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Making Tortelli with Signora Luciana

Tortelli-with-Ricotta-and-Swiss-Chard

 

During my most recent trip to Italy, I visited my brother Roberto for a few days. He lives in the hills around Parma, the exact area where some of your favorite Italian foods come from: prosciutto – the full Italian name for it being Prosciutto Crudo di Parma – and parmesan cheese – or Parmigiano Reggiano. Dare I also mention ravioli, tortelli, fresh egg tagliatelle pasta, as well as gnocchi, or is this going to make you drool too much?

 

Did I tell you that my brother was a professional chef (a really good one), and studied at one of the best culinary schools in Italy, right there in Salsomaggiore Terme? And yes, he is the same one I originally opened the restaurant with, and that is a long story.

 

In a little nearby town… ehm… village, actually, as all it takes is a sneeze and you have passed it, called Santa Margherita, is one of our favorite home-cooking trattorias where we have been going since we were children. The management has chanced once since, but the food remains wholesome, fresh, genuine and oh-so-very-good! My brother is a regular, and so am I, whenever I visit. The restaurant is called Trattoria del Sole (Trattoria of the Sun) and sits on the main road just outside Fidenza.

 

Trattoria-del-Sole-Santa-Margherita-Fidenza-Italy

 

Luca and Roberta Tronci are the owners; Luca handles the dining room and wines, while Roberta reigns in the kitchen. I do not have photos of them as they chose not to be photographed – maybe next time – although they kindly agreed to let me take a few photos while fresh pasta was being made.

 

Signora Luciana is the pasta master at Trattoria del Sole. She is the one you will see in the following images demonstrating the process. On the schedule for that morning were Tortelli di Ricotta e Spalla Cotta (tortelli ricotta cheese and cooked pork shoulder), and Tagliatelle (fresh egg pasta cut into stripes).

Tortelli is the local name for ravioli, though you will find it all over Italy. The name varies depends on the region, what the filling is, if they are served in a broth or dry, and what the chef decides to call them: tortelli, tortellini (small tortelli), ravioli, agnolotti, anolini… In the end they are all fresh egg pasta pockets of various shapes and sizes filled with something yummy.

 

I will start with the basic recipe for FRESH EGG PASTA given to me by my brother who said that this is what every self-respecting home-cook in the area will give you if asked.

– 4 fresh eggs, preferably with an orange yolk (the color depends on what the chickens eat)

– 400 gr./14.10 oz all purpose flour

– 1 teaspoon salt

Multiply as needed.

For green pasta: add about 1/4 cup of baby Swiss chard or spinach, cooked, well drained and finely chopped or passed through a sieve.

 

If you want to make tortelli, here are the ingredients for the filling to make the most classic version: TORTELLI DI RICOTTA E ERBETTE (with ricotta cheese and baby Swiss chard):

– 500 gr./17.64 oz fresh ricotta cheese

– 2 eggs

– ca. 150 gr./5.3 oz cooked and well drained baby Swiss chard, or spinach, passed through a fine sieve

– ca. 150 gr./5.3 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese

– 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

– salt and pepper to taste

 

The process is simple.

For the pasta: place the flour on a clean work surface, make a well in the center and add the eggs and salt. Start kneading and keep working it until smooth and pliable. Then run it over and over through the pasta machine, reducing the thickness as you go, until you have soft, 1-millimiter-thick sheets (see images below) which you will then turn into ravioli or cut pasta. If you make a lot, keep the dough you are not yet rolling covered under an upside down bowl so it won’t dry out.

If you do not have a pasta machine, use a rolling pin. You can still get the pasta thin, but it is a lot more work, and not as precise.

For the filling: blend the above ingredients together in a bowl, place the mixture in a pastry bag and distribute it in lumps on the fresh pasta sheet you just made (see images below). If you do not have a pastry bag, by all means use a spoon. Just make sure the lumps are all the same size.

 

Making-tortelli-step-by-stepMaking-tortelli-step-by-stepPiping-out-the-filling-for-tortelliRolling-out-the-top-sheet-of-pastaplacing-the-top-layer-of-pastashaping-the-ravioli-around-the-filling

 

When you are doing the process in the image above, make sure to press out the air nicely, and that the two layers of pasta adhere well to each other in order to avoid breaking and leaking during the cooking process.

 

Cutting-the-finished-tortelliCooking-the-Tortelli-in-simmering-hot-water

 

Cooking the tortelli: bring a large pot filled with water to a boil, add sea salt just as you would for cooking pasta (about 1 handful of coarse sea salt every 10-11 cups of water, though this will vary depending on the salt). Turn the heat down so the water is just simmering then add the tortelli. Tortelli and ravioli need a gentle touch when cooking or they might break. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until al dente, depending on the thickness of the pasta you made.

 

When cooked, gently remove them from the simmering water using a straining spoon or skimmer and allow the excess water to drip off as much as possible. Arrange them on a heated plate, or serving platter, drizzle with melted butter, dust with freshly grated parmesan and serve. Brown butter and sage are also very good on these tortelli.

A normal portion is 5-6 tortelli per serving, depending on the size, but always plan to cook a few extra in case one or two break.

 

If you will not be cooking them right away, you can store them in the refrigerator for the day, or you can place them in the freezer on a flat tray so they will not lose their shape. Once frozen, you can remove the tray and place them in a ziploc-type bag for easier storage.

Do not defrost them for cooking. Just add them to the simmering water straight from the freezer.

 

Here are some fresh egg tagliatelle.

 

cutting-pasta-into-tagliatelleFresh-egg-tagliatelle-pasta

 

TORTELLI DI RICOTTA & ERBETTE – recipe summary

for the pasta:

– 4 fresh eggs

– 400 gr./14.10 oz. all purpose flour

– 1 teaspoon salt

for green pasta: add about 1/4 cup of baby Swiss chard, or spinach, cooked, well drained and finely chopped, or passed through a sieve

 

for the filling:

– 500 gr./17.64 oz. fresh ricotta cheese

– 2 eggs

– ca. 150 gr./5.3 oz. cooked and well drained baby Swiss chard, or spinach, passed through a sieve

– ca. 150 gr./5.3 oz. freshly grated parmesan cheese + extra for serving

– 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

– salt and pepper to taste

– melted butter for serving

 

Special tools like the pasta machine and the rolling ravioli cutter can be found in your local chef’s supply store, or on-line from various suppliers, including Williams-Sonoma and Amazon.

 

TRATTORIA DEL SOLE

Fraz. Santa Margherita – 43036 Fidenza (Pr) – Italy   l   ph. +39-0524-63131

 

 

Note: this post was originally published on my food blog Food Journey, which is now in the process of being integrated into this one.

 

 

4 comments
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  • Ami@NaiveCookCooks06/17/2014 - 9:46 am

    These just look so delicious! I need to improve my pasta making skills!ReplyCancel

    • Monica Schwartz06/17/2014 - 9:31 pm

      Hi Ami! It is! Really delicious. Keep up the good work, it will be worth it. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • THE HUNGRY MUM06/18/2015 - 12:54 am

    oooh, this pasta looks so silky and exquisite. Yum! ps – just started following yo uon twitter 😉ReplyCancel

    • Monica Schwartz06/18/2015 - 3:48 pm

      Hi Belle: it is! After all, it’s the original, made in the land where it all started (via China, hehe!). Following you back on Twitter! Happy we connected. 🙂ReplyCancel

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