Saturday, April 21, 2012

Stuffed Bundles Of Joy

Day two of pasta. Day two of happiness.

Pasta ripiena (stuffed pasta) is one of those things I rarely ever order in restaurants. I completely love all things ravioli, but I'm also quite greedy when it comes to food. Whenever you order something like that in a restaurant, you always get maybe four or five pieces and that just annoys me. It takes a lot more than that to fill me up. Well, now I know exactly why you only get those four or five pieces. It takes so much time to make them! 

There isn't too much of a history base for pasta ripiena, but it's normally always done with an egg dough and there are an infinite amount of shapes used. As I'm quickly learning with so many other things in Italy, the exact same dish that varies from region to region can be called all different names. Yep, way to keep on confusing us Americans, Italy. Example? Ravioli is often called tortelli. Pasta ripiena is rolled thinner than regular noodles due to there being double the amount of dough when cooking with the base and top. Fillings most often involve cheese and/or egg as a binder, but the opportunity for variety is endless, truly. 

We focused on three recipes - ravioli with swiss chard and ricotta, tortellini in brodo (ravioli with meat stuffing) and lasagna di carne (lasagna with meat sauce). In America, you usually find lasagna layered with sauce - sometimes meat, sometimes not - and ricotta. Traditionally, lasagna should be layered with b├ęchamel (besciamella in Italian) sauce instead of cheese which honestly makes such a difference. It's far more rich and weighty but really fantastic. For those who don't know, b├ęchamel is a milk based sauce, thickened with flour and butter, and seasoned with nutmeg and salt. It's used a bunch in Italian cooking which surprised me since I always related it to French cooking. We used our lovely spinach pasta dough from the day before for our lasagna noodles:
I really like this recipe. It wasn't my very favorite, simply because it was a bit too full bodied, but nice all the same. The besciamella really made a big difference and, oddly enough, you get the nutmeg coming through which is a great surprise and combination with the meat. It's that thing that makes people kinda go hmmm as they eat it:
Making the ravioli was tougher than I thought! I messed the first couple of doughs up, because they were too thin and tore, but my third attempt was pretty good:
As mentioned, the filling contained swiss chard that we blanched and chopped fine. It's such a pleasant change from spinach which is normally the go-to vegetable for a ricotta ravioli. 

For the tortellini in brodo, we made these little hat shapes of pasta after stuffing it with a sturdy meat filling made of pork, turkey, veal, prosciutto and mortadella. Major drool. It was so good. My hat shapes, however, were not. I don't think it's a coincidence that I somehow managed to miss snapping a photo of that dish...

I can't say I enjoyed this day as much as others. It just wasn't my thing, I suppose. However, as with so many other things so far, I've learned to really appreciate things as "simple" as stuffed pasta. It is truly an art and I can now see why a good pasta chef is so highly regarded. To create perfection in making shapes out of dough is really a talent and one I don't think I possess. Yet, anyway. We'll see as I keep moving along...


Ray Ray said...

YUM! I want that lasagna. In my mouth. Right now.

Allie A said...

That picture of the spinach pasta in the pasta machine made me giggle. It looks like a big alien tongue, haha.

You need to take pictures of your failures -- I think it would be fun to see before and after shots as you improve! Plus, it's just funny to see how things don't turn out...Lord knows you've seen enough of those pictures from ME, haha.