Saturday’s alfresco dinner party at my place offered me the chance to practice my newly attained pasta skills. I served three dishes: caprese ravioli, potato gnocchi with truffle butter and, my personal favorite, tagliatelli amatriciana. In all my bustling between steamy kitchen and backyard patio, it was too much effort for me to grab my camera and snap a few pics. So, on Sunday, without any photos for Monday, I spent the afternoon creating this baked fresh cannelloni recipe with a refrigerator full of Saturday’s leftover ingredients. I confess; I ate two large helpings of this smoky, cheesy, tomato-y dish at dinner.
All ingredients are measured by weight, not volume
4 ounces flour
2 ounces egg
2 grams salt
3 ounces pancetta, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
14.5 ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped*
4 ounces mozzarella
4 ounces ricotta
1.5 – 2 ounces fresh basil leaves (to taste)
2 ounces parmesan cheese
Pesto sauce (optional)
Place flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add egg and salt and blend until dough forms a ball and flour is fully incorporated. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
While dough rests, sauté pancetta until crisp. Remove pancetta, drain half of the oil from the pan. Add garlic to remaining oil, and sauté until fragrant.
Add chopped tomatoes to garlic and reduce until only a bit of liquid remains. Remove garlic clove and set tomato sauce aside.
In a food processor, combine mozzarella, ricotta, basil (to taste), and salt and pepper. Set aside.
Roll dough into thin pasta sheets using a pasta roller, (Example: #7 on the Kitchenaid stand mixer pasta roller).
Boil pasta sheets in a large pot of salted water for a few minutes. Dry sheets and lay flat.
Fill pasta sheets lengthwise with ricotta mixture and roll up, overlapping pasta sheet at the seam by ½ inch, creating long rolls.
Place a third of tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8” square pan. Cut cannelloni rolls in 8” sections to fit in pan, seam side down. Cover with remaining tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. Drizzle with pesto (optional).
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until cannelloni is bubbly and brown on top. Finish with broiler, if needed.
*I use canned whole tomatoes and chopped them vs. chopped canned tomatoes because I like the quality of whole tomatoes better.
My brain swells with a week of pasta tips and tricks, my duffel bag bulges from newly purchased pasta tools, and my tummy protrudes over my apron from too many carbs…three signs of a successful trip. It’s time to bid arrivederci (for now) to Manuelina Culinary and CAST Alimenti. I’ll miss Italy, yet I’m eager to sleep in my own bed again, dreaming of uovo in raviolo with freshly grated parmigiano, of course.
Thursday is a potpourri of pasta and pasta alternatives; we prepare little-known fresh pasta, dried pasta, hand-rolled pasta (at my request), and risotto. For me, there are two standouts – gnocchi and Curligiones. Not surprisingly, potatoes star in both recipes. I’m convinced I’ve reached my flour and water quotient for the week.
I’ve prepared and eaten gnocchi; I know delicious gnocchi and ghastly gnocchi (and I’ve made both). Thursday’s gnocchi is heavenly. Seriously, like little angels came down and blew kisses into a pot of boiling water. They are pillowy soft without the slightest bit of gumminess. Is it the Italian potato variety (which is unavailable in the US) that produces the lightness, could it be the flour (also not available in the states) that ensures their fluffiness, or is it technique? I’m counting on technique since I’m serving these in two weeks for the family. We’ll see if my technique will be enough.
Gnocchi with Porcini Mushrooms
Curligiones, on the other hand, are a new discovery to me. Their name and flavor has never crossed my lips before. These are savory, hand-made pasta from Sardinia, elaborately folded and filled with potato, pecorino and a bit of mint. They tastes more like an Eastern European dumpling than Italian ravioli and look similar to Japanese steamed potstickers. My fork pierces a chubby pillow to reveal a pocket of steamy, cheesy mashed potatoes. A fresh tomato sauce and the dash of mint curb the richness. This is comfort food on steroids. I stab another from the platter with my fork. These are sure to appear in my repertoire as well.
I waddle into class on day 3 – pasta (and Italian pastries) can take their toll on a girl. This morning, we shift from hand-shaped pasta to watch a machine-extruded pasta demonstration. There’s not much art in pasta prepared this way, but it’s a necessary evil, I suppose. After the demo, we resume our hand work and finish our training in classic shapes. Below is Maestro Walter’s version of Brescian style meat casoncelli. Can’t you envision these gondolas of goodness with sage butter pooling in those divots? Nom. Nom.
Next, we prepare cappelletti and tortellini, starting with the largest at about an inch and moving towards the teeny, tiniest Barbie-doll version for brodo. So cute.
After lunch, we work on innovative, modern pastas like caprese ravioli (one of my favorites) with a filling of candied tomatoes, basil cream and mozzarella, as well as chocolate toblerone-shaped pasta with ricotta, and squid ink tortelli with baccala, capers and a ginger oil drizzle. It’s only day 3 and I’m already pondering a pasta business for my future.
Day 2 begins with a hasty espresso from the cafeteria. When I return to the states, I’m lobbying for an espresso bar and barista in our office. That little cup is more effective than Wellbutrin when an instant attitude adjustment is needed. Today, we’re tackling colored and filled pasta in countless varieties. Our first assignment involves producing the raw material needed for today’s class – colored pasta dough. My classmate and I are assigned yellow and green. Do you need turmeric or saffron to get that highlighter yellow color shown below? Neither, that’s just yolks from hardy, free-range Italian chickens. The other teams contribute dough in red, hot pink, cocoa, black, and chestnut.
Our instructor, Maestro Walter, is the most immaculately clean chef I’ve met and we tease him about his tidiness. He’s not a stereotypical, hot-blooded throwing pans chef. He exhibits an unruffled manner and quiet sense of humor. Melina, Manuelina’s Director, stands at his side, on hand to translate any tricky concepts. Maestro’s lessons are easy to follow except for an occasional and endearing confusion between the translation for “red” and “green”, which could result in a perplexing Paglia e Fieno (straw and hay pasta).
Tagliatelle paglia e fieno with fresh porcini
While the dough rests, we shift to producing a plethora of pasta fillings including pumpkin, pork and two versions of spinach. After lunch, we’re rolling, cutting and filling pasta for the balance of the afternoon. We request risotto for dinner.