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!