Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Linguine with Sage-Walnut Butter and Herbed Ricotta

The best meals in our house start with really inspiring raw ingredients. And this dish was born from opening the fridge and going: oh my god, how do I get that into my mouth??? and... I want to eat that- Right now! I also have to say, it is one of the few dishes that is truly an amalgam recipe- it is partly based on a recipe from the cookbook 'A Year in the Vegetarian Kitchen', partly based on a recipe from the internet- and partly based on my own sense of what would be tasty.

1 1/2 cups fresh, not that polly-o shiz, real-deal Ricotta
3/4 box Linguine (or make your own... that would be excellent)
Rosemary, chopped
Basil Leave
Sage Leaves, chopped
Parsley, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese
carmelized onions (if you have some lying around... as I was lucky enough to!) or a shallot
garlic- a few cloves (poached, or raw)
1/2 stick butter
chopped walnuts


1. Drain the ricotta in a sieve in the sink. Let sit for a while.

2. Prep every fresh herb you can find in your kitchen- I think I omitted the basil, but added chive, and thyme to the mix- and chop them as finely as you can. Mix the herbs into the ricotta cheese, and salt and pepper the cheese to taste. Grate some parmesan cheese into the ricotta, and mix in. Set aside. Try not to eat all of it while you cook. Save a few sage leaves for later.

3. Put the water for the pasta on to boil. Salt it well.

4. While the pasta water boils, either smash the poached garlic in the bottom of a skillet with some olive oil, OR sweat the raw shallot and garlic over low heat in the olive oil for as long as you can stand it, and until they are very fragrant and translucent.

5. Then, melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. When the butter is fragrant, add the remaining sage and walnuts to the butter, and continue cooking it until it smells incredible. Splash some lemon on it.

6. Drain the pasta, reserving the water. Add the pasta to the skillet with the butter sauce, adding some pasta water to moisten as needed, and stir to coat. If using carmelized onion, mix those in at the last minute. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

7. Serve the pasta in the sauce with a large dollop of the herbed ricotta on top.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pasta Class!

In my journey to make everything from scratch, handmade pasta was my next step. And the lovely and fantastic Ronna Welsh of Purple Kale Kitchenworks was on hand last Saturday- along with our good friends, Kristen and Craig, to show us how it's done.

#1: Making the dough
Ronna introduced us to italian Double 00 flour- which creates a better texture than traditional 'all purpose'.

Ingredients: 2 1/4 cups of flour and 3 large eggs.

The Technique:

On a dry, lightly floured cutting board, scoop (do not pack down the flour or shake to settle- it's all good to let it stay fluffy in the cup) the flour into the center. Make a well with nice high walls and crack the eggs into the middle.

Begin to slowly and lightly beat the eggs, and then start to incorporate the flour into the egg. Continue to do this until the dough is just barely a solid, and then abandon the fork and finish adding in the flour by hand, using a kneading motion. Ronna explains this as using the palm, rather than fingers, and a press, followed by a pick up and turn. Once the flour is no longer combining with the egg, scrape all the remaining flour off the cutting board as well as your hands- this will not incorporate into the ball and will ruin the texture- and then get ready to work hard- kneading !!

#2:Knead the dough

This is about a 10 minute process. Lightly flour the surface and your hands, and continue with the same kneading motion used above. Ronna recommended adding a lunge into it- but prepare for a workout, no matter how you approach it. Keep kneading until the dough is soft and workable!!

Rest the dough
Wrap the dough in saran wrap and set aside for 30-60 minutes and use this time to make some fillings and prep ingredients for sauces and sides.

Fillings & Sauces:

We made several delicious fillings- braised leeks, carmelized onion, seared trumpet mushroom, fresh ricotta, and poached garlic. We also reduced some heavy cream in preparation for a cream sauce.

In the future I'd love to try some sauteed spinach and ricotta, or beets for fillings, but really, the possibilities are endless!!

Stretch the dough

When you're ready, it's time to stretch the dough. This is where a little hand-crank pasta machine is going to come in handy. According to Dean & Deluca and Vecchia Nonnas everywhere, it is possible to keep on by hand and use a rolling pin, but the machine helps to process the batches a bit more quickly- once Kristen & I got the hang of it, we were able to process the whole batch in about 20 minutes.

Begin by using the rolling pin to flatten out the ball into a round. Cut it into 4 pieces, wrap 3 of them tightly in saran wrap. Begin by folding the first piece into 3 parts, like an envelope, and pass it through the machine at least 3 times on the widest setting.

Then, pass the piece through two times on each setting, from 1-6. Then repeat the process, folding it back into an envelope and starting on setting 2 or 3, and passing it through once per setting. Once it is silky smooth to the touch, you are ready to make some pasta!! Wrap the pressed pasta if not cutting immediately into shapes.

Make Pasta!

We used cookie cutters to create raviolis, and we pinched pockets for tortellini, too.

Craig was the master pasta-maker, making tortellini's like he was born to do it, and cutting pappardelle ribbons by hand!

We finished the pasta in a braised leek and butter sauce and sampled our creation!

A very busy, delicious, and productive day!!