Two simple ingredients. One and a half hours of hard labour. One ounce of patience. The afternoon that I expected to be simple and therapeutic turned out to be more like an exercise work out. Perhaps finishing off a bottle of red wine to liberate the bottle as a rolling pin was not the way forward? Nonetheless, after pushing through the pain, folding, stretching, pulling, and rolling, the end product looked convincing enough. Thus began the folding. Despite having very small hands - I had been told that the best tortellini are wrapped around the tip of a little finger - my creations, stuffed with an untraditional yet seasonal filing of pumpkin and parmigiana, were worryingly dissimilar to the navel of any goddess. Although giving up is not usually my thing, I am a keen believer in practice makes perfect - so having attempted this 'harder than it looks' recipe, I thought it better to leave the idea on the shelf, and try again another time before serving it to hungry flatmates.
With the rest of the dough, so not to waste, I put half in the freezer for my next attempt of tortellini production, and the other half, cut in to 5x3 cm rectangles to cook up a more achievable dish of ravioli di zucca, pumpkin ravioli. Using the previously made, cooled filling I dropped a small amount in the centre of a rectangle, and covered it with another identical piece. Pressing down the edges around the filling, and ensuring there were no gaps, they were ready to place into boiling water. The end result was so scrumptiously worth it that all hard work had been put to good use.
A delicious and HUGELY satisfying dish - despite the rash, but perhaps wise decision to move away from tortellini...
BASIC FRESH PASTA RECIPE: ingredients. 600g/1lb 6oz flour (Some suggest Tipo ‘00’). 6 large free-range eggs or 12 yolks.
Place the sifted flour in large bowl, and make a well in the centre for the eggs. Beat the eggs, and using fingers mix together the two ingredients until it reaches a dough consistency. Knead the dough - patience and stamina needed - until smooth and combined, and the gluten in the flour has developed enough to create a springy and flexible texture when cooked. When the mixture is sufficiently kneaded, wrap in clingfilm and place it in the fridge for a while before rolling.
So to make life a little easier, separate the dough into a few parts so that rolling is more manageable. The best advice is to use a long, wooden rolling pin and NOT an empty wine bottle! The thinner the pasta becomes the more likely it is to stick to the table, and the harder it is to pull off, so make sure to cover the surface in flour before rolling, and add more to each side of the pasta when necessary. When the dough is rolled thinly, fold over again, roll and repeat 8 times. This is to ensure you have the best texture at the end. For both ravioli and tortellini the optimum result is to have the dough thin enough so that it has an almost transparent appearance.
Cut the dough into the shape desired - for ravioli I do 5x3 cm rectangles. This process needs to be speedy as the pasta is susceptible to drying out. If this occurs, use a damp tea towel to keep the dough cool and moist. (Here is when to add the filling if recipe needs it.)
If you use a pasta machine, work through all the settings until you reach number 1 setting. If you are keen on following the less hassle route, use a food processor for combining the dough.
PUMPKIN & PARMIGIANA RAVIOLI FILLING:ingredients. one small pumpkin, de-seeded and diced. 1 tbsp olive oil. 60g/ 2.11oz. Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve. salt and black pepper. 75g/ 2.64oz. butter, chopped (for the sauce).
I find the best way to cook pumpkin is to roast it in the oven on baking tray drizzled with olive oil. This should take around 30 minutes with the oven at 190 degrees C. When the pumpkin is soft, take it out of the oven and, in a bowl, mash it together with the cheese and olive oil into a smooth paste. Season with the salt and pepper. Make sure this is relatively cool and dry before filling the pasta.
Place the filled ravioli in salted, boiling water for 2 minutes or until al dente. Meanwhile melt the butter in a saucepan.
When the pasta is ready, drain, serve on a warm plate and pour the melted butter over. Sprinkle with the left over Parmesan.
Basic Fresh Pasta Recipe based on Jamie Oliver's 'a basic recipe for fresh egg pasta': http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-and-pizza/a-basic-recipe-for-fresh-egg-pasta.
For a more experienced and insightful instruction for making tortellini, I found this link rather good: http://viewitaly.blogspot.com/2006/10/how-to-make-tortellini-save-rhinos.html