If your palms aren’t tired, the dough is not ready

Butternut Agnolotti, Sweet Potato Ravioli, Salmon Anolini and Foaming Brown Butter Sauce

Ever since I found my late Italian grandmother’s pasta machine I have loved making pasta, specifically stuffed pasta. I never met my grandmother, she died when my mother was eighteen. It was a very unexpected and sudden death – she went in for an operation and had an allergic reaction to the anesthetic. I am very fascinated by her and I have always wished that I could have met her. She was apparently very clever and good at cooking, sewing, pottery and painting. Many times have I wondered what she would’ve been like and how my life would’ve been different if I met her – I’m sure I would’ve been better at mathematics, she was apparently very good at it.


I like to think that every time I use her pasta machine I am somehow being connected to her – as if the machine is a portal to the world she now exists in. I realise that’s pretty cheesy, but heck sometimes we all need a bit of cheese in our life.




At this year’s Food and Wine Show in Johannesburg I luckily met Georgio Locatelli. The show otherwise would’ve been a complete waste of R75 and my time. I suggest that if you don’t want to meet a celebrity chef, or enjoy brand promotions don’t visit any future Food & Wine Shows. I’m not sure why they have an entrance fee, almost every product at the show is available at your local Pick ‘n Pay, and I really don’t think Foodies care about what Tastic or All Gold have to offer.


Georgio Locatelli is great. He is as passionate and friendly as seen on TV. I bought his latest book: Made In Italy Food and Stories. The book is wonderfully inspirational – each page makes you want to cook, eat, breathe and sleep Italian food. I go to bed reading the book and dream of the golden nets of the Tuscan sun and the beguiling scent of freshly brewed coffee. The book takes you on an amusing factual journey from antipasti to dolci. By the time you are finished the book you will not only be able to impress your friends by knowing why amaretti biscuits are often called bruti ma buoni – ugly but good, but everything you ever wanted to know about Italian food.


My time with Georgio was limited, other food enthusiasts demanded his time. However, I did manage to find out what the best amount of eggs are required to use when making stuffed pastas.


According to Georgio: “4 whole medium sized eggs, to 500g grams of flour. For stuffed pastas you need elasticity in the dough. The elasticity comes from the egg white”. The elasticity in the dough is needed for the pasta to be able to wrap/fold nicely around the filling. If you are making flatter and fatter pasta “like pappardelle or fettucini you want the pasta to be able to snap”. This you achieve by eliminating the egg white. Generally you will then use “3 whole medium sized eggs and 2 egg yolks to 500g of flour. For every whole egg you take away you add 2 egg yolks. It is the yolk that makes the pasta snap!”


Often people wonder how long you should knead pasta dough for. It is certainly different to bread dough which requires a lot of kneading to ensure the gluten in the flour is worked. When pasta dough is ready it should look smooth and silky to the touch; or as georgio says “If your palms aren’t sore after kneading the dough; or if you haven’t broken a little bit of a sweat the dough is not done”.

Pasta Dough (Georgio Locatelli’s recipe)


500g 00 (doppio Zero) flour – if you can’t find 00 flour, normal flour will do

4 Whole Medium Eggs (all at room temperature)

Pinch of salt


Preferably make the pasta by hand. Sieve the flour into a clean bowl, then turn it out into a mound on a clean surface and make a well in the the middle (in Italy we call this the fontana di farina, ‘fountain of flour). Sprinkle the salt into the well, and then crack in the eggs. Have a bowl of water on the one side, so you can wet your hands, to help bring the dough together if it is being stubborn towards the end of kneading. To begin, break the yolks with the fingertips of one hand, and then begin to move your fingers in a circular motion, gradually incorporating the flour, until you have worked in enough to start bringing it together in a ball. Then you can start to work the ball of dough by pushing it with the heel of your hand, then folding the top back in on itself, turning it a little clockwise, and repeating, again and again, for about 10 minutes, wetting your hands if it helps, until the dough is springy but still feels quite firm and difficult to work.


Don’t worry that the dough feels hard; after it has relaxed for a while it will be perfect. Divide the dough into 2 balls, wrap each in cling film/plastic and allow to rest for 1 hour before use.



Fillings:

Butternut, Pine Nuts and Rocket:


1 Small Butternut

½ Onion finely chopped

1Clove Diced Garlic

Few Sprigs Thyme

3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan

Large handful Rocket

2 Tablespoon Roasted Pine Nuts

Salt & Pepper

Olive oil for frying onion and garlic, and for roasting butternut.


While your pasta dough is resting, preheat oven at 180 degrees and peel and chop butternut into medium-sized cubes. In an oven dish place the butternut cubes, a few sprigs of thyme, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 180 degrees for 25 mins or until cooked. While the butternut is roasting, fry the chopped onion, garlic and thyme until the onion is translucent in colour. Once the butternut is cooked remove from oven and mash it. Mix in the onion and roasted pine nuts. Chop the rocket, when the butternut mixture is cool add the parmesan and rocket, mix. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper if needed.


Note: To roast pine nuts, place pine nuts in a dry pan and gentle brown over a medium heat.





Sweet Potato and Blue Cheese:


4 Medium-sized Sweet Potatoes

½ Onion finely chopped

1 Clove diced Garlic

Few Sprigs Thyme

100g Blue Cheese.

1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan


While your pasta dough is resting, preheat oven at 180 degrees and peel and chop sweet potato into medium-sized cubes. Place sweet potato cubes into an oven dish with a few sprigs of thyme, drizzle with olive oil and roast fore 25 mins or until cooked. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, fry the chopped onion, diced garlic and some picked time with olive oil until the onion goes translucent. Once the sweet potato is cooked, roughly mash them and then add the cooked onion and garlic. When the sweet potato is cooled add the Parmesan and crumble in the blue cheese, mix well, check seasoning and add salt or pepper if needed.





Smoked Salmon, Ricotta and Tomato:


100g smoked Salmon (off cuts available at checkers)

3 Tablespoon of left-over tomato sauce or 3 fresh peeled, de-seeded chopped tomatoes

50g Ricotta Cheese


While the pasta dough is resting, chop the smoked salmon finely. In a bowl add the tomato sauce, chopped smoked salmon and crumble in the the ricotta cheese. Taste and check seasoning. Remember smoked salmon is quite salty so be careful not to over-salt.





Assemble Your Stuffed Pastas:


Once the pasta dough has rested for an hour it is ready to be rolled. Cut one ball of pasta dough in half and flatten it with a rolling pin until it is about 1cm thick (keep the pasta dough that is not being used wrapped in cling film to prevent it from drying out).Pass the flattened dough through your pasta machine. Roll the pasta through the machine’s settings a number of times, starting with the fattest and going through to the second smallest or smallest setting. When I make ravioli I usually only roll it to the second smallest setting.


Once the dough is nice and shiny (with no lines in it) it is ready to make into Ravioli, Malfatti, Anolini or any shape of stuffed pasta.


I made Agnolotti (round filled pasta) with the butternut filling. Then Ravioli (square filled pasta) with the sweet potato filling and Anolini (half-moon-shaped pasta) with the salmon filling.


I served all of them with a Foaming Brown Butter, to which I added some herbs at the end: with the Butternut Agnolotti I added sage, for the Sweet Potato ravioli I added fresh basil and roasted pine nuts and for the Salmon Anolini I added caper berries.


Foaming Brown Butter:


50g Unsalted Butter


Heat the butter in a frying pan until it is foaming, golden brown and smells nutty (the bottom of the pan will be covered with brown butter speckles). Add in your herb of choice and immediately drizzle the butter over your pasta parcel and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan.




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