Monday, 7 March 2016

Cappelletti with potato, thyme, ricotta and truffle butter

Leftovers are funny old things. When I grew up, they would refer to the half-portion of grey-looking cottage pie right at the back of the fridge, or the tatty looking carrots in the veg drawer. Leftover curry or lasagne was the best, really developing in flavour after a good day or two of chilling. As a student, leftover pizza scraped out of the box was often essential to ward off some killer hangovers, getting me to the lecture in the nick of time. Leftovers were just that. There was nothing glamorous about them, they served their exact purpose. 

As time has gone on, I’ve often been amused at the elevation of what consists of a leftover. Gazing through twitter, I’ve noticed gleaming plates of ‘leftover’ racks of lamb, prime steaks etc etc. It strikes me as funny how once upon a time leftovers were the thrifty scrapings of dinners, cobbled together to make an extra meal. Now people are commonly starting out with a glut of expensive ingredients. No wonder this country is gripped with a mounting waste crisis.  
And I hold my hands up fully at this point, as this recipe is fully based around a leftover truffle that I had sitting in my fridge. That’s right, a leftover truffle. My parents would fall over at the thought. In all fairness, I didn’t need a full, whole truffle for the intended recipe (the last steak and celeriac recipe on this blog), and it’s not as if I could have gone to the deli and bought half of one. So I was indeed left with leftovers, and I was damned if I was going to let it rot and go to waste. I read somewhere that making truffle butter would extend its life for a good few weeks, and that sounded very good to me.
The rest of this recipe was easy peasy. When I think of truffle butter, the only accompaniment to it has to be pasta. And nothing nearly complicated either. People give me a funny look when I talk about pasta filled with mashed potato, but it’s a glorious thing. These little, light pockets do an amazing job of letting the truffle speak for itself. And when it’s in front of you on a plate, it certainly doesn’t seem like leftovers.
Serves 2
For the pasta:
200g strong ‘00’ grade flour 
2 eggs, plus 1 extra for sealing 
A good glug of extra virgin olive oil 
A good pinch of salt
For the potato filling:
2 medium-large maris piper potatoes 
150g ricotta cheese 
3 tbsp finely grated hard pecorino 
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked 
A good knob of butter
For the truffle butter:
A small black truffle 
100g salted butter    

To finish:

2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked 
A grating or two of pecorino

To make the truffle butter, tip the soft, room-temperature butter into a small bowl. Finally grate in the truffle and mix well with a spoon. Lay a sheet of greaseproof paper onto a flat surface and transfer the butter on top. Wrap the butter with the paper so that you are left with a small, sealed parcel. Pop into the fridge until needed (up to a couple of weeks). 

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C.
Put the potatoes onto a baking tray and scatter with salt. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, or until the middles are very soft. When cooked, allow to cool slightly, then halve and scoop the flesh out into a bowl. Mash well, then combine with the ricotta, thyme leaves, pecorino, butter and a good amount of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Cover and allow to cool.
For the pasta dough, measure out the pasta flour in a large bowl and combine with the salt. Use a wooden spoon to make a well in the middle, and break in the eggs. Pour in a good glug of olive oil, then use a fork to whisk the eggs, gradually incorporating the flour until a dough forms. Tip the dough out onto a work surface and knead really well, until it in no longer sticky and has an elastic texture. Wrap with cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 

When the dough is ready, roll it through a pasta machine until it is at the thinnest setting. Lay the sheet of pasta out and cut 2.5” squares. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl. Add a teaspoon of the cold potato filling to the middle of each square, and brush a little egg around one half of the edge. Take a filled square of dough in your hands and carefully fold it diagonally into a triangle, sealing the edges around the filling, and expelling any air bubbles. Take the two points of the folded side, and bring them together with a slight twist, so that they meet opposite the remaining point. Crimp with your fingers to seal. Repeat, until you have 20-30 cappelletti.
Fill a large saucepan up with well-salted water and bring to the boil.
When the water is at a rolling boil, add the cappelletti and cook for 3 minutes.
Whilst the pasta is cooking, melt the truffle butter gently in a large frying pan. As soon as the cappelletti are ready, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the butter pan, tossing them gently to make sure they get covered on all sides.
To serve, spoon the filled pasta onto the middle of each plate, and pour over all of the remaining butter. Finish with a few fresh thyme leaves and a little more grated pecorino.

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