Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tortolloni (or "Ravioli") Stuffed with Spinach, Proscuitto and Ricotta and Tomato Butter Sauce

Everyone knows homemade pasta is of another breed than storebought pasta... it is impossible to express in words... just try it and you will understand.

This reminds me of the pasta Brandon and I ate while sitting on the terrace at the villa we stayed in in Tuscany on our honeymoon... ahh I wish I could go back...

This recipe, from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, calls for Swiss Chard or Spinach.  I used frozen, thawed spinach, which was fine and saved a lot of work.  The filling also had prosciutto, onion, ricotta, egg, butter, grated Parmesan cheese, and a pinch of nutmeg.  So good.

Here are instructions on how to make Homemade Pasta Dough with Three Eggs, which this recipe calls for.  This is fun and relatively easy project, although it does take some time.  It is a great way to spend an overcast Sunday afternoon (especially if you can convince your husband to help you! :-))



2 pounds Swiss chard, if the stalks are very thin, or 2 1/2 pounds if the stalks are broad, or 2 lbs fresh
spinach (NOTE: I used 2 10-oz packages of frozen spinach, thawed, which I cooked for about  3 minutes in boiling water, drained, and then squeezed the excess water from).
2 1/2 Tbs onion, chopped very fine
3 1/2 Tbs chopped prosciutto (or pancetta or unsmoked boiled ham)
3 Tbs butter
1 cup fresh ricotta (see how to make your own!)
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Tomato Butter Sauce:

1 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, cut up with their juices 
5 Tbs butter
1 medium onion, cut in half
4 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


Homemade yellow pasta dough with three eggs, 1 2/3 cups unbleached flour, and 1 Tbs. milk.



1.  If using Swiss chard or fresh spinach: Remove stalks from Swiss chard or stems from fresh spinach and then soak the leaves in a several changes of cold water.  Gently scoop out the leaves without shaking them, and put them in a pot with just the water that clings to them.  Add large pinches of salt to keep the vegetable green, cover the pot, turn on the heat to medium, and cook until tender, about 12 minutes, depending on the frehshness of the vegetable.  Drain, and as soon as it is cool enough to handle, squeeze it gently to drive out as much moisture as possible, and chop it very fine.  

If using frozen spinach: cook thawed spinach in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes.  Drain, and as soon as it is cool enough to handle, squeeze it gently to drive out as much moisture as possible.  Chop it fine.

2.  In a small saute pan, put the onion, prosciutto, and butter and turn on the heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until onion becomes translucent, then add the chopped chard or spinach.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until all the butter is absorbed.

3.  Turn out the contents of the pan into a bowl, Add the ricotta, egg yolk, grated Parmesan, and a grating of nutmeg (about 1/8 tsp) and mix with a fork until ingredients are evenly combined.  Taste and correct for salt.


Combine tomatoes, butter, onion, and salt and cook at a slow, steady simmer for 45 minutes, or until the fat floats free of the tomato.  Stir from time to time, mashing any large pieces of tomato in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon.  Taste and correct for salt.  Discard the onion before tossing with the pasta.


Make Homemade Pasta Dough with three eggs.   Roll it into sheets approximately 4 inches thick.  Place approximately 1 tsp. of filling every 2 inches along one side.  Fold the dough over the filling, creating a long tube that encloses the filling.  Use a fluted pastry wheel to trim the joined edges of hte tube, to seal it all around.  With the same wheel, cut across the tube between every mound of stuffing, separating it into squares.  (SEE PICTURES ABOVE).  Spread the squares out on clean, dry, cloth towels, making sure they do not touch while the dough is still soft.  Turn the squares from time to time as they dry.  Cook the ravioli in a large pot of salted boiling water until edges are al dente

Drain and put into a warm serving bowl.

Toss gently with the sauce, and 4 Tbs. Parmesan cheese.

Serve with more freshly grated Parmesan.


~ Anya

Homemade Pasta Dough with Three Eggs


There is nothing like good homemade pasta.  I remember my dad making sheets of pasta when I was little and hanging them over the backs of kitchen chairs and across tables, spread on kitchen towels.  I use a hand-cranked manual pasta machine to roll out the dough, which takes virtually no skill at all.

Every time I make this I am amazed by how easy it is and how worth it for the fresh pasta.  This time I made Tortolloni Stuffed with Spinach, Prosciutto and Ricotta from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  They were fantastic.

Marcella uses these basic measurements for pasta dough:

For yellow pasta dough: 1 cup APF + 2 large eggs = 3/4 lb homemade pasta (3 standard or 4 appetizer portions
For green pasta dough: 1 1/2 cups APF + 2 large eggs + 1/2 of a 10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed or 1/2 pound fresh spinach = 1 lb pasta (4 standard portions)
NOTE: cook the spinach, drain, and cool it and then squeeze out all excess water before chopping fine.
Here is the recipe for 3 egg yellow pasta dough, which I used for the ravioli:


3 large eggs at room temperature
1 2/3 cup (+ more as needed) all-purpose flour
[1 Tbs milk (only if making stuffed pasta)]


Measure 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour onto a work surface and form into a mound, and scoop a deep hollow in the center.   Break the eggs into the hollow.  I you are making a stuffed pasta, also add 1 Tbs milk to the mixture.  (If you want to make green pasta, add spinach now too -- see instructions above).  Beat the eggs lightly for a minute or so, as though you were making an omelet.

Draw some of the flour over the eggs, mixing it in with the fork a little at a time, until the eggs are no longer runny.  Marcella makes this sound easy but it takes practice to not break the walls and let the eggs run off.  I made it through about half the flour and then started to lose some egg -- But I just sort of grabbed it and mounded the rest of the flour around it and began to knead it together at this point.

Draw the sides of the mount together with your hands, leaving some flour to the side, and work the eggs and flour together, using your fingers and the palms of your hand, until you have a smoothly integrated mixture.  If it is still moist, work in more flour.  NOTE: I had to add quite a bit more flour during this process.  The dough should be neither sticky nor dry -- knowing the feel takes time but the dough is pretty forgiving. 

When the mass feels good to you and like it does not need more flour, wash your hands, dry them, and run a simple test: press your thumb deep into the center of the mass; if it comes out clean, without any sticky matter on it, no more flour is needed.  Put the mass to one side, scrape the work surface absolutely clear of any loose or caked bits of flour and crumbs, and get ready to knead.

This is the most important step, and one I will not pretend to have mastered.  I have read over and over again that you cannot cheat and get good homemade pasta by kneading in a machine -- you gotta use them hands!  Marcella says to do it like this:

Push forward against the mass using the heel of your palm, keeping your fingers bent.  Fold the mass in half, give it a half turn, press hard against it with the heel of your palm again, and repeat the operation.  Make sure that you keep turning the ball of dough always in the same direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise, as you prefer.  When you have kneaded it thus for 8 full minutes and the dough is as smooth as a baby skin, it is ready for the machine.

Here's me in action:

Here is my smooth-as-baby-skin dough:

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to rest for at least 20 minutes, or overnight.

When you are ready to roll the dough out, cut the ball into 3 parts per egg  used -- so for 3 egg pasta, into nine pieces.

To make most pastas, the process is simple. Spread clean, dry, cloth dishtowels over the counter near where you will be using the machine to put the pasta on.  Flatten each piece;  feed one piece at a time through machine at widest setting and lay on towels; reduce the setting by one notch, and feed each through again.  Repeat this process until all are at their thinnest setting and then cut pasta in whatever shape you are making (you should let the sheets dry about 10 minutes before cutting them).

If you are making stuffed pasta, wrap all but one piece in plastic wrap to they do not dry out and thin one piece at a time, stuff it as directed, cut it, and then proceed to the next piece, like so:

That's pretty much it!  Worth the effort entirely!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pineapple and Green Peas in Almond Broth, Rice and Cauliflower Pilaf, and Green Beans in Yogurt-Poppy Seed Sauce

The combination of flavors in this Indian soup -- saffron, pineapple, peas, coconut, almond, cashews, sesame, coriander, ginger, green chili, mustard seeds -- was so surprising and remarkable.   I made this last night along with a rice and cauliflower pilaf and green beans in a yogurt-poppy seed sauce.

Everything was delicious, but the soup definitely stole the show.  I would definitely make the cauliflower rice pilaf again, but next time I will serve it with a main that has more sauce -- perhaps a masala or curry.  The green beans (which were very spicy!) would also make a good side dish for something.  Together these weren't perfect, as they both felt a little like side dishes, but with the soup it was plenty of food!  The soup is the star of this post though -- I will be making it again for sure!

The recipes all come from the cookbook The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi.

Pineapple and Green Peas in Almond Broth
Ananas Hari Matar Shorba
(from southern region of Maharashtra) 

serves 6 to 8
prep time: 20 minutes
cooking time: 30 minutes


3 Tbs. blanched almonds, halved
3 Tbs. raw cashew halves
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 Tbs. grated fresh or dried coconut
1 1/4 cups water or coconut milk
1/2-inch piec of fresh ginger root, scraped and cut into thin julienne
1-2 hot green chilies, stemmed and seeded
3 Tbs. ghee or unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. black mustard seeds
12 high-quality saffron threads
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 small ripened pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup fresh peas or frozen baby peas, defrosted
3 Tbs. heavy cream
1/8 tsp. frhesly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. garam masala


1.  Place 1 1/2 tsp each of the almonds and cashews and all sesame seeds, coriander seeds, and coconut in a blender or food processor, cover and pulse to a coarse powder.  Add 1/2 cup of water or coconut milk (I used water) and the ginger and chilies, cover and process until smooth.  Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing out all of the liquid.  Reserve liquid. 

2.  Heat the ghee or butter in a 3-quart saucepan over moderate heat.  Add the remaining 1 1/2 Tbs. each of cashews and almonds and stir-fry until golden brown, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Drop in the black mustard seeds and fry until they turn gray and pop.  Pour in the reserved seed-nut milk and cook, stirring to prevent sticking, for 2-3 minutes.  Pour in the remaining 1 1/4 cups water or coconut milk and the saffron threads and salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

3.  Add the pineapple and peas if using fresh peas, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the pineapple and peas are tender.  If you are using frozen defrosted peas, add only 1-2 minutes before serving.  Remove pan from the heat, stir in the cream, nutmeg and garam masala, and garnish each serving dish with the fried nuts.


Rice and Cauliflower Pilaf
Gobhi Pulau

serves 6 to 8
prep time: 30 minutes
cooking time: 45 minutes

For the Cauliflower:

1/4 cup fresh or dried grated coconut, lightly packed
1 Tbs. minced seeded hot green chilies
1 Tbs. scraped, finely shredded or minced fresh ginger root
3 Tbs. minced fresh parsley or coarsely copped coriander (cilantro)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp. tumeric
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. ghee or vegetable oil
1 small cauliflower, washed, trimmed, and cut into small florets

For the Rice:

1 cup basmati or other long-grain white rice
3 Tbs. ghee or a mixture of begetable oil and unsalted butter
1 small cassia or bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp. black mustard seeds
2 large black or 4 large green cardomom pods, slightly crushed
1 3/4 cup to 2 cups water
1 tsp. raw sugar
lemon or lime wedges for garnishing

To Cook the Cauliflower:
1. Combine coconut, green chilies, ginger, parsley or coriander and yogurt in a blender or food processor.  Cover and mix until smooth.  Scrape into a small bowl and add turmeric, salt and pepper and mix.  
2.  Heat 3 Tbs. of ghee or oil in a heavy 2-quart saucepan over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking.  Drop in the cauliflower florets and stir-fry for about 5 minutes or until cauliflower has light brown edges.  Pour int he yogurt mixture and stir well.  Reduce heat slightly and fry until the vegetable is dry and half-cooked. 
3.  Remove the pan from the heat and transfer contents to a small bowl.  Wipe the pan clean.

To Cook the Rice:
1.  Heat 1 1/2 Tbs. of ghee or oil-butter mixture in a heavy 2-quart nonstick saucepan over moderate heat.  Fry the cassia or bay leaf, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds and cardamom pods until the mustard seeds turn gray and sputter and pop.  Pour in the rice and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.
2.  Add the water and sweetener, raise the heat to high and bring the liquid to a full boil.  Stir in the seasoned cauliflower and immediately reduce heat to very low and cover with a tight-fitting lid.  Simmer gently, without stirring, for 20-25 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender and fluffy.  Turn the heat off and let the rice sit, covered, for 5 minutes to allow the fragile grains to firm up.  Just before serving, remove the cover, add the remaining 1 1/2 Tbs. of ghee or oil-butter mixture and fluff the piping-hot rice with a fork.  Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge.


Green Beans in Yogurt-Poppy Seed Sauce
Barbatti Tari Sabji

serves 4 or 5
prep time: 30 minutes
cook time: 5 minutes

(Note: everything can be done ahead for this dish and it can be cooked at the last minute)


3 Tbs. white poppy seeds (or chopped cashews)
2 hot green chilies (I used one Serrano chili and it was REALLY spicy so I wouldn't use two unless using a mild pepper)
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, scraped and coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) or parsley
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 3-inch pieces and steamed until tender-crisp
3 Tbs. ghee or unsalted butter
6 curry leaves, preferably fresh, or 1/2 cassia or bay leaf
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

1.  Put the poppy seeds or cashews in a food processor or blender, cover and pulse until powdered.  Add the chilies, ginger, cumin, half of the fresh herb, and the yogurt.  Process until creamy smooth, then combine with steamed green beans in a bowl and toss well.
2.  To assemble the dish, heat the ghee or butter in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over moderate heat.  Drop in the curry leaves or bay leaf and let sizzle for a few seconds.  Pour in the beans and sauce, salt and nutmeg.  Stir-fry until the sauce thickens, either slightly or until almost dry.  Serve with the remaining herb, piping hot, at room temperature or chilled.


-- Anya

Cornmeal Buttermilk Pancakes

My favorite Sunday morning food is pancakes and I really love love love cornmeal pancakes.  I think that they are the king of pancakes, putting all other pancakes to shame.  (yes, even the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes I made for easter with homemade ricotta).  These panckaes are hearty and textured, crunchy on the outside and soft inside.  

They are perfect with just a bit of butter and maple syrup (and OK yes, bacon).  Let's face it, cornmeal just makes everything better.  These would be good with blueberries too, but they needed nothing extra.  I got this recipe from Bon Appetit, but adjusted it by adding an extra 1/4 cup of flour and cornmeal each, and I used half whole wheat flour and half pastry flour because I didn't have any all-purpose flour on hand (this is a shameful fact, I admit, but I have not been baking recently... I know this is shameful too but I am trying to avoid cookies, bread, and other baked goods after a long winter of unhealthy eating... not that these pancakes fit the diet, I know! but I ate them anyway, as I stared out at another burst of snow flakes in the middle of April, thinking "I DESERVE THESE" and "WHEN WILL WINTER EVER END?!").  
Anyways... um... I think the texture of these is perfect and I will make it exactly this way next time.

Here's the recipe!

Cornmeal Buttermilk Pancakes
adapted from Bon Appetit (February 1998)
makes approximately 12 pancakes


1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour  (or white pastry flour)
1 cup yellow stone ground cornmeal
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/4 cups buttermilk  (make your own by combining scant 1 1/4 cups milk and 1 Tbs. + 1 tsp. lemon juice or vinegar.  Let mixture sit for 5 minutes before adding to other ingredients)

oil for pan
butter and real maple syrup for serving 


1.  Preheat oven to 300 F.  Whisk together first 6 ingredients in large bowl. 
2.  Combine eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter (make sure butter is cool before adding) in a medium bowl and whisk to blend.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.
3.  Coat bottom of heavy skillet with oil (I used coconut oil which worked wonderfully) and heat over medium heat.  Working in batches, pour approximately 1/4 cup worth of batter for each pancake and cook until both sides are golden brown and edges are crisp, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Transfer pancakes to platter in preheated oven to keep warm.  Repeat with remaining batter.  Serve warm with maple syrup and butter.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Aparagus, Ricotta and Mushroom Pizza

This was another awesome recipe I tried out with my homemade ricotta.  SO yummy.  We have been having lots of asparagus these days!  Which means spring is on its way... it HAS to be people (longest winter ever in Voorheesville!)

Asparagus, Ricotta and Cremini Mushroom Pizza 
(adapted from Real Simple)

  • 1  pound pizza dough, at room temperature
  • cornmeal, for the baking sheet
  • 1  pound asparagus, trimmed and halved lengthwise and crosswise
  • 5  ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta (see how to make your own)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • [optional: arugula tossed in lemon juice to top]
  1. Heat oven to 425° F.  Roll out the dough to desired shape and place on cornmeal-dusted baking sheet.
  2. Brush dough with some olive oil, top the dough with the asparagus, mushrooms, and garlic, then the ricotta, Parmesan, and a little more oil. Season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Bake on pan (or pizza stone) until the crust is golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.
  3. Optional: top with arugula tossed in lemon juice. 

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

I have wanted to make ricotta pancakes for some time and finally had the perfect occasion with some homemade ricotta in the fridge that needed using.  This was a wonderful Easter brunch.  These ricotta pancakes are super light and fluffy because of the beaten egg white, and are lower in calories than many other recipes I looked at, containing no milk, butter, and very little sugar.

This recipe is from Gourmet magazine, which suggested pairing the pancakes with sauteed apples.  I chose instead to accompany these pancakes with blueberries, which I submerged in syrup for a little while before serving, along with a little powdered sugar.  Delicious! Here's the recipe

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
(adapted from Gourmet - September 1991)
makes about 10 small pancakes (serves 2)

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/3 cups ricotta see how to make your own!
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (I used a little more and added some lemon juice from half a lemon as well)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • melted butter for brushing the griddle
  • maple syrup,  berries, and powdered as an accompaniment

In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest I also added some lemon juice from half a lemon).  Then add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined.

In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks, whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Heat a griddle over moderately high heat until it is hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface and brush it with some of the melted butter. Working in batches, pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4-cup measures and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary.

Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 200°F. oven.

Serve with maple syrup, berries, and powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Penne with Ricotta and Spinach Sauce

This is a great recipe from Marcella Hazan.  Simple and wonderful with fresh ricotta (see how to make your own!).  I used frozen spinach and it worked great -- although I'm sure fresh would be good too if you are willing to put in the extra steps.

I also halved the butter in this recipe and it did not suffer (the original recipe calls for 1/4 pound or a full stick and I got away with maybe 3 to 4 Tablespoons.  Reserve a little of the pasta water to mix in to this at the end.

 Here's how to make it:

Penne con Spinaci e Ricotta
(Penne with Ricotta and Spinach Sauce)
serves 4 to 6


2 pounds fresh spinach* or 2 (10-oz) packages of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed (see note below)
1/4 lb. butter (1 stick) (I used half this amount)
salt to taste
1 pound penne or other short tubular macaroni
1/2 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta (I used more) (see how to make your own!)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Choose a skillet that can contain all the spinach later without overcrowding.  Put in 4 Tbs butter (I used 2 Tbs here) and turn heat to medium high.  When buter is melted, add spinach and a liberal 2 to 3 pinches of salt (bear in mind that this and the ricotta will be the principal component of the sauce and ricotta has no salt, so season liberally).  Saute spinach for 2 minutes or so, turning frequently, then turn off the heat.

Cook pasta in 4 to 5 quarts salted boiling water until tender but al dente, firm to the bite.  Set aside some pasta water before draining pasta in a colander, shake vigorously and transfer pasta to a warm serving bowl.  Add spinach from the pan, ricotta, remaining 4 Tbs (I used 2 Tbs here) of butter, and all the grated cheese.  Add pasta water as needed.  Mix thoroughly and serve at once.

*Note:  I used frozen spinach.  If you use fresh spinach, remove and discard the stems, soak spinach in several changes of basins of cold water, dunking it with your hands until no more grit appears, and then cook the spinach in a covered pan over medium heat with a pinch of salt until no more water is clinging to the leaves, and then cook until tender, about 10 minutes more.  Drain well and when spinach is cool enough to handle, press as much liquid from it as you can, but do not squeeze too tightly.  Chop spinach fine and set aside.