Sunday, October 25, 2009

pasta heaven

I've just made pasta for the first time and it was a huge success - a floury adventure with a happy-ever-after ending. I was nervous about making it, but Jamie Oliver whispered reassurances from the pages of his book, telling me he really wanted me to make this, that it was quick and simple and something I was going to be extremely proud of. And he was right.

The inspiration was a plate of spinach and ricotta-stuffed tortellini with chestnut sauce that I ate in Mamma Rosa, a tiny cramped pizzeria tucked away down a narrow cobbled street in Lisbon on my way back from the Azores. I watched a raisin-faced man pummelling the dough behind the counter before coaxing it into dainty tortellini shapes and as soon as it passed my lips I knew I had to recreate that pasta heaven.

I resisted the temptation to splash out immediately on a pasta machine, fearing that it would join that graveyard of 'things-I-have-bought-and-used-once' (windsurfer, roller blades, exercise bike to name but a few) and invested instead in a €4 rolling-pin - which only heightened my gratification at the end result.

I made the pasta in a food processor using Jamie's Everyday Quick Pasta Recipe and filled it with spinach, ricotta, sweet chestnuts and parmesan. Wicked (as Jamie would say).

Ravioli of spinach, ricotta and sweet chestnuts

Quick pasta
Serves 4
1 lb/500 g strong pasta flour
5 fresh eggs
semolina flour for dusting

9 oz/250 g ricotta
5 oz/150 g cooked spinach
2 oz/50 g cooked sweet chestnuts, smashed up
2 oz/50 g finely grated parmesan
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the flour and eggs in a food processor and switch on. Leave until it all comes together into a ball. Take it out (the bowl should be clean) and work by hand for 2 minutes or until smooth, silky and elastic. Wrap in clingfilm and allow to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

2. Mix all the filling ingredients together. After an hour remove the dough from the fridge and divide into 2 balls. Re-cover one of the balls and with the base of your palm, flatten the other one slightly. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the dough until you have a very thin sheet of pasta about 1-2 mm thick.

3. Cut the pasta sheet into circles (about 10 cm/4 inches - or whatever size you want). Place a teaspoon of filling just off centre, brush the edges of the pasta with water and fold in half. Press down the edges with a fork.

4. To cook, place in a pan of boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes.

PS: That giant chestnut in the picture is from the same tree as the tennis ball-sized chestnut that looked like a medieval spiked battle flail.


Koek! said...

Oh. Baby. This dish sounds amazing. My first pasta foray was also a magic experience... Well done!
Ironically I did invest in a pasta machine – a Jamie Oliver one! – and it has indeed been relegated to my kitchen graveyard. A good rolling pin is actually a much better option in my opinion. Much simpler to use.
I wish sweet chestnuts were easier to get hold of in South Africa...

Di Overton said...

OK I am going to try this thanks for talking me into it ;)