attempting this one. This dough is not nearly as “forgiving” as normal pasta dough and, as such, is not a good dough to use when learning the ropes of pasta making. Besides, you can always use regular fettuccine or tagliatelle noodles in your pizzoccheri or, if you must have buckwheat, try soba noodles. Don’t let your noodle prevent you from enjoying a great dish!

And thank you, Mar. When all is said and done, I learned both a new recipe and how to make buckwheat pasta. Not a bad outcome.

 *     *     *

Strozzapreti Pasta

Throughout much of modern history, the Italian language has had fewer words in its lexicon than most other languages, and that includes its cousins, the Romance languages. Granted, the gap has lessened over the last century but the fact that it existed at all is because Italian, being an ancient language, was so closely descended from Latin, an even more ancient language of even fewer words. So, when it came to identifying their pasta, Italians didn’t create new words but named each after the familiar object it resembled, both real and imagined. We Americans know some of their names but that’s just the tip of the meatball. There are pastas named after just about anything, from little tongues (linguine) to little ears (orecchiette) to the hair of an angel (capelli d’angelo). Some look like shoelaces (stringozzi), others like twine (spaghetti), and still others like ribbons (fettuccine). And then there are the shells, be they from the sea (conchiglie) or the land (lumache). There are the twins (gemelli), flowers (fiori), little bells (campanelle), and little radiators (radiatori). And we mustn’t overlook tortellini, which are said to resemble the navel of Venus. The list goes on and on, far too long to fully explore here. Instead, every now and again I’ll share one that I find interesting and, most importantly, easy to make by hand. To that end, I shared a recipe last May for one obscure pasta called fazzoletti, little handkerchiefs and, in December, Mom’s quadretti, little squares. Today, I thought that I’d share another, the name of which is sure to give you pause. It is strozzapreti, priest choker pasta.

I first learned of strozzapreti when Zia and I were in Florence in 2002. We had a good laugh when the waiter told us the legend behind the pasta’s name, although at the time, I mistakenly thought that he was merely giving us a sales pitch. According to the waiter, strozzapreti is so good that when it was invented and first served to priests, they devoured it so quickly that they choked. You must admit, if you’re trying to sell pasta, that’s a pretty good story to have up your sleeve. Move forward a few years. I’d forgotten all about the pasta until I heard some chef on television mention priests choking. After some web searching, I saw how the pasta was made and strozzapreti became a part of my pasta arsenal. There are, by the way, other legends involving the naming of this pasta but I’m sticking with the one I first learned. (Ya leave the dance with the one that brung ya.)

Strozzapreti are a twisted pasta, about 3 inches in length, vaguely reminiscent of cavatelli. Of course, cavatelli, being machine-made, are consistent in shape and length, while home-made strozzapreti are anything but — and therein lies its charm. Few would ever mistake a dish of home-made strozzapreti for a mass-produced pasta and no mass-produced pasta will ever taste nearly as good as home-made strozzapreti. The latter part of that statement is as good a reason as any for taking the time to make this pasta.

*     *     *

How to Make Strozzapreti

To start, you’re going to need some dough. I’ve always used Mom’s Pasta Dough here and am perfectly happy with the results. Once you’ve made your dough and rolled it out, the rest is pretty easy, albeit repetitive. Take a dough sheet of about 12 inches long, fold in half, and in half again, until it is no more than 3 inches wide. With a sharp knife, cut tagliatelle-sized noodles and unfold each noodle, as needed. Once unfolded, start at one end and roll the noodle between your palms to create a twisted piece of pasta. Tear off a 3 inch piece and roll the remaining noodle, again and again, tearing off pieces as you go. You’ll find that your pasta will have a tighter spiral if you only roll them in one direction. Going back-and-forth will only wind and unwind the coil. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll manage to make each piece with a single pass between your palms.

One last thing worth mentioning involves the pasta dough. Usually, when you cut pasta, whether by hand or machine, the dough should be dry-ish to prevent the strands from sticking together while being cut. That’s not the case here. If the dough is too dry, the lower, dangling, part will break as you try to roll the upper part to form the strozzapreti. Not only that, you may find it nearly impossible to get enough traction between your palms and the noodle to get it to twist. If you find that you cannot roll the pasta between your palms, try moistening your hands just a bit. Bear in mind, however, that too much water will ruin the pasta. A scant drop of water spread between your palms should do the trick.

*     *     *

Cut the dough into a strip about 12 inches long.

 *     *     *

Fold the strip in half

*     *     *

Repeat at least one more time to create a sfoglia

*     *     *

Cut the sfoglia into tagliatelle-sized pasta

*     *     *

Unfold 1 noodle

*     *     *

Place tip at the base of one palm and with other hand's fingertips ...

*     *     *

... Begin to roll the noodle between your palms

*     *     *

Tear off a 3 inch piece of the twisted pasta

*     *     *

Repeat until the entire noodle has been twisted and cut into pieces

*     *     *

Unfold another noodle and repeat the process until finished

*     *     *

Tutto fatto!

*     *     *

Cooked fresh in salted water, strozzapreti will be ready in minutes. If dried or frozen it will take a few minutes more. The pasta’s shape, in my opinion, lends itself to being served with pesto or a tomato sauce, with or without meat. Serve it garnished with grated cheese, while you tell the tale of choking priests, and you’re sure to have satisfied, as well as entertained, dinner companions.

Variations

Although I formed the strozzapreti by rolling the dough between my palms, you can make them using a slender rod or barbecue skewer. Once you’ve unfolded the tagliatelle-like noodle, cut it into 3 inch pieces. Place the rod atop each individual dough piece and roll the two, creating a spiral pasta. Remove the rod and repeat the process with another piece of dough.

Lidia Bastianich makes a version of strozzapreti that is a gnocchi-like dish. I have no doubt that her dish is called strozzapreti, just as I’ve no doubt that we were served the pasta that I’ve described above and it, too, was called strozzapreti. How can this be? Well, obviously, there’s more than one way to choke a priest.

*     *     *

Quadretti Pasta

Most of us have warm and fuzzy memories of being nursed back to health by a loving caregiver, usually Mom, who served us a cup or bowl of soup. And you parents reading this are sure to have equally warm memories — some pretty recent — but from the other side of the covers. I’d be willing to bet that most of us were served soup made with a chicken-based stock or broth. What went into that broth, however, varied widely from house to house. In ours, Mom used either of 2 pastas, one of which is today’s recipe, quadretti.

Generally speaking, Mom relied upon 3 dishes to get me up-and-about. Breakfast would be a 3-minute egg, with or without buttered toast depending upon my stomach’s attitude.  My meals would be pasta in bianco. Aside from it being a traditional cure served to bambini with stomach ailments, Mom knew that I could’ve been at Death’s door and I would have agreed to at least try a little pasta in bianco. Between meals, though, there was a constant supply of broth which, as the recovery progressed, contained more and more pastina. Ask my Sister what Mom served her when ill and she’ll mention, without hesitation, Acini de Pepe, a tiny bead-like pasta. As for my Brother and me, it was quadretti all the way.

“Feeling better?”

Quadretti are square-shaped pastina that, as you’ll soon see, are quite easy to make. Whenever Mom made pasta of any kind, she would roll out the left-over dough and use it to make quadretti. (In true Italian tradition, absolutely nothing was wasted.) This she stored in a container, adding to it with each new batch of home-made pasta. Because she was always adding to her stash, she rarely had to devote a batch of pasta dough to making quadretti. When combined with the quart or 2 of chicken stock she was sure to have on-hand for risotto,  Mom was always prepared when one of us was feeling under the weather.

One more thing before getting to the directions and this is for soup novices. You will get better results if you only make enough soup with quadretti for as many bowls as will be served in 1 meal. If you make a large batch of soup with quadretti and store it in the fridge, when you bring it out of the fridge, you may be surprised to find that the noodles have absorbed a great deal of the broth. Not only that but, depending upon how much quadretti you put into the soup, you my have very little broth left at all. So, before you add the quadretti to your soup, take into consideration that the noodles will swell a bit during cooking and later in storage. Better to make just enough soup for one meal and store the raw quadretti separately from the broth/stock.

Don’t let any of this deter you from making this pasta. Just as you cannot compare a dish of home-made linguine with store-bought, you will not find a mass-produced pasta that comes close to the taste of home-made quadretti. It just ain’t gonna happen!

*     *     *

How To Make Quadretti

A half batch of Mom’s Pasta Dough will give you about 2/3 to 3/4 lb of fresh pasta dough. That should be more than enough for most soup recipes. Once the dough has rested, you must roll it out, either manually or by machine. If doing it by hand, roll it until it is as thin as you would when making ravioli. If using a machine that, like mine is at its widest when the setting is number “1,” then pass the dough through the rollers, repeatedly, advancing the setting with each pass, up-to-and-including the number “6” setting. If your rollers, like Zia’s, work the opposite of mine and their widest setting is number “10,” then pass the dough repeatedly through the rollers, decreasing the setting with each pass, down-to-and-including the number “5” setting. Once you’ve attained the proper thickness, cut the dough strip into sheets 2 to 3 feet long, and follow the steps outlined in the images below. Be sure to allow the dough sheets to dry sufficiently. If the sheets are too moist, the quadretti will stick together when you cut them. If too dry, the dough sheet will crack and break as you try to fold it to create the sfoglia.

*     *     *

Fold dough sheet in half,

*     *     *

Continue to fold in half repeatedly until a sfoglia of about 2 to 4 inches wide is created.

*     *     *

Starting at one end, begin cutting sfoglia into strips, no thicker than the width of linguine.

*     *     *

Carefully turn a number of the noodles 90* and begin cutting, again as if cutting linguine.

*     *     *

Gently separate the freshly cut quadretti.

*     *     *

Spread out to dry before freezing or refrigerating in an airtight container until use.

*     *     *

See? A pasta cannot be easier to make by hand and, if you’ve never enjoyed home-made pasta in your broth, you’re in for a real treat. Keep a container of quadretti in the back of your freezer and if, heaven forbid, you’re feeling under the weather, a mug of your home-made broth with a sprinkling of quadretti is just what my “Doctor Mom” would have ordered.

*     *     *