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Stuffed Pastas - Pansotti, Tortelloni and Raviolo

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Stuffed Pastas - Part 3: Pansotti, Tortelloni and Raviolo

These next three recipes are a little more involved - but not much. One of the original purposes of raviolis was as a way of dealing with left-overs. A pot roast from the day before? Mix it with a little of the braising liquid, a handfull of cheese, and use it as stuffing - hence the pansotti. The second - chicken and pancetta tortelloni - came from me trying to figure out a different way to serve roast chicken. People kept wanting the white breast meat, so I started using the thighs for tortelloni, and serving them on the side. The last, a raviolo of artichoke confit, is a bit nobby (technical translation roughly "la-di-da") - but it doesn't have to be. Like the potbelly ravioli recipe in the last section, it's really just a way presenting things a little differently. Anyway it's just dinner, not doing your taxes.

Pansotti of Braised Short Ribs

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These are a rough kind of pasta – but always fun to eat. If you want, you can make a sauce out of the braising liquid, but I prefer to keep them simple. Although I’m making the short ribs especially for the recipe, if you have any left-over braised meat – lamb, brisket, trotter, shank - it works just as well.

For the Filling

2 short ribs approx 650g/ 1-1/2lb

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

1 large onion, medium dice

1 large carrot, medium dice

2 ribs celery, medium dice

3 cloves garlic, sliced

2 glasses red wine

1 cup chicken stock

1 can tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), broken up

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig rosemary

2 bay leaves

1 handfull parmagiano

1 egg yolk

For the Pansotti

1/2 recipe Fresh Pasta

90g/6 tablespoons unsalted butter

flat leaf parsley, chopped fine, for sprinkling

parmagiano for sprinkling

Pre-heat the oven to 140C/275F.

In a medium casserole or dutch oven, heat the oil until almost smoking. Season the short ribs, and place then in the hot fat – turning them every couple of minutes – until well-browned on each side about 8-10 minutes total. Remove from the pot, and set aside. Add the veg (except for the herbs), add a little salt, and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. After 7-10 minutes, when the veg is browning, add the wine, and deglaze again, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pot.

When the wine has practically evaporated, return the ribs, the herbs, the chicken stock, the tomatoes. The ribs should be roughly 2/3’s covered – add a little water if you need to. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and then place in the oven for around 3- 1/2 – 4 hours, or until very tender. Every 40 minutes or so, turn the ribs over, and baste.

Remove from oven, and let cool. When cool, you can spoon off the extra fat (alternatively place in the fridge for a couple of hours, or overnight, which will make defatting easier).

Pull the meat off the bones, and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add a few tablespoons of braising mix (tomatoes, onion, jus, etc), and pulse a few times. Taste for seasoning. If it’s a little dry, keep adding, until it’s the texture you want. Don’t puree, you want a little texture. Add the cheese, and the egg yolk, and pulse to combine. Then cover, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pasta to the appropriate thickness (last setting Imperia, Kitchen Aid, or No.8 on the Atlas), and lay the sheets in front of you. Cut them into large squares, and then each square into two large triangles.

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Place a teaspoon of filling on each triangle, and fold the long edge in two, covering the filling, and making a smaller triangle. I smear - or brush - a drop of water around the filling to help it to seal. Press down well to get rid of as much air as possible.

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As you finish each pansotti, place it on a floured tray. Proceed to the next, until all the filling or pasta is used up.

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Place a large pot of water on to boil. Poach the pastas for 3-5 mins, depending on how dry they are.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Drain the pasta, place on a hot platter, pour over the butter, sprinkle with parsley, some parmagiano, and serve.

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Pansotti of Braised Short Rib

Large Tortelloni with Chicken and Pancetta

These are simple to make, great to have on their own, or as a way to deal with a dinner party – something different. Remove the legs and thighs of the chicken, debone (c’mon, it takes 5 minutes - or you can buy them deboned), and make a filling. Then, for the dinner, roast the crowns of chicken (the breasts on the bone), and serve as you would usually, with the tortelloni as a side dish. Remember, as with all the shapes, it’s just origami. You can add ingredients – mozarella, sundried tomatoes, prosciutto, ricotta, parmesan, pecorino, russian borscht, latvian squirrel, etc. It’s up to you and your imagination. If you’re going with chicken however, always use the highest quality organic bird available to you.

For the Filling

250g/9oz boneless skinless chicken legs/thighs – cut into 1” pieces

100-125g/4oz pancetta, cut in small cubes, excess fat removed (or smoked bacon)

half a med onion, small dice

2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 glass of dry white wine

sprig of thyme

handfull of parmagiano

egg yolk

For the Pasta

1 recipe of Fresh Pasta

parmagiano to sprinkle

semolina for dusting

90g/6 tablespoons good unsalted butter

Heat the oil in a sauté pan, on a medium heat, add the pancetta, and stir until fat starts to render, 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken and onion, and thyme sprig, turn up the heat a little, and sauté until the chicken is cooked through – 7-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with the glass of wine, and scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Bubble until practically evaporated, and then remove from heat, and allow to mostly cool. Remove sprig of thyme.

Place mixture in the bowl of a food processor, and add a handfull of grated parmagiano. Pulse a few times, scrape down the sides, and pulse a few more times. You want to leave some texture. Adjust seasoning, add the egg yolk, and blitz until all the ingredients are combined. Turn out into a bowl, cover, and place in the fridge for twenty minutes.

Roll out the pasta to the appropriate setting for your machine, and using a three and a half or four inch circular cutter, cut the sheets of pasta into disks. Place a teaspoon of filling on each disk, and flatten it slightly.

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Dipping your finger in a glass of water, moisten around the edes, and fold the disk in two. Then, take the two corners along the long edge, and connect. Proceed to next, until pasta or filling is used up.

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Note: Cutting disks like this tends to leave you with lots of scraps – so feel free to collect them as you go, and run them through the machine to make more tortelloni.

Poach for 3-5 minutes, depending on dryness. Serve on their own with butter and sage, or with a little chicken jus or velouté, or as a contorni to roast chicken breast.

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Raviolo

If you look at many of the pre-nouvelle cuisine cookbooks, you find the most amazing garnishes: individual timbales and stuffed artichoke hearts, or ballotines – all of which are just different ways of presenting or containing ingredients – a puree, a confit, something braised etc. It seems to me that one of the modern methods of replacing this older fashion is the raviolo. Especially in some of the modern French/English cooking (Ramsey, White, Nico, etc) using a raviolo is a simple way of framing different presentations. Also, it’s not that much work for a high return – as you only need one per person – unlike tortelli, or ravioli. So, if you would usually serve roast chicken with mushrooms, why not make a duxelle of mushrooms instead and use it to stuff a raviolo. Or a pan seared duck breast with a savoy cabbage and pancetta raviolo. Or langoustine with a raviolo of oxtail. Or braised belly of pork with a raviolo of choucroute. Or roast pigeon with a raviolo of foie gras and ham hock? My point is, when you take the pasta away from its traditional uses, it becomes a method of containing – and of separating - tastes. All you have to do is use your imagination. I've used a 10cm (4") fluted cutter - but you can use practically any size, or shape. See? Simple.

Raviolo of Artichoke Confit and Roast Garlic

Here’s a classic combination: Artichoke and Sea Bass. The French often use a barigoule recipe – which for my tastes is a bit subtle. A bit quiet. I’ve done something a little louder. Although I’ve used the sea bass, you could certainly serve this with roast chicken, or saddle of lamb, or on it's own as a vegetarian starter (omit the chicken stock).

Recipe makes 4

For the Filling

2 large or 3 medium artichokes (globe, or other variety)

4 good sprigs of thyme

3 sprigs of flat leaf parsley

5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled

2 lemons

1 mounded teaspoon of maldon or kosher sea salt

black pepper

Roughly 1 cup/250ml extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chicken stock

For the Raviolo

1/2 Basic Pasta Recipe.

semolina for dusting

a 10cm/4" fluted pastry cutter

an 8cm/3" circular cutter

Pre-heat the oven to 375F/180C. Place all of the ingredients except the lemons in an oven proof pot with a tight lid. Cut each lemon in two, and squeeze the juice from one and a half of them into the pot.

First, using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the top two thirds off the top of the artichoke, leaving the base and heart. Then, with a good paring knife, carefully trim away the stem, and all the green and fibrous leaves, until you are left with the pale flesh of the heart. Don’t worry about the choke. I’ve found that it’s much easier to remove afterwards. Also, watch your fingers!

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As you finish each heart, rub it with the cut side of a lemon, and place it in the pot with the rest of the ingredients. Make sure you spoon the mixture over the hearts.

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Place on the stove top on a high heat, and bring to a boil. Then put the lid on, and place pot in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the artichoke hearts can be pierced easily.

Remove from the oven, and let cool.

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When cool, remove the chokes, using a spoon (they should come away easily). Chop up the hearts into small/medium dice (I like to keep some texture). Take three or four of the roast garlic cloves and squeeze them out onto a plate, making a paste. Stir this into the artichoke mixture.

Roll out the pasta to the setting appropriate for your machine. Cut each sheet into 15cm/6inch lengths – you’ll need about 8 of them. Place the smaller cutter on one of the lengths, and put about 2 tablespoons of mixture in the bottom, flattening it out. Moisten the surrounding pasta slightly with a bit of water (just lightly) and place another length of pasta on top. Gently use the small cutter (blunt side) to press the pasta down around the filling, being careful not to tear the pasta.

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Then use the larger fluted cutter to make the final shape around the mound of filling.

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Remove the excess pasta, and place the raviolo on a semolina floured plate.

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Then proceed to the next one.

And poach for 3-5 minutes (don’t let the water boil), drain, and use in the recipe of your choice!

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Crispy Sea Bass, with buttery leeks, and raviolo of artichoke confit.

Troubleshooting/FAQ

Making the Dough

- Using the ‘well method’ (“W-M”), the eggs keep spilling over the side causing a mess.

If you’re stirring the egg with your right hand, use your left to reinforce the walls of the well. As you incorporate more flour, the egg mixture will become more of a paste, and less likely to make a Steve McQueen attempt at escape.

- I find it hard to incorporate all of the flour (when using the W-M), and I seem to waste a lot.

That’s just a matter of experience. The more you do it, the better and more efficient you’ll become. If you’re worried about waste, it’s most efficient to use a food processor, which will incorporate all of the flour to all of the egg.

- The dough seems really dry and stiff.

Keep kneading. This will develop the gluten, and relax the dough.

- No. The dough seems really stiff.

Yep. Keep kneading.

- I don’t feel you're responding to my whole ‘really stiff’ concerns and I have to hurt you. . .

Well, why didn’t you say so? What size eggs are you using – are they standard large? If they’re medium, you might need to adapt by adding an extra yolk or two. Also, what’s the weather like? The humidity of the day has a big effect on the finished product. I don’t think I’ve ever made exactly the same dough twice.

If you’ve incorporated all the ingredients, and the dough doesn’t seem to be going your way, you can try adding a few drops of water, and incorporate it in, but this will make the outside pretty sticky before you can work it into the inside (meaning you’ll have to add more flour, making it stiff again). Sometimes it’s just worth starting over. Add a couple of extra yolks to the mix, or another splash of olive oil. But don’t give up!

- Even though the pasta is relatively dry when I wrap it up and put it in the fridge, it’s always a little sticky when I start to roll it out.

Yes – the ‘grains’ of flour expand, the gluten develops (all sorts of scientific things going on which I don’t pretend to understand). Just give it a good sprinkle of semolina, fold it in two or three, and run it through the machine on the widest setting. As long as it’s sticky, keep repeating the above until the dough feels malleable (but not too dry!). I sometimes do this up to 10 times (folded in three each time, that makes 59,049 layers!). This also makes for a smoother end product.

- The dough cracks along the edges when I run it through the machine.

This tends to happen in the early stages. Fold it in two, and run it through the widest setting a couple of more times. This will help relax the dough, and make it less ‘brittle.’

- At the thinnest settings, my dough keeps tearing when it comes out of the rollers.

2 possibilities. Either the dough is too damp, and it’s catching on the rollers – in which case, sprinkle it with a dusting of semolina, fold it in two or three, and go back a few notches on the machine (like snakes and ladders). Or, sometimes small bits of dough, or grains of flour get caught on the underside of the rollers. This causes the sheet to tear as it comes through. You can usually feel it with your fingers, and clean it out.

Making the Pastas

- The filling is quite ‘wet.’

If you feel it’s too wet, you can dry it by adding bread crumbs (which will moderate the moisture, but also dilute the intensity of flavour), or grated parmagiano (which will add salt as well, and can dominate, so you have to be careful). In extreme cases, if you’re worried, you can put the filling in a cheese-cloth lined chinois for an hour or so.

- The filling is quite ‘dry.’

You can add an egg, or just the egg yolk, both of which will also help the filling bind when it cooks; or if it’s a vegetable (fava/broad beans, potato, spinach etc) , you can add a tablespoon or two of the blanching liquid.

- As I fold the tortellini/cappelletti etc, the pasta is cracking/tearing!

You need to work a little faster. As the pasta dries out, once rolled, it becomes less flexible.

- The pasta won’t seal when I press it together!

I usually keep a small glass of water by my side, which I dip my finger in and run it along the edge of the pasta to be folded, before pressing it together. This dampens the dough enough to create a ‘seal.’

- Even though the filling is verging on salty/vibrant before I use it, after I cook the pasta, it tastes a bit bland.

I’ve noticed – with dry pasta too, btw – that if the boiling water isn’t properly salted, the pasta will ‘leach’ salt from the sauce, or filling. This is probably just psychological, but it does ruin all the hard work you put in.

Further Reading

These have been a big influence.

There's no one who makes me face my preconceptions about pasta more than Giuliano Bugialli. Bugialli on Pasta is an amazingly thorough book, though it doesn't have as many classic or obvious dishes as you would expect, he goes extraordinarily deep on others.

Regional Italian Cooking by Ada Boni - This has been reprinted several times, and published in various forms. I have a fantastic version from the 70's/80's with great bleached photos (plate of pasta with white truffles, and farmhands working the field in the background...). Again, it's not the recipes, so much as the mindset and thought that goes into some of these dishes that I find amazing. Also, recipes that you'll find no where else (pasta dough with chicken liver and sausage worked into the dough anyone?).

I found the first two River Café cookbooks by Rose Grey and Ruth Rodgers very easy to get into, and always struck me as dealing with the essential truths of Northern Italian cuisine.

Ask your questions about this course here.

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