Monday, 1 August 2016

Tortelli of rocket and goat’s cheese with garlic, butter and lemon

Every year, Katie and I throw RoLo Fest, an evening of feasting to celebrate the birthdays of my sister-in-law Lois and her fiancé Rob. I spend the day in the kitchen lovingly putting together a four-course meal, before the evening arrives and we all sit in the (hopefully sunny) garden outside. A bottle or two is popped open and we all tuck in and catch up. 

Putting the menu together is both immensely fun yet immensely challenging. As it’s a family meal, I want to be out at the table with everyone else instead of stuck in the kitchen, so practicality and planning is key. Yet I also always want to do my best to spoil everyone rotten with impressive and elaborate food. In the past I’ve served up beef wellington, guinea fowl ravioli and fast-grilled leg of lamb. But on this occasion the centrepiece was an enormous piece of rolled porchetta, tender and herby in the middle with blistered golden crackling around the edge. I was overjoyed with how it turned out, a future recipe for this blog for sure.
Before the pork was served up, I made this pasta dish as a little primi. Rocket often seems to be used as an afterthought, chucked randomly to one side of a dish to add a splash of colour. But I wanted it to be the focus here, and I balanced the deep, bitter flavour with rich and tangy goat’s cheese. The little tortelli were served swimming in a little pool of garlicky melted butter, which is so simple but always a total crowd pleaser.
Making filled pasta is dead simple with a little practice, and once the basics have been mastered, the world is oyster with all of the different fillings and shapes that you can make. They’re also perfect for any kind of dinner party scenario, as they can be made and stored hours in advance, ready to be whipped up in a few minutes in front of your guests.
Serves 4
For the tortelli:
300g ‘00’ grade pasta flour 
3 medium eggs 
3 large bunches of rocket, roots trimmed 
150g soft goat’s cheese 
200g ricotta 
4 tbsp pecorino romano, finely grated 
1 egg, for brushing
For the sauce:
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced 
4 tbsp unsalted butter 
1 bunch of rocket 
½ a lemon
To finish:
A few gratings of pecorino romano

Start by making the pasta dough. Tip the flour into a large bowl and mix with a generous pinch of fine salt. Make a well in the centre and crack in the eggs, and also pour in a good glug of olive oil. Using a fork, whisk the eggs, incorporating the flour at the same time until a dough is formed. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, until elastic in texture and not sticky. Wrap well with cling film and put in the fridge for an hour to rest. 

Fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add a good pinch of salt and the rocket leaves for the pasta filling. Blanche for 1 minute, then strain through a sieve and allow to cool. Squeeze out the excess water from the leaves then transfer to a food processor. Add the ricotta, goat’s cheese, pecorino and season well. Blend until the rocket is finely chopped and the filling is well combined. Tip into a bowl.
Use a pasta machine to roll the pasta dough to its thinnest setting, and lay the resulting long sheet onto a well-floured surface. Place tablespoonfuls of the filling mixture along the middle of the sheet, leaving gaps of about 8cm between each one. Break the remaining egg into a small bowl, and use a pastry brush to lightly coat the pasta around the filling. Carefully fold the long edges in over the filling, creating a seal with the other edge in the middle. Use your fingers to seal the pasta in between each bit of filling, making sure to disperse any air bubbles. Use a sharp knife to separate each square tortelli, and use your fingers to seal the pasta together one last time. Repeat until all of the tortelli have been made, rolling out more pasta if necessary.

Fill a large saucepan up with water and bring to the boil. Add a very good pinch of salt.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan and gently cook the sliced garlic for a minute or two, until lightly golden. Add the remaining bunch of rocket and wilt down.
When the water is boiling, drop in the tortelli and cook for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pasta to the butter pan. Carefully toss the tortelli to coat with butter, then squeeze over the lemon juice.
To serve, arrange 3-5 tortelli onto each plate, along with some of the wilted rocket leaves. Spoon over a good amount of the butter and garlic. Finish with some additional gratings of pecorino cheese.

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