What do you think of this artsy photo of my tortellini?? Pretty yummy looking. Am I right??
I woke up yesterday thinking, “Today I will make pasta.” I wanted to challenge myself and make a style of pasta I’ve never tried before. Tortellini it was.
Now, I know that if I had a tortellini craving I could just shop the freezer section of my local market, but why do that when fresh pasta tastes infinitely better?? And besides, fresh pasta is so simple to make. All you need is flour, eggs, salt, and a little patience and elbow grease.
As for the filling, typically tortellini is filled with a meat or cheese mixture. I decided to go with a trio of cheeses – ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Asiago. I love the silky texture of ricotta, and I love the salty bite that Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano provide. Fresh parsley is a natural choice in terms of herbs, and I added a touch of freshly grated nutmeg to warm up the flavor a bit. After a few grinds of black pepper and a little kosher salt, my filling was done. Super delicious, super fast and easy, and you can spread the leftover mixture on slices of toasted baguette for a snack! Yum!
Making fresh pasta shouldn’t be intimidating. Really. I mean, you get to use your hands and mix things up! It’s easy, and once you do it a few times, you’ll have the feeling for it and from then on you’ll choose fresh over frozen or dried pasta any chance you can.
The only warning I’ll give to you is that making fresh pasta can be a little time-consuming. So, your best bet is to make it when you have a couple of hours to spare, or you can always make it the night before and store it covered in the fridge prior to rolling it out.
It is important to let your dough rest for at least 30 minutes after you have kneaded it. This allows the gluten to develop and as a result, the dough becomes more pliable. Some might say otherwise, but why not take advantage and give yourself a rest while you’re at it?
If you don’t have a biscuit cutter and you really want to make dough rounds, you can use a glass that is at least 3-inches in diameter. Otherwise, you can use a knife or a pizza cutter to make 3- by 3-inch squares.
As I said, having a pasta machine is the best way to get really thin strips of pasta. If you’re using an attachment for your KitchenAid stand mixer, the #6 or #7 setting should do the trick. Keep whatever pasta dough you’re not using covered with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out. As you cut your rounds, be sure to keep those covered as well. Sprinkle flour on them as needed, and make sure they don’t touch!
For the broth, you’re really going to need the rinds from whole chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Now, I know some stores like Whole Foods sell containers of just rinds, but you can also cut the rinds off of chunks of cheese and store them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. That’s what I do. I will toss a rind in practically any soup, sauce, or stew I make just to bump up the savory/umami flavor of the dish. Anyway, there’s really no other way to make this broth without a couple Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Also, if you happen to have homemade veggie or chicken stock, now is the time to use it. If not, any low-sodium broth will do. Really, you can even use a mushroom or beef broth for this dish. Traditionally, tortellini is served as a soup with a light broth, not a heavy sauce. But I won’t judge you if you want to drown these in a marinara sauce. It’s just that the light broth highlights the delicate pasta so well and compliments the lovely flavor of the filling.
Three-Cheese Tortellini with Parmigiano-Reggiano Broth
Adapted from The Kitchn
For the filling:
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (taste before adding full 1/2 teaspoon)
freshly cracked black pepper
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until thoroughly incorporated. Taste to check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Cover and store in refrigerator while you prepare your pasta dough.
For the pasta:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the salt. Make a well in the center with your hand and crack the three eggs into the well. Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs until combined.
Using a swirling motion with your fingertips, begin mixing the eggs with the flour. Don’t rush this. Gradually begin pulling flour from the bottom and sides of the bowl. It’ll look like a weird egg-flour slurry at first, but fear not, once enough flour has been added, it will start forming a soft dough.
At this point, you can begin to incorporate more of the flour into the eggs. Once you have a “craggy” dough, turn out onto a clean surface. Begin gently folding the dough onto itself, flattening, and folding again. It may be really soft at first; even a little dry. Be patient. Keep working the dough until it begins to tighten up and then begin kneading the dough. This may take up to 10 minutes. The dough will be kneaded when it forms a smooth elastic ball.
Clean and dry the mixing bowl. Place the ball of dough inside and cover it with a dinner plate or plastic wrap. Rest for at least 30 minutes.
Sprinkle a baking sheet generously with flour. Set aside a small bowl filled with water.
Divide dough into quarters, remove one portion, cover the remaining portions. Flatten portion into a disk in your hand and run it through the widest setting on your pasta machine. If the dough starts to feel sticky, sprinkle it with flour.
Feed dough through widest setting once or twice more. Fold the dough into thirds, like folding a letter, and press it between your hands. With the pasta machine still on widest setting, feed pasta (open end first) through the rollers. Feed it through once or twice more until smooth. If desired, repeat this folding step. This will help to strengthen the gluten in the flour, giving it a nice, chewy texture when cooked.
Begin changing the settings on your roller to roll pasta thinner and thinner. Roll the pasta two or three times at each setting, and don’t skip settings. If the pasta gets too long to be manageable, lay it on a cutting board and slice it in half. Roll the pasta to the #6 or #7 setting.
Cut the sheet into rounds using a 3-inch round cutter (or cutting 3×3 squares), spacing the rounds as close together as possible. Place 1 teaspoon of filling (do not overfill) in the middle of each round of pasta. Dip your finger in the bowl of water and run it along the edge of half the round to moisten. Fold dough over to form a half-moon shape, then draw the corners together to form a rounded bonnet-shape. Press tightly to seal. Toss with flour, set aside on well-floured baking sheet, and cover. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough, re-rolling scraps if desired. Makes 50-55 tortellinis. Keep covered while you make the broth. (***See note below)
For the broth:
8 cups (2 quarts) low-sodium chicken broth (can also use veggie, mushroom, beef broth)
3 Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds (approx. 1″ x 3″ x 1/4″ or equivalent size)
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 small bay leaf (use half if you have only large leaves)
1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon white wine or sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Bring the stock to a rapid boil in a 4-quart saucepan. Add the cheese rinds, garlic cloves, and bay leaf. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes. Add black pepper and vinegar, stir. Pour the broth through a strainer into a large bowl to remove the solids and then return the strained broth to the pot. Taste and add salt as necessary.
Set the broth over medium-high heat and bring to a low boil. Lower the tortellini into the broth a few at a time. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the tortellini are floating on the top of the broth. Scoop them out of the broth with a slotted spoon or spider and divide between bowls. Pour a few ladles of broth into each bowl and top with a sprinkle of fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
***The tortellinis can be made up to three months ahead. Freeze them on a sheet pan and transfer to a freezer-safe container once solid. Cook directly from the freezer, but increase the cooking time by a minute or so.