Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fresh Pasta with Chef Moreno

Our two week long trip to Italy was a culinary epiphany. I've always loved Italian cooking and being half Italian myself, I've learned how to make several staples directly from my mom. One thing I have never done, however, is make fresh pasta. The idea of making fresh pasta, especially the old school way, is enough to make me put on my coat and insist on going to our neighborhood Italian joint. Actually, any idea would prompt me to do that....

Anyway, Chef Moreno, changed all of that. What a wonderful, talented, crafty little man. He made it look so easy! I have yet to try making this myself, but I thought I would share this off the beaten path Italian adventure with you.

We were in Varenna, Lake Como.  Since this is Northern Italy, we made pasta with eggs.  Before modernization, pasta with eggs was only made in Northern Italy because of the cooler climate.  In Southern Italy, people would make pasta with durum flour and water.  So, make a big well of semolina flour and add 8-10 room temp eggs. Separate the eggs and carefully inspect for shells. 
Here is a close up. 

Now, use your fingers to gently whisk the eggs into the flour until it starts look like this. Play-doh for adults.  DOH! Sorry. 

Keep kneading the pasta dough until it's firm and cohesive in nature.  

While the pasta dough chills out on the counter, we make our filling for the tortelli.  Ricotta, parmesan, basil, and lemon verbena.   I had never heard of lemon verbena before so the Chef took me back to his garden.  It smelled GLORIOUS.  Fresh, lemony, citrusy, wonderfulness.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  So if you are like me and don't live on a cliff in Varenna, overlooking Lake Como, with a magical garden in your back yard, don't fret.  Lemon zest will do. 

Now, grab the biggest, scariest knife you can find and pulverize the herbs until they are super fine so they blend nicely with the cheese mixture.
Roll out the dough with a super skinny long rolling pin.  I don't own one of these special pins, but I'm sure a regular one will do.  

Use a pizza cutter to make squares for the tortelli.

Add the cheese filling to a zip lock bag.  Pipe filling onto each of the squares. 

Please ignore a) how jet lagged I am b) how hungover I am and c) my ridiculous inappropriate cooking class attire.  It was literally the first thing i pulled out of my suitcase.  Frightening. 
Fold the fresh filled pasta up to make little envelopes. I would describe it better, but since Chef Moreno was straight up yelling at me for getting it wrong so many times, I'm sure whatever you try to do would work better.  Boil in salted water for a few minutes or until al dente and sauté with sage and butter.  YUM.  Stay tuned because I am going to try to make this in the near future.

Stay hungry!

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