After a week settling back in, it’s time to get back into blogging. I’ve missed it heaps and I’ve been saving up lots of posts from Europe and Asia to share with all of you, including my most complicated travel mission yet – where to buy pasteis de nata tins in Portugal.
I’ve missed Australia. Quite a lot, actually. And as much as I miss and desperately crave Asian food and local Malaysian hawker favourites, I have to admit that fresh produce in Australia is infinitely better. We have great seafood, we have better quality meat and we have the most amazing fruit and vegetables. I remember not eating tomatoes as a child – if you’ve grown up in Asia, you’ll likely remember tomatoes as orangey coloured, and nothing at all like local tomatoes. Aussie tomatoes are amazing – bright red, bursting with flavour – we get so many heirloom varieties – of course they’re better if you get the at the local market, but even our supermarket tomatoes beat Malaysian ones for flavour any day of the week. And then there’s capsicum… and don’t even get me started on all the milk, yoghurt and cheese. We really are spoilt for choice here.
Now, if I said I went to the market and spotted amazing fresh green silverbeet and thought, hey, I’ll make tortellini – I’d be lying. The truth is that a group of us went to Italian and Sons for a birthday dinner and while all the food was good, it was on the pricey side. But most things in Canberra are, and I was willing to forgive that until I received my main which was 7 pieces of silverbeet tortellini on a plate – for $30. Needless to say I wasn’t full after main, but I was also so annoyed at the portion size that I refused to order dessert. Yeah, take that.
Determined to recreate the (very delicious) tortellini, I headed to the local market where I found that silverbeet is very much in season and only $1.50. Some sage, goats cheese, ricotta and aged Parmigiano-Reggiano later, I was well ahead of the $30 curve and had called up some friends to form the cheap labour tortellini taskforce.
If you’ve never made tortellini before, here’s the step by step guide –
Roll your pasta sheets out, making sure they’re the full width of your pasta rollers. Full width = less trimming = less wastage. See, all the way to the edges of the rollers…
Lay the pasta sheet on a floured bench, then cut along the length of it. Cut into squares, then fill. Brush edges with water.
Bring the two opposite corners of a square together to form a triangle. Using your fingers, seal the two edges, trying to keep the filling as bunched up as possible – this help ensures the ‘butt shape’ as one of my friends call it. Hold the tortellini with your tumb over the filling, and bring both corners in to form the tortellini shape.
- 300g 00 flour (or plain flour is fine)
- 3 eggs
- 1 bunch silverbeet
- 15g butter
- 150g goats cheese
- 200g ricotta
- 1 egg
- 30g grated parmesan
- pinch of nutmeg
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 slices pancetta, diced (optional)
- 15 leaves sage, washed
- 60g butter
- grated parmesan, for finishing
- Place the flour on a clean work surface and make a well in the centre. Crack the eggs into the well. Use your fingers to mix the eggs and gradually bring in the flour from the sides. Continue stirring and kneading until flour is incorporated. Alternatively, just chuck the flour and eggs into a KitchenAid with a dough hook (or food processor) until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Remove from bowl and use your hands to bring the dough together. Wrap the dough in cling film and set aside to rest.
- To make the filling, remove the white stems from the silverbeet. Finely slice the leaves, then place in a colander and rinse with running water. Set aside in a colander for the excess water to drain.
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat then wring the excess water from the leaves (this is important, or the filling will be waterlogged) before placing in the pan. Let the leaves wilt from the heat. Add the butter for some flavour and stir through. Allow to cool.
- In a bowl, combine, goats cheese, ricotta, egg, grated parmesan and nutmeg. Mix, then season generously with salt and pepper - you want the mixture to be a little saltier than usual, as it's going to be covered in pasta. Add the cooled silverbeet and mix to combine.
- Divide the pasta dough into smaller, more workable pieces. Take the first piece and roll it through a pasta machine on the widest setting. Fold it in half and run it through the machine again, dusting with flour if the dough becomes too sticky. Do this several times – this process is called laminating - you should notice the colour of the dough lighten and the dough becoming smoother.
- This is the part where we try to minimise the wastage of off cuts - all the off cuts have to be rolled together to go through the whole lamination process again so by reducing off cuts, we're saving heaps of time. Run the dough through the machine one more time, making sure the dough almost touches the edge of the roller, this way, you're getting the maximum width out of each pasta sheet.
- Turn the pasta machine down a notch and roll the dough through again. Keep doing this until you're satisfied with the thickness (on my pasta maker it's about a 6 setting.) Dust the pasta sheet with some flour and then place on a bench. Repeat with the lamination process with the other remaining pieces of pasta dough.
- Cut along the length of the rolled pasta sheet - most pasta machines are about 14cm so you should get 2 x 7cm widths of pasta. Cut those into squares - about 7cm x 7cm.
- Place a small amount of silverbeet filing onto the centre of each square - I use a piping bag to do this as it's less messy.
- Brush two edges of each square with water, then fold to form a triangle, making sure the edges are sealed.
- Bring the two points of the triangle together and ta-dah, you have tortellino (that's singular).
- Repeat, with the help of friends, if necessary, until you have a mountain of tortellini. If you are storing the tortellini for a few hours, make sure that your countertop is well dusted with flour or the pasta will stick to the bench.
- To cook the tortellini, place into boiling water, in small batches of 20 and cook until they float. Set aside while you make the sauce.
- To make the brown butter sauce, heat a frying pan over medium heat and fry pancetta (if using). Add the butter and cook until it foams, then add the sage leaves. Watch closely for the solids in the butter to turn brown, then add the tortellini and toss to coat.
- Serve immediately with grated parmesan.