Macella Hazan’s Tortellini

September 26

Macella Hazan’s Tortellini

makes about 140

tortellini, 6 servings

FOR THE STUFFING:

2 pounds Swiss chard, if the stalks are very thin, or 2 ½ pounds, if the stalks are broad, or 2 pounds fresh spinach

Salt

2 ½ tablespoons onion chopped very fine

3 ½ tablespoons chopped prosciutto or pancetta or unsmoked boiled ham

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup fresh ricotta

1 egg yolk

2/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Whole nutmeg

FOR THE PASTA:

Homemade yellow pasta dough, made as directed

Pull the Swiss chard leaves from the stalks, or the spinach from its stems, and discard any bruised, wilted, or discolored leaves. Soak the leaves in a basin of cold water, lifting out the chard and changing the water several times, until there is no trace of soil at the bottom of the basin.

Gently scoop up 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 vegetables green, cover the pot, turn the heat to medium, and cook until tender, about 12 minutes or so, depending on the freshness of the chard or spinach. 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.

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

Turn all the contents of the pan into a bowl. Add the ricotta, egg yolk, cheese and a tiny grating—about 1/8 teaspoon— of nutmeg and mix with a fork until all ingredients have been evenly combined. Taste and correct for salt.

Make yellow pasta dough.

STUFFING TORTELLINI:

The dumplings that in Bologna are called tortellini, in Romagna (the provinces of Ravenna, Forli and Rimini) are called cappelletti. The fillings may vary, but the method for making the wrappers is the same. Trim the strips of pasta dough into rectangular bands 1 ½ inch wide. Do not discard the trimmings, but press them into one of the balls of dough to be thinned out later.

Cut the bands into 1 ½ in squares. Put about ¼ teaspoon of filling in the center of each square. Fold the square diagonally in half, forming two triangles, one above the other. The edges of the top half of the triangle should stop short of meeting those of the bottom half by about 1/8 inch. Press the edges firmly together with your fingertip, sealing them tightly.

Pick up the triangle by one of the corners of its long side, the folded over side. Pick up the other end with the other hand, holding it between your thumb and forefinger. The triangle should now be facing you, its long side parallel to the kitchen counter, its tip pointing straight up. Without letting go of the end, slip the index finger of one hand around the back of the triangle, and as you turn the fingertip toward you let it come up against the base of the triangle pushing it upward in the direction of the tip. As you do this, the triangles peak should tip toward you and fold over the base. With the same motion, bring together the two corners you are holding, forming a ring around the tip of your forefinger which should still be facing you. Lap one corner over the other, pressing them firmly together to close thering securely. Slip the tortellino off your finger, and place it on a clean, dry cloth towel.

As you continue to make them, lay all the tortellini in rows on the towel, making sure they do not touch each other or they will stick to each other and tear when separated. Although they are ready for cooking immediately, it’s likely that you will be making them a few hours or even a day ahead of time. When making them in advance, turn them from time to time, so that they dry evenly on all sides. Do not let them touch until the dough has become leather hard, or you will end up with torn tortellini.

When boiling the pasta, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the water.

YELLOW PASTA DOUGH:

1 cup unbleached flour

2 large eggs

½ tablespoon milk

COMBINING THE EGGS AND FLOUR

Because no one can tell in advance exactly how much flour one needs, the sensible method of combining eggs and flour is by hand, which permits you to adjust the proportion of the flour as you go along.

Pour the flour onto a work surface, shape it into a
mound, and scoop out a deep hollow in its center. Break the eggs into thehollow.

Beat the eggs lightly with a fork for about a minute, as though you were making an omelet. Draw some of the flour over theeggs, mixing it in with the fork a little at a time, until the eggs are no longer runny. Draw the sides of the mound together with your hands, but push some of the flour to one side, keeping it out of the way until you find you absolutely need it. Work the eggs and flour together, using your fingers and the palms of your hands, until you have a smoothly integrated mixture. If it is still moist, work in more flour.

When the mass feels good to you and you think it does not require any more flour, was 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 egg and flour mass to one side, scrape the work surface absolutely clear of any loose or caked bits of flour and any crumbs, and get ready to knead.

KNEADING

The proper kneading of the dough may be the most important step in making good pasta by machine, and it is one of the secrets of the superior fresh pasta you can make at home. Dough for pasta can be kneaded in a machine, but it isn’t really that much quicker than doing it by hand, and it is far less satisfactory, particularly when kneaded in a food processor.

Return to the mass of flour and eggs. Push forward against it 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 clock wise or counter clockwise, as you prefer. When you have kneaded it thus for the full eight minutes and the dough is as smooth as baby skin, it is ready for the machine.

THINNING

Cut each ball of dough made with 2 eggs into 6 equal parts. In other words, the pieces of dough you end up with for thinning should be three times as many as the eggs you used.

Spread clean, dry, cloth dish towels over a work counter near where you will be using the machine. Pasta dough to be used as a wrapper for stuffing should be soft and sticky. Therefore, you take just one piece of dough at a time through the entire thinning process, cut it and stuff it and then go on to the next piece, keeping the balls of dough waiting to be thinned out tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.

Set the pair of smooth cylinders, the thinning rollers, at their widest opening. Flatten one of the pieces of dough by pummeling it with your palm, and run it through the machine. Fold the dough twice into a third of its length, and feel it by its narrow end through the machine once again. Repeat the operation 2 or 3 times, then follow the instruction for stuffing the tortellini. Once stuffed, you may repeat the process.

SAGE BUTTER:

4 to 5 tablespoons choicest quality butter

6 to 8 whole sage leaves, preferably fresh

1 pound Tortellini

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Put the butter in a small skillet and turn the heat to medium. When to butter foam subsides, and the butter’s color is a tawny gold but not yet brown, add the sage leaves. Cook for a few seconds, turning the sage leaves over once, then pour the contents of the pan over the cooked,
drained Tortellini. Toss thoroughly and serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese on the side.


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