Rolling Pasta By Hand – Tortelloni Burro E Oro

Making pasta by hand from start to finish, mixing the flour and eggs, rolling and rolling and then shaping and filling is really therapeutic. This is the old school way that Evan Funke in his book American Sfoglino (and his restaurant in Venice, CA) preaches. He apparently despises pasta machines and blames them for inferior pasta that lacks the proper texture and firmness.

Well, I am not throwing away my pasta machine anytime soon. I am a firm believer in convenience as much as I love good food. So, I leave the hand rolling of the sfoglia (that’s the pasta dough sheet) to those days when I want to take my mind off work and stress (lots of stress these days). Those days where I do not mind taking my time and stretching and rolling egg dough with a long wooden dowel until it is as thing as paper. Truth be told after doing this a few times now it barely takes much longer than dough rolled with the old Atlas pasta machine.

The dough is only eggs and flour gradually mixed together by hand. Initially the mass is ragged and had dry spots here and there. Then slowly with some cutting action from a dough scraper is starts becoming more homogeneous. After it rests for 15 minutes or so I divide it into 2 pieces and knead each one very well, then wrap in plastic and leave them alone for a couple hours. After that they are ready to roll.

I do not have a specialty cool artisanal matarelo (long rolling pin) but i do have a long round dowel that works pretty well. For a surface you really need a good wooden board. Something large that will accommodate the big sheet of pasta you are about to roll. The first time I tried this on just my granite counter top it definitely did not work too well. It either kept sticking or I had too much flour. So, I now use a large cutting board i have and it works great. It has the right texture and surface to roll and then cut the dough. It also fits a Negroni on it at the same time!

Funke has a good clear method for novice pasta rollers like myself. He basically directs us to roll the dough into a large circle and using an imaginary clock as a guide. Always roll at 10, 11, 12, 1 and 2:00 o’clock then turn the dough clockwise and roll….until it starts getting thin and can be rolled on the matarello and gently stretched, rotated and rolled again. The end result is a thin round sheet that you can almost see through it. He recommends different thicknesses depending on the final dish you are making but I do not find the directions of “As thick as 7 post-it notes” very helpful. So, I judge it by eye until I am happy with how thin it is.

Tortelloni2

When the pasta sheet is rolled it is ready to be shaped into whatever you want. Simplest form is to roll it over itself like a loose jelly roll and slice it into noodles like Pappardelle or Tagliatelle. This time around I went with a stuffed pasta and made a filling of ricotta, eggs and Parmesan cheese.

I used an accordion cutter to quickly make squares of the sfoglia and with a piping bag I put a dollop of filling in each square and shaped them into cool Tortelloni. For a sauce I served most of them with a simple tomato butter sauce. This is a ridiculously easy sauce I first heard about it from the late Marcella Hazan. An onion is gently simmered in pureed tomatoes with a good dose of butter. In the end the onion is removed and you have a wonderful Burro e Oro sauce. I also tossed some in browned butter and walnuts for variety. Both delicious but the butter tomato sauce is fantastic with the perfect pasta and the creamy filling especially after a good shower of Parmesan cheese.

Green Pea Agnolotti, Crispy Pork, Consomme

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Spring is here and even in hot humid Houston it’s…well it’s nice. The weather, at least for now, is not brutal yet and feels like spring with cool evenings and days that are not stiflingly humid. This dish is a good bridge between winter and spring. It combines lovely deep flavored “braised” pork and it’s crystal clear consomme with that emblem of spring, bright green peas.

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This meal was a result of buying a whole untrimmed pork shoulder. This includes several muscles that can be separated and treated differently as opposed to the traditional American method of just slicing through the bone and slow-cooking everything (as in barbecue). My purpose was to harvest a whole Coppa which is a cylindrical muscle that is usually cured and air-dried. Then it is served like most Italian whole muscle salumi, sliced thin and enjoyed on its own, as part of a simple composed plate or on top of a pizza. This type of butchering meat is known as seam butchery and is practiced a lot in Europe. Its intention is to leave the muscles whole and divide up the animal’s quarters into manageable pieces without cutting through the bones much or at all.

Lomo-Coppa

I ended up with a lovely looking Coppa (picture above) that is curing right now. The Coppa  has a great shape and really good marbling in it that it got me thinking about doing this again but cooking the muscle instead of curing it. Really it is like a pork loin but with more fat running through it. How bad could that be? After butchering the shoulder I also ended up with a few other nice muscles including a flat one that looks a lot like a thick skirt steak. I believe this is what sometimes is called a Pluma. That’s what I used for this dish.

Pork

As soon as I finished butchering the pork shoulder I tossed the flat piece with some salt and a touch of sugar and let it rest in the fridge. I figured I’ll cook it sous vide with a bit of lard and go from there. Not sure what to do with the meat one it is cooked (tacos are always a good option anyways) I also took care of the resulting shoulder bone. Not wanting it to go to waste I roasted it well along with an onion cut in half until deeply browned. I deglazed the pan with Madeira and then Sherry vinegar, scraped all the browned bits and tossed all that into a pressure cooker. I added more aromatics and water and made a superb pork stock.

Pork Stock2 Pork Stock-Agar

Now I got a perfectly cooked piece of pork along with a few cups of delicious pork stock. Let’s mangle those two ideas togehter and see what comes out. Ramen? that could work, but I was not sure I wanted a stock flavored with Madeira and Sherry vinegar in that. I like the noodle idea though. I started looking for something more European. Maybe a fresh pasta tossed with the pork? I could shred the pork. Pour some of the stock into the served pasta bowls? That sounds good. Toss in some peas? Yeap! Maybe make it a bit more refined though. I also have that ricotta in the fridge that needed using….

Peas Pea Agnolotti

So I jotted down my initial idea that at one point included making a roulade out of the pork and slicing it to serve, similar to this venison dish. I abandoned that down the line. Crisping the pork chunks in a touch of lard would work and look better as well as give me some great texture. The agnolotti though stuck. The idea of pasta pillows filled with a ricotta-pea mixture contrasting with the flavorful consomme and  the crispy pork was irresistible. I have made those French Laundry-style dumplings a few times since I first posted about them here and now they have become much easier to prepare. The filling is a bit based on the recipe in The French Laundry book for fava bean filled agnolotti and it includes the peas (blanched and shocked in ice water), ricotta as well as a bit of fine fresh breadcrumbs to give it more body.

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Since I wanted a more refined dish I decided to make a clear consomme from the pork stock as opposed to leaving it as is, delicious but slightly “cloudy”. It would still taste great but just would not look as nice. The traditional method for making consomme is the one from the Escoffier days or earlier. It involves whisking egg whites, ground meat and some vegetables into the stock. This coagulates and forms a “raft” that traps all impurities and you strain off the clear stock.

Pork Stock-Agar2 Consomme

I opted for the more modern and much less labor intensive Agar clarification. I first learned about it from Dave Arnold’s Cooking Issues blog and posted about it before. The idea is to gently set the liquid with agar then, through a cheese cloth, squeeze and strain the clear consomme leaving all impurities stuck in the Agar web. I recorded my before and after weights for the stock to see how much I would lose and I started off with close to 750gr of stock. I ended up with around 500 gr of clear consomme. Not a bad yield for a very easy method that produces crystal clear result and pure flavor.

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To plate, I served the boiled dumplings and topped them with chunks of crispy pork. I added some reserved blanched peas to the plate as well. Then I heated up the consomme and seasoned it with salt and maple vinegar before pouring it around and over the pasta and pork. As a last touch I added a few drizzles of walnut oil and fresh thyme leaves.

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