I love everything Italian. The food. The wine. The people. The landscape. The language. The history. The art. The food… The wine… When I came back from Italy at the end of 2009, I was in complete denial about how much weight I had gained. I seriously thought that all of my pants shrunk two sizes and that it was just so weird that I had to wear pants two sizes bigger because I wasn’t two sizes bigger, my pants just magically shrunk. Seriously, I was in so much denial I told people that it was a good thing I hadn’t gained a lot of weight while I was gone and they all politely nodded and smiled then would awkwardly change the subject. Except one of the maintenance guys at my old hotel who when he saw me instantly said “Oooh gorda!” Even then I just thought he was just trying to be funny in a jerk-y way. I do denial well.
Anyway, I didn’t eat out at a lot of restaurants while there (except for the three weeks my mom came to spend with me around my 25th birthday) because I was living with families on their farms and their fresh produce and wine and le donne di casa who were all incredible cooks.
The second home I lived in was in a tiny town called Castino in the heart of the Piemonte wine region (swoon). Their vineyard had dolcetto and moscato grapes and at every meal we’d drink wine from their grapes (double swoon)...
This was the view from their property. I used to work in these vineyards listening to music and singing to myself, without a care in the world. I had left my high stress un-fulfilling job just as they were training me to take over as General Manager, I ended a four year long relationship that wasn’t right for either party involved, and I’d bought a one way ticket to Europe to do just this. These vineyards are where I forgave myself for the mistakes I’d made, for the things I hadn’t said but should have, for the things I did say but shouldn’t have, and realized that I had the rest of my life ahead of me to do anything I wanted. Live anywhere I wanted and be anyone I wanted. Maura and Mauritizo (M&M) were the first of the many I met in Italy who taught me how to live the Italian farm life, how to share meals and food the Italian way, and how to cook like an Italian. I knew that wherever I ended up and no matter what I ended up doing and who I was with, this lifestyle would always be a part of it in some way.
The first week I was with M&M, they had myself and the other WWOOFer Angelica cook a meal. A meal that represented our heritage or our family. Angelica was Italian so she made risotto and I decided against the laborious pierogis for stuffed peppers, another one of my dad’s favorite dishes. While I searched their pantries and dry storage for all the ingredients that I was accustomed to making stuffed peppers with, Maura said to me, “You Americans… you cook with SO MANY ingredients.” And that statement is one that has stuck with me for the past 5 (omg) years now. Because it was so true. We do. We over complicate dishes. We mask flavors with flavors. We use so. much. processed crap.
Since then I’ve simplified my cooking. I used to make the most unnecessarily elaborate (more like lots of stupid excess ingredients) dinners. So the other night was our 6 month wedding anniversary. And I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated a 6 month anniversary ever, and this wasn’t really a celebration, it was just a reason for me to justify making fresh ricotta and tortellini on a Monday night.
But this is all I used (plus ricotta) for the Sugo di Pomodoro (tomato sauce) and tortellini. Roma tomatoes, an onion, garlic, oil, a touch of sugar, sage, and rosemary for the sugo, and flour, oil, water, and eggs for the pasta dough.
I started the sugo first because I wanted to just let everything simmer together while I made the tortellini. I sauteed up the garlic and onion in oil with some salt and pepper then diced the tomatoes.
I tossed the tomatoes in with the onions and garlic, with a teaspoon or so of sugar, a teaspoon of sage, and a piece of rosemary. That’s it. Then I let it simmer on low to medium and do it’s thing while I made pasta.
Sooo, you can make pasta dough in a food processor. Lots of recipes instruct that. I say sacrilege! Yes, it may be temping because it seems like it will be faster, but it really isn’t. You have to get the food processor, set it up, put the ingredients in, then clean all it’s parts, and put it away. It’ll take just as much time to just do it by hand. Plus, it’s far less blasphemous.
So just like the linguine I made the week before, I prepped the dough on our awesome dough marble but first making a little mound of flour with a well. But unlike the last pasta, I mixed in more than just the eggs so I pre-mixed that into a pyrex measuring cup. 2 eggs, 3 Tablespoons of water, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and a good pinch of salt. Mixed up in the pyrex so that it could then be poured easily into the little flour well.
Here’s when I got a little over zealous. I made my well, made my egg mixture, and then poured all of the egg mixture into the little well. Well, duh… the well was not deep enough for all that egg liquid and it had a full blown Mt. Vesuvius all over the marble and the floor. This is when I
almost dropped gently placed on the chair my husbands incredibly expensive-would-probably-sell-his-wedding-band-to-buy-another, camera while I scrambled to clean up my mess. And then I started again. Fresh flour. Fresh egg mix. Clean floor. In tact, never-in-any-danger camera.
Ok. Round two. This time, just a little bit of egg mix at a time. No eruptions. And instead of a fork, I used two fingers to slowly mix and incorporate the flour. Once most of the first bit of egg is mixed in, then added a bit more. I continued to stir with two fingers bringing in the edges of the well. Since my super hard working husband who’s been working incredibly long hours, was still locked away in his office, I couldn’t get pictures of this, but I ended up pushing the flour mound onto itself when the egg mixture was all mixed in. Kind of like folding the rest of the mound on top of itself then kinda flipping it over. It’s important to not force the all the flour into the dough. Just let what will form, form.
Like this. See all that extra flour? It’s ok. Alton Brown said so.
Knead this dough together a bit more to smooth it out a bit, but don’t worry about adding more flour unless it gets sticky.
Then I wrapped it in plastic and let the glutens rest. An hour is ideal (out of the fridge) but I think I only waited 40 min. and it was fine.
Once the dough was ready, I split the dough in half, kept the other half wrapped and then took half the half and give it a quick roll.
I usually start rolling dough at the widest setting, run it through once; set it at the next setting, run it through once; and then the next setting and run it through.
Until it’s nice and thin.
Now it’s ready to be cut into rounds. I love this little ravioli stamp; it’s the perfect size. A round cookie cutter would have worked too. Or a round glass with a smallish opening.
Then I had little thin sheets of pasta deliciousness.
The perfect place to use fresh ricotta! I made an egg wash (one egg beaten with some water) and then I could start forming the tortellini. I added the ricotta then dipped my finger in the egg wash and ran it along half of the pasta round.
Then I folded over half of the round.
So then I had a little half round sealed by the egg wash.
Then I brought the two ends of the half round together and sealed them with a little pinch.
Then, on the other open side, I just flattened those edges down, almost folding them over the back of the folded pasta, back towards the fingers holding the pasta.
Look how cute they are!
I floured up a sheet pan and began filling it with my adorable little tortellini bites! I ended up running out of ricotta for all of the pasta dough I had, so I shredded some of the fresh mozzarella mixed with salt and pepper, and finished the last 1/4 of the batch of the tortellini filled with mozzarella. While I finished the pasta dough with mozzarella, I put some salted water on the stove to bring to a boil.
Oh hey, I had some sugo di pomodoro on the stove which has been simmering down to deliciousness.
Then it was ready to cook the tortellini! Once they started to float to the top, I gave them another 30 seconds to finish cooking.
Then they were done! eeeeee!
I topped the hot, fresh, completely from scratch tortellini with the sugo di pomodoro and whoa. The tortellini was just the right thickness so when you bit into them it was just enough pasta with a little pop of bright, fresh ricotta (an d a couple of mozzarella). Plus the sugo was light, not at all over powering to the ricotta, but complementary flavorful.
We paired it with an Italian Sauvignon Blanc from Friuli (I think it was about $16) and it was so nice and perfect with the tortellini. Light peach nose, super balanced acidity, crisp, cool, dry, and super refreshing. The perfect pasta dinner to celebrate 6 months with my Stud!
M&M would be so impressed!