A simple dish of pasta that allows you to pick up a fork and indulge with a glass of full-bodied vino rosso: life doesn’t get much better than that, does it?
Who said the Valentine’s Day is only about couples… let’s not forget the people that are there for us no matter what, regardless of what day it is: our friends! The perfect friends get-together is around a table of delicious, healthy food – so why not take it a step further and, instead of going to the usual pub, gather your friends in the kitchen and make some delicious pasta from scratch?
The task isn’t as daunting as it sounds, and we guarantee that making (and eating) your own fresh pasta makes for a very fun and rewarding evening. We have selected the perfect wintry recipe from A Passion for Pasta, Carmela Sophia Sereno’s latest book: Ligurian Wild Herb Ravioli with a Creamy Walnut Pesto.
Carmela prepares her amazing pasta dishes with only the best of ingredients, making sure the outcome is as hearty and delicious as it is healthy. She encourages the use of seasonal, local ingredients where possible: “Eating within the seasons is key, as well as using the best of what the seasons have to offer: fresh ingredients are vital as this ensures maximum flavour, an abundance of fruit and vegetables along with beautiful fresh seafood, fish and meat.”
The first step is making your dough:
EGG PASTA DOUGH
Preparation time 1 hour (including resting)
400g ‘00’ flour
4 large eggs
Pinch of salt (optional)
1 Ideally, work on a wooden or marble board but a wooden tabletop would work well too. I prefer to use a wooden surface as this gives a little added texture to the dough and helps in the kneading process. Tip the flour onto the board and form a well in the centre with your fingers (I call this a volcano).
2 Crack the eggs into the well (volcano) and add a pinch of salt. The salt is optional and if I’m honest, I generally eliminate the salt from my fresh pasta as I tend to salt the pasta water well instead.
3 With your fingertips or a fork gently introduce the flour to the egg mixture, being careful to not break the walls of the volcano and lose any of the egg mixture.
4 Form the mixture into a pliable dough. If there is any excess flour that will not incorporate into the dough, scrape it away.
5 Knead the dough using the heels of both hands until the dough has become smooth and silky with a light spring back when pushed with your fingertip. Kneading by hand will take around 7–10 minutes.
6 If the dough is a little dry, add 1–2 tablespoons of water or milk; if it is too wet add a little more flour. Just remember that adding too much flour can lead to a dry and slightly denser dough.
7 Wrap the dough with cling film and allow to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes at room temperature.
8 Once the dough has rested, you can either work or roll the dough by hand using a very thin rolling pin (I use a wooden broom handle), or alternatively a pasta machine. Using a pasta machine allows the dough to become silky and guarantees a smooth finish.
9 However much dough you make, you must always work with it in portions when using a pasta machine. Cut the dough in half. Take the first half and wrap the remaining half in cling film to ensure the dough does not dry out and form an outer skin.
10 Set the pasta machine to the widest setting. Each machine will differ so please follow your manufacturer’s instructions as required.
11 Flatten and lightly flour the dough then feed it through the pasta machine. Fold the dough back over itself (like an envelope) and feed through the widest setting again at least six times. This will ensure smoothness and elasticity.
12 Increase a notch at a time on the machine and feed the dough through on each setting twice. There is no need to envelope the dough at this stage; you are just trying to lengthen it.
13 Continue rolling the dough, narrowing the rollers at every stage.
14 I tend to stop at the second to last thinnest section on the pasta machine. This is the appropriate thickness required for perfect pasta; you should be able to read a newspaper through the pasta sheet.
15 As an alternative option I also press herbs into my pasta at this stage, so if you are feeling creative have a go. Take the pasta sheet and cover half of the sheet with parsley leaves, tiny basil leaves or baby thyme or oregano leaves. Small edible flowers could also be used. Please note the leaves must be soft and stem-free otherwise the dough will rip.
16 Fold the plain pasta half over the herb-covered dough and push down gently using the palm of your hand, to secure. Press through the pasta machine one last time. You should be left with a sheet of beautifully decorated pasta.
17 The pasta sheet once rolled should be approximately 3mm in thickness.
18 Now choose your shape – from spaghetti, linguine, lasagne sheets, tagliatelle or a perfect base for a filled ravioli, mezzaluna, tortellini or anolini.
Now you’re ready to make little raviolis:
These popular filled pasta parcels are easy to make. Just choose your favourite shape – from a simple square to a triangle or circle.
Preparation time 1 hour using ready-made dough
400g fresh egg pasta dough
Filling of choice
1 Cut the prepared pasta dough in half, wrap one half in cling film or a clean tea towel and roll out the remaining dough with either a pasta machine, rolling pin or broom handle to the thickness of 3mm. I prefer to use my pasta machine as I gain a silky pasta finish. Press the pasta into two large lasagne sheets approximately 15cm wide.
2 Take one sheet and place individual teaspoonfuls of filling across the length of one piece of dough, leaving an approximate gap of 4cm between each mound.
3 Dip your finger in a little water and lightly dampen around the filling.
4 Place the top layer of pasta directly over the base sheet.
5 Gently use your hands to cup the filling between the pasta layers, removing and pushing out any excess air.
6 Seal the pasta by pinching around each and use a knife, pastry cutter, or shaped cutter if you prefer, to cut the ravioli into shapes.
7 Lay the ravioli on a tray that has been lightly dusted with polenta and use the remaining pasta in the same way to make more.
Once your fresh ravioli are ready, it’s time to put together this delicious dish from Liguria:
LIGURIAN WILD HERB RAVIOLI WITH A CREAMY WALNUT PESTO
PANSOTTI AL PREBOGGION CON SALSA DI NOCI
Pansotti is another name for ravioli in the Liguria region of Italy and are triangular in shape. These pillows are filled with a mix of wild herbs called preboggion only found in Liguria. I have not had the pleasure of preparing these pansotti with the Ligurian wild herbs, so I use a combination of my own. I adore dandelion leaves and their overwhelming bitterness, combining them with spinach, Swiss chard, watercress, small oregano and marjoram leaves, chervil and basil to leave you with an aromatic taste of a fresh summer meadow.
Preparation time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cooking time 25 minutes
FOR THE PASTA DOUGH
400g fresh egg pasta (page 13)
70g Parmesan, grated
Polenta, for dusting
FOR THE PANSOTTI FILLING
300g (fresh weight) mixed herb leaves
100g Parmesan grated
1 small garlic clove, peeled and
Pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
Salt and pepper to season
FOR THE WALNUT PESTO
130g walnuts, shelled and peeled
30g pine nuts, untoasted
1 garlic clove, peeled
60g Parmesan, grated
Small bunch of parsley, including stems
Salt and pepper to season
Basil and parsley, finely chopped
Prescinsêua is a traditional curd cheese made in Liguria and would be used to fill the pansotti instead of ricotta.
1 Place your mixed herbs and leaves (apart from the basil and chervil as they are too delicate) in a little water and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and plunge in ice-cold water for 60 seconds. Drain again and then place on a clean tea towel and squeeze out all the excess water.
2 Add the basil and chervil to the blanched herbs and chop all the herbs finely.
3 Place the herbs, ricotta, Parmesan, garlic, egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir to incorporate. Cover and chill until required (this filling can be made a day ahead if preferred).
4 To make the pesto, pour the milk into a bowl and add the bread.
Leave to soften for 5 minutes.
5 Into a food processor, add the walnuts, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan and parsley. Blitz for 10 seconds.
6 Add the softened bread and blitz for a further 10 seconds. The bread will add a delicious creaminess to the pesto.
7 Add a little olive oil until you reach a dropping consistency.
8 Taste and season with salt and pepper. If the sauce is a little thick don’t worry as we will also add a little pasta water to loosen it when ready. Leave the pesto out at room temperature whilst you prepare the pansotti.
9 Make the pansotti (ravioli) following the instructions on page 18. Set aside on a lightly dusted tray with a sprinkle of polenta to prevent sticking.
10 Place a large pan of water on to boil. Once bubbling, salt well and add the pansotti. Allow the pansotti to cook until al dente. This will take about 4–5 minutes.
11 Drain, reserving a ladle of the pasta water.
12 Place the pansotti in a serving dish. Add the pesto along with some of the reserved pasta water and stir.
13 Spoon into bowls and scatter over a little extra Parmesan and a sprinkle of chopped basil and parsley.