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Requesón and Cilantro Ravioli

31 Jan

Stuffed pastas have been with us since they were brought from northern Italy in medieval times. In the book, The Geometry of Pasta by Jacob Kenedy and Caz Hildebrand, it is written that there are numerous claims and legends to the invention of Ravioli. It is claimed that they developed from manti under Arab influence from the invasion of Sicily in the 1100’s. Genoa holds a claim, insisting that the name derives from the word rabilole, or “thing of little value”, which refered to the meals of the sailors, who turned scraps of leftovers into an entire meal of pasta. It is also said that the name could also derive from the word rabbiola, or “root vegetable”, ricotta and vegetable dumplings wrapped in turnips tops. With the most likely scenario being simply from the Italian avvolgere, or “to wrap”. Wherever their origin, there is little argument in the fact that the ravioli has taken its place as the undisputed king of Italian stuffed pastas.

Requeson and Cilantro Ravioli in a Tomato Poblano Sauce

Those of you that have read my About page know that the very first memory that I have actually helping my father in the kitchen was with making the ravioli on New Years morning. Ravioli was our  traditional New Years dish, and we had gluttonous eating contests every year to find who could eat the most ravioli. Our ravioli were not your typical ravioli, they seemed to be at least twice the size of normal ravioli, filled with ground beef, ground pork, ground veal, spinach, ricotta, romano and parmesan cheese. They were atomic weapons to your midsection, but my God, were they delicious!

My MexItalian spin on my fathers ravioli is not quite as nuclear, but I have incorporated some flavors of my past with some flavors of my present to bring what I think is a lighter, more interesting version of classic Italian ravioli! The pasta dough, for those with food allergies, is egg-free, as is the filling. The filling, which was inspired by Rick Bayless’s Ricotta-Stuffed Ancho Chiles with Red Wine Escabeche, uses requesón, which is a latin version of ricotta cheese, you can either make it at home in your kitchen, or you can cheat like me and buy a deli-fresh ricotta, do not substitute with the store-bought ricotta.  The effort involved with this dish is a bit intensive, but the finished product is so delicious that you will easily forget! Buen Provecho!

Requeson and Cilantro Ravioli in a Butter and Garlic Sauce

Requeson and Cilantro Ravioli in a Butter and Garlic Sauce

Requesón and Cilantro Ravioli

Pasta Dough

  • 1 cup Semolina
  • 1 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2/3 cup warm water

Filling

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro (loosely packed)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 16 oz. Fresh Requeson or Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Cracked Black Pepper
  • Salt  to taste
  1. Roast the garlic cloves on a comal or iron skillet until nice and soft, once they are cool, peel and mash in a bowl with a fork.
  2. Wash and dry the cilantro, be sure to dry very well, as you do not want to add any liquid to the filling, then chop the cilantro.
  3. Let the Requeson or ricotta drain in a colander or sieve for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Combine the garlic, ricotta, cilantro, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in a mixing bowl and mix well, season with the salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and place in fridge to chill.
  6. Combine the two flours and sift together to combine.
  7. Mound the flour in the center of the countertop or a large wooden cutting board.
  8. Make a well in the center of the flour (I make a volcano!)
  9. Add a little water at a time, stirring with your hands until you form the dough.
  10. As you continue to add water, be sure to keep the volcano shape by pushing the flour up along the sides as well.
  11. Keep adding the water until you have a shaggy mass. At this point, more than half of your flour should be incorporated. The dough should feel elastic and just a bit sticky.
  12. I add a bit more water and then start kneading using the palm of your hands.
  13. Once the dough is one mass, continue kneading for about 5 minutes. Keep dusting with flour if necessary.
  14. Wrap with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
  15. Attach the pasta roller to your Kitchen Aid mixer and put it on the widest setting (1).
  16. After the dough has rested, cut in half and form a small rectangle about 1 inch thick.
  17. Put the mixer speed on 2 and feed the dough through the roller. Each time dusting a bit with flour and folding to get the best separation. I usually need to feed it through at this setting about 5 or 6 times, each time dusting and folding.
  18. Continue and feed the sheet through each setting until you get to setting 5, at this time you have the proper thickness for the sheet.
  19. I usually cut the sheet into a length no larger than the width of my countertop, so cut the sheet after about 1 meter portions.

    Pasta Sheets

    Each Sheet of Pasta is about 1 Meter in Length

  20. Continue this process with the rest of the dough.
  21. Starting with one sheet, brush off any flour from the top of the sheet and take your filling out of the fridge. Measure one scant tablespoon of filling and place it along the center of the sheet about every 6 inches. Continue placing a tablespoon every six inches until you get to the end of the sheet. You want enough filling in each ravioli to have a nice shape, but not so much that you will have trouble sealing the edges of the pasta.

    Ravioli Filling

    Filling on the bottom sheet

  22. Mist with some water for adhesion.
  23. Place another sheet over the top and slightly flatten each pocket of filling, then start with gentle pressure to press out any air and to form a seal around and between each pocket of filling.
  24. Once all the air pockets have been removed and each pocket of filling is nicely formed, you can cut each ravioli using a cookie cutter, a pastry roller, or a ravioli cutter.
  25. Place the ravioli in a single layer on a cookie sheet dusted with semolina. At this point, if you want to freeze the ravioli for later, place the entire cookie sheet into the freezer. Once the ravioli has frozen, you can remove the pasta and put them into bags.

    Ravioli

    Ravioli made and ready to cook!

Tomato Poblano Sauce

  • 5 medium vine ripe tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 chile poblanos
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Roast the poblanos over a open flame or in the oven, then remove the stems, seeds, and veins and place in a blender.
  2. Quarter the tomatoes and place in the blender.
  3. Puree the tomatoes and poblanos.
  4. Put 3 tablespoons of the olive oil into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Crush the garlic with the back of a knife and fry with the red pepper until it just begins to color.
  5. Remove the garlic and pour the contents of the blender and quickly fry for about a minute.
  6. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for about 20 minutes or until the water is slightly reduced and the tomatoes no longer have that “raw” taste.
  7. Apply a liberal amount of salt and pepper to season, and finish with the rest of the olive oil.

    Requeson and Cilantro Ravioli

    Requeson and Cilantro Ravioli in a Tomato Poblano Sauce

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Chorizo Ragu

28 Dec

In keeping with my mission statement of combining Italian and Mexican cuisine on one plate, this week I bring you Sweet Potato Gnocchi with a Chorizo Ragu!  We all know gnocchi as a thick, delicious, potato based Italian dumpling. Like most Italian dishes, there is a great amount of variation in recipes across all of the regions of Italy.  My family has always made the potato and flour version.  Normally in Italy, gnocchi are a first course dish. This dish is made entirely hecho a mano (handmade) so plan to spend some time in the kitchen! The result is well worth it; a rich, fulfilling dish of Italian gnocchi with a slightly spicy, tender Mexican chorizo ragu. I recommend this first course to accompany a main of Grilled Salmon!

Mexican Chorizo

  • 2 – 2 ½ lbs. of ground pork (use the pork shoulder)
  • 8 Chile Guajillo
  • 6 Chile Ancho
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled.
  • 2 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/3 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • ½ tablespoon ground cumin
  • ¾ tablespoons oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dry marjoram
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 6 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  1. Chop the pork into cubes and put into the freezer for about 20 – 30 minutes to make it easier to work with.
  2. Put the salt, paprika, bay leaves, black pepper, cumin, oregano, marjoram, coriander, thyme, cloves, allspice into a spice grinder and grind them into a nice fine powder.
  3. Rinse the guajillo and ancho chiles with some water and toast on a comal. Then place into very hot water and cover. Let them soak for 30 minutes.

    Toast the Chiles

    Toasting the Chiles

  4. Remove the pork and season with the spice powder, make sure it is coated well using all the spice powder. (I like to grind the pork seasoned as it ensures a nice mix)
  5. After 30 minutes, remove the seeds, stems, and veins from the chiles and place in a blender with the garlic and the white vinegar. Blend into a smooth puree.
  6. Take you grinder and use the coarse grind plate and grind the pork into a large mixing bowl.

    Grind Pork

    Fresh Ground Pork Shoulder

  7. Add the chile mixture to the pork and mix well. Cover and place into the refrigerator for 24 hours.

    Chorizo

    Fresh Chorizo before "curing"

  8. After 24 hours take a bit, form into a patty and fry to check seasonings. Adjust seasonings if necessary (I have never adjusted them).
  9. At this point you can use as is or stuff into casings.

  

Chorizo Ragu

  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 lbs. fresh pork chorizo
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 – 28 oz. cans of San Maranzano tomatoes (whole, peeled, drained)
  1. Take the chopped onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and put in a food processor and pulse until it’s a nice dice (this is your mirepoix!).
  2. Take the drained tomatoes and break them up with your hands or a potato masher. Set aside.
  3. Take a large saucepan and medium-high heat and add the olive oil, once it is hot add the mirepoix (your onion, carrot, celery, garlic). Sautee for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the chorizo and stir to break it up, add the salt and cook for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the wine and cook for about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the milk and cook for about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the tomato and bring to a slow boil, then turn heat down and simmer over low heat for about 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Chorizo Rag

Chorizo Ragu

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp Nutmeg
  1. Quarter potatoes and steam in a large stockpot by placing a colander in pot with about six inches of water. Steam for about 35-40 minutes or until very tender.
  2. Once cool enough to touch but still warm, remove skins and mash well with a fork or use a potato ricer, add salt and pepper to season.
  3. Take 1 cup of the flour and place on a floured work surface, make a well in center and spoon in the mashed potato mixture. Continue to work into a dough, adding just enough flour to hold the dough together.  The dough should take about 2 ½ cups of flour total (give or take a ¼ cup).
  4. Once dough is well formed, roll out into a rectangle and divide into 6 equal pieces.
  5. Roll each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky.
  6. Cut each rope into about 20 pieces.
  7. Roll each piece over tines of the back of a fork to indent.  Transfer to floured baking sheet.
  8. Bring large pot of water to boil; add 2 tablespoons salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi for about 5-6 minutes (once they float to the surface, cook for another 2 minutes).

    Sweet Potato Gnocchi with a Chorizo Ragu

Orecchiette ai Broccoli e Pancetta Tacchino

22 Dec Pasta

This recipe was inspired by Karen from the blog Back Road Journal. Since my family does not eat pork and we are not too keen on Broccoli Rabe, I substituted and came up with a light, delicious, 20 minute meal that will please even your 6-year-old! Now, in Italy, they usually cook the broccoli rabe till they are almost mush, but I like my vegetables al dente ( same as my pasta ), so if you want to cook the Italian way, cook the broccoli in the pasta water along with the orecchiette!

Here is what you will need:

1 package of Applegate Farms Organic Turkey Bacon, chopped.

2 crowns (about 2 cups) of Broccoli florets

1 lb. of Barilla Orecchiette

1 clove garlic

1 tsp peperoncino(crushed red pepper flakes)

3 tablespoon olive oil

1. Set a stockpot of boiling water with salt on the stove and bring to a boil.

2. Blanche the broccoli florets in the boiling water for about 3-5 minutes (depending on your taste, I like my brocolli with a little bite).

3. Take out the broccoli and shock in cold water. Then, in the same water, cook the pasta for about 10 minutes.

3. At the 10 minute mark of cooking the pasta, put a large saucepan or saute pan on the stove with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat.

5. After about 12 minutes, check the pasta. It should be just about al dente by now. You can remove and drain at this point. Reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

4. When the saute pan is hot but not smoking, add the whole garlic clove and peperoncino and fry to it starts to turn golden, then remove the garlic.

5.  Add the chopped turkey bacon and fry, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, then add the broccoli.

6. Add the pasta water and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes more, then add the pasta and mix well, finishing the pasta with it new friends for about 1 minute.

7. Finish with the final tablespoon of olive oil and some parmiggiano reggiano and serve!

Pasta

Orecchiette with Broccoli and Turkey Bacon

The “Little Ribbons” of Joy

19 Oct

So I went out the other weekend and bought myself the pasta attachment for my KitchenAid mixer.  My first use came with making a batch of whole wheat chipotle fettuccine.  First, allow me the indulgence of giving a little background on fettuccine; Fettuccine, literally “little ribbons” in Italian,  is a popular type of flat pasta usually made of egg and flour (some days I enjoy channeling Cliff Clavin), although my recipe is sans egg as my daughter has an egg allergy.  In my recipe, the egg is replaced by a puree of hot water and chipotle chile.

First off, it is important to form this dough correctly, so take your 2 cups of whole wheat flour and make a mound of it directly on your work surface. Now, when I was a kid, helping my father make the pasta dough, I always imagined it as a volcano, so make a large crater in the center of the mound to form your volcano. Now, go over to your blender, place the contents of one can of La Costena Chipotle Chiles (for me, there is NO substitute) into the blender and ½ cup of hot water. Put the blender on puree and let it run until it is nice and smooth. Get a medium mesh sieve out of your drawer or cabinet and press the puree through the sieve into a small bowl. Now take that bowl over to your volcano and add it to the crater. If you have not figured it out yet, this would be the lava. Finally, add about 2 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Now comes the fun part!

Start pulling the flour, working it with your fingers, into the lava, incorporating a little of the flour at a time. When all the flour has been mixed in, knead the dough, pushing it down against the counter and folding it repeatedly until it is no longer sticky and quite stiff. If you think it is too dry or it is not coming together well enough, add hot water ½ of a teaspoon at a time; add more flour if it is too sticky.

Once has been thoroughly worked, sprinkle the dough with a little more flour and cover it with some plastic wrap or a clean cloth. From here we let it rest for about 30 minutes or so, usually just long enough to wash your hands, grab a glass of wine, and to listen to some salsa.  At this point, you can drink the whole bottle if you wanted to, but be sure to wrap up the dough and put it in the refrigerator first. It will hold in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
We (Me) are going to have just one glass of wine and continue on:

Pasta Sheets

The Pasta Sheets

Grab your mixer unit, install the pasta roller, and put the setting on the roller to its thickest setting (1).  Chop off about ¼ of the dough, roll it out a little bit and use your hand to form a rectangle about the width of the roller attachment and put it through the rollers, if it sticks, just dust it again with flour. Folder over the dough on itself and repeat this process again.  Set the machine to its next setting and repeat, dusting the dough as necessary to avoid it sticking. We keep working our way down through the numbered settings, putting the dough through the roller twice for each setting. If the dough tears or breaks up, start all over again.  If you are a pasta virgin, the art of pushing the dough through the rollers and catching it on the other end may take a few attempts, but you will quickly get the hang of it!  Once you have fed the dough through the roller at number 5, STOP! Your dough is now at the correct thickness for the fettuccine! Lay out the sheet on your counter top, cut the sheet into thirds or whatever length of pasta your desire, cut the width as wide as the pasta cutter attachment, sprinkle it with a little flour and admire your handiwork, then go grab another glass of wine! Once you have downed that glass of wine, go back over to your dough, grab another ¼ sized piece of dough and repeat the same process for each quarter piece of dough, skipping the wine if you want to be able to stand to use the cutter attachment!

Once all the dough has been nicely rolled into stacked sheets of pasta, they should all be ready to feed through the fettuccine cutter.  We have our sheets all ready to be cut, so what are we missing? First, remove the pasta roller attachment and attach the wide pasta cutter attachment and be sure that you have some sort of hanging apparatus to hang your pasta from once you have cut it. Maybe you have some fancy dowels or even a pasta hanging rack,  or, someone once told me, “Use-a the back-a da chair, just like-a your Gramma use to!”, it should be obvious this is a literal translation of broken English, but you get the point; pull up your chair and get to cutting, you are almost at the finish line!

Take each sheet and feed it through the pasta cutter, some hand separation may be necessary when cutting the whole wheat pasta, but if you have been sprinkling with flour as you have gone along these steps, you should be just fine. My "Little Ribbons"Once you have fed the sheets through the cutter, either form a bird’s nest and place it on a lightly floured cookie sheet, or hang the pasta on the back of your chair. If you are not going to cook this delicious pasta right away, you can either dry for a few hours and store it in an airtight container, or take the birds’ nests that you have made and place them in a large freezer bag and freeze them.

We can now take another glass of wine and celebrate this wonderful accomplishment. We have made our own fresh pasta! Once you have mastered this technique, trust me, you may never use store-bought dry pasta ever again!

By the way, continue the great MexItalian theme and serve it tossed in a fresh Cilantro Pesto!