Today, I decided I had nothing better to do with myself than to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I won’t say exactly how long it took me, because let’s face it, I took my time, made lots of mess, drank lots of tea and had a few snacks along the way. Having just returned from a lovely trip to Sardinia, I was inspired to try cooking some pasta from scratch. Coupled with the excessive amount of vegetables we had to use up, this recipe was born! To make this recipe, you need a decent pasta maker, or a good rolling pin and a bit of an expert eye.
I was unsure whether to call these tortelloni or tortellini (the difference being tortellini are smaller – 2g instead of 5g, but both are the same shape) as I think they are somewhere in between. I went with tortelloni as I think these would be best without a sauce, as tortelloni are traditionally served, in contrast to their little brothers. I’ll leave it to the Italians to decide.
300g extra fine (“00”) pasta flour plus extra for dusting
4 eggs in total – 3 for the dough itself and 1 for the construction
3 small sweet potatoes
1/3 of a cauliflower (not too much in the way of stalk)
75g Grana Padano cheese (Pecorino Romano, parmesan or “Parmigiano Reggiano” to give it its proper name would also do just fine)
2 tsp pesto
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp olive oil
Begin by mixing the three eggs into the pasta flour in a large bowl to make a rough dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently (as you would pastry) to make a smooth, consistent dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for around 30 minutes or longer.
Meanwhile, finely chop the sweet potatoes and the cauliflower into roughly 5mm cubes. Add to a moderately hot pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Crush or finely chop the garlic and add it to the pan. Stir the vegetables regularly to prevent them from burning or cooking too quickly – the aim is to soften them ready to re-heat later. Add the herbs, pesto and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. If you feel the pan is getting too dry, add small amounts of water to steam the vegetables. They should be cooked for around 10-15 minutes to taste, but some of the sweet potato should be just crumbling – this helps the filling bind and stick together. I wanted to give my filling some bite to it, so mine were cooked for around 12 minutes. Some of the sharp corners of the vegetables did however make folding quite tricky later on – I suppose it’s a personal preference.
When cooked, remove the vegetables from the heat and leave to cool before mixing in the finely grated cheese. Mix well.
To make the pasta, remove the dough from the fridge and take a workable piece (I suggest an eighth). Roughly roll it out using a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to around 1 cm thick. Run it through the pasta mill on its thickest setting and repeat a few times until it is on one of the thinnest. I found the last-but-one setting worked best to make a more durable dough, but if you’re opting for a more pureed filling, then you would probably get away with the thinnest pasta.
Lightly whisk up an egg in a mug and find a pastry brush. You will need this in a minute!
Cut 8 cm rounds from the pasta sheet and make sure they are lightly floured so as not to stick to the work surface. Place a small teaspoon of filling in the centre of each circle and brush a good 1 cm around the edges with egg. Fold in half to make a semi-circle. Bring the two corners together and stick with a little bit of egg-wash to make the traditional tortelloni shape (see: http://goo.gl/Kb61Z). Neaten up the shape a little before leaving to rest and semi-dry out on a lightly floured tray before doing the rest. The first will inevitably be the worst (and take the longest) but you will get the hang of it.
Cook immediately, or store it in the fridge for a day or so – but be sure to flour the tray well, as the pasta tends to stick to it the longer it is left.
To cook: add to a large pan of boiling, slightly salted water with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Simmer for around 3-5 minutes for al-dente pasta. Served best with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated Grana Padano (or equivalent). We had ours with some grilled Mediterranean veg (courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes) and home-made (if not slightly well-done) rosemary foccacia. Enjoy!