It surprised me a couple of months ago that its been a very long time since I made ravioli or tortellini. While pappardelle and lasagne sheets are my modus operandi, the last time I remember making an “encased” type of pasta was when I successfully made Uovo in Ravioli – a large ravioli filled with lemon-scented ricotta and a single, runny egg yolk. It was nerve-wracking to get that ravioli thin enough so that it cooked quickly enough without overcooking the yolk. It turned out gloriously and was a show-stopper of a dish – I think I’ll have to make it again soon so I can post it up!
Night Owl‘s mother was coming over for dinner and she is not a big meat eater, preferring lighter meats such as chicken and fish over lamb, pork or beef. She loves her vegetables – particularly mushrooms – so I decided to try my hand at making mushroom tortellini. I wanted to maximise the flavour punch in these little parcels, and so used a combination of three mushrooms: Swiss browns, dried porcini and fresh shiitake. You can use any proportion of the three that you like. I also experimentally added a dash of soy which bumped up the umami factor to next level.
Make sure you cook off as much of the liquid as you can so that the tortellini don’t absorb too much moisture from the filling. These do expand in size more than you think and ten or so is more than enough per person. This recipe makes about 50-60 tortellini. To freeze some for another time, place the whole tray into the freezer to allow the tortellini to freeze completely before putting them in a box or ziplock bag for storage. DO NOT put them in the fridge as they WILL stick!
I’ve also recently learned of the benefits of keeping some of the pasta water at the end of boiling pasta. While I’ve heard it’s a thing, I’ve never really understood its benefits until I read an article by Serious Eats as to whether adding pasta water really made a difference. I tried it myself and the results were amazing! If you don’t want to read the whole article, basically the starches in the water emulsify with any fats in your sauce and it will thicken into a beautiful texture that clings to your pasta. I can’t believe I used to eat (and serve) boiled pasta with the sauce plonked unceremoniously on top.
Mushroom Tortellini – an original recipe by Confessions of a Glutton (Serves 4-5)
For the tortellini, will need:
- 200g “00” flour, plus extra for dusting;
- 2 large eggs;
- 1 tablespoon butter;
- 400g assorted mushrooms (such as Swiss Brown, Shiitake and dried Porcini – make sure to soak and strain any dried mushrooms), roughly chopped;
- Three eschallots, roughly chopped;
- 2 cloves of garlic, sliced;
- 3-4 strands of fresh thyme, leaves removed;
- 1/4 cup red wine;
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce;
- 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce;
- 1/2 teaspoon beef stock, dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water;
- 1/2 cup fresh ricotta (pressed between sheets of paper towel to remove any excess liquid).
For the sage burnt butter sauce, you will need:
- 2 teaspoons olive oil;
- Handful fresh sage leaves;
- 100g butter.
Make your pasta by placing the 00 flour in a large bowl and making a well in the centre. Crack the eggs into the centre, combine with a fork and gently work the edges of the flour into the egg mixture until it comes together. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, pushing forward with the heel of your hands and pulling the dough back towards you until you feel the gluten come together. Form into a round, flat circle and wrap in cling film before putting to one side to rest.
In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add the tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms, eschallots, garlic and thyme, stirring for about five minutes or until the mushrooms absorb the butter and collapse slightly. Add the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan lightly to get any stuck bits. Simmer until almost all of the wine is gone, then add the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and stock. Cook, stirring, until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and cool.
Transfer the mushroom mix to a food processor and process until the mixture is relatively fine before adding the ricotta, blending until it becomes a relatively smooth paste – although I do personally like mine still a little chunky. Season with salt and ground black pepper to taste, put to one side.
To assemble your tortellini, cut the pasta dough circle into quarters and take out a quarter, wrapping up the remainder. Using a pasta roller, fold and laminate the dough through the highest setting three times to help the gluten, then slowly begin to pass it through each setting, reducing the setting as you go to make it thinner. I like to take it to 1, but 2 will suffice if you’re nervous about tearing the dough.
Lay your pasta sheet out on a lightly floured surface and using a floured 3-inch circle cutter, cut out as many circles as you can from the sheet. Remove the excess pasta and wrap with the resting pasta dough.
Taking a circle, spoon a heaped teaspoon of the mushroom mixture into the centre. Wet the edge of one half of the circle with a little water, then fold it towards the other side of the circle, forming a half moon. Press the edges of the curved side firmly, pushing out any air pockets. Picking up the half moon, press your thumb gently into the flat side of the half moon, pushing the mixture in slightly, then twist the two edges of the half moon together, wetting the edges slightly so that you can press the top edge to the bottom.
It’s incredibly fun to make but you start to get a bit bored after 30 😛 Place them on a lightly floured tray, repeat with the remaining mixture and pasta dough.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. For pasta, I like to salt it at a ratio of 1 tablespoon per litre of water.
In the meantime, get a frypan and heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the sage leaves which will pop and sizzle – keep a close eye on them as they crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon onto some paper towel.
Add the tortellini to the boiling water and once they rise to the surface, allow to tumble for three minutes or so. Test at the two minute point for al-dente pasta. As you’re doing this, add the butter to the frypan and heat it til it’s frothing, spooning the froth to one side so you can observe the change in colour as the butter browns. This can be a little harder with a black-bottomed frying pan, so test the colour of the butter with a spoon. You will see little brown solids form as it progresses.
Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add the browned butter to the large saucepan of pasta with pasta water, stirring vigorously to emulsify the butter and starchy water.
Serve the tortellini on warmed plates, topped with the crispy sage leaves. Drizzle over any excess of the butter sauce.