People always look surprised when they hear about me making my own filled pasta occasionally, though it isn’t that time-absorbing or complicated. Two kitchen utensils are really helpful: a pasta machine to get your dough really thin and prevent getting sore hands, and any kind of pasta mould, which helps you to bring your pasta into shape. I myself have this old pasta machine which I got from my mother, it must be from the 70s, but hey, it still works.
To come up to a really good pasta dough that doesn’t get too soft, but instead stays al dente when cooking it, I have long experimented with different ingredients and proportions: different types of flour, semolina, egg… In the end I found my perfect pasta recipe, as simple as good:
Basic pasta dough (for 2 persons or about 30 tortelloni):
80 g all-purpose flour, 80 g semolina, water, 1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl or on a work surface. While kneading add gradually water until you have a smooth and elastic dough. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for about an hour at room temperature. This is important, because it will increase the elasticity of your dough.
To roll out your pasta dough, divide it into four pieces, then flatten each piece into a rough rectangle. Roll each retangle until you have a smooth, thin sheet of dough. You therefore have to do a bit of folding – rolling – folding – rolling. With a pasta machine you start with the widest setting of rollers, turning them narrower – and your dough thinner – step by step. My machine has three settings and I usually feed my dough through each one two times.
After rolling your dough, dust it with flour and – if you have a lot of dough sheets or just don’t want to hurry – cover it it with a slightly wet kitchen towel to prevent it from drying-out.
A good basis for pasta filling always is ricotta and parmesan cheese. As I am lately in a lentil-and-bean-phase, I decided to combine it with white beans. This is a really great combination, because both complement each other in their grainy but creamy texture and in their slightly sweet taste. Responsible for the fresh flavour infusion is chopped basil, mint and lemon zest.
For the tortelloni filling I mixed the following ingredients:
200 g canned white beans, mashed, 100 g ricotta cheese, 2 tablesoons grated parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon chopped basil, 1 teaspoon chopped mint, zest of 1/2 organic lemon
As in this case the homemade pasta and its filling should be the main attraction, the pasta sauce shouldn’t be too dominant in taste. A simple sautéed tomato sauce is always a good choice. At this occasion I paired my tortelloni with a quick cream sauce, adding simply a bit of fried bacon cubes and chopped basil, topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
To make the tortelloni, it helps if you have a pasta mould. But you don’t absolutely need it. You can also use a drinking glass to form circles out of your rolled out dough. Fill each of them with a teaspoon of the ricotta bean cream and fold it in half. If you don’t have a mould press edges down firmly with a fork. Be careful not to produce air pockets. They increase the chance that your tortelloni will break during cooking. By the way, to speak from my own experience you don’t need to brush the edges with egg, just press firmly.
Now take the ends of the semicircles, press them together and twist. There it is, the first one of your tortelloni. Line your finished tortelloni on a working surface, baking tray or something similar. Just make sure the surface is dusted with flour to prevent the pasta from sticking.
At least when I am making pasta, dough and filling never fully add up. Thus, this time a had some leftover ricotta bean cream. I just put it into my freezer. There will definetely be a next time when I can use it.
Cooking time of your pasta will vary, depending on the thickness of your dough, but as it is fresh it only takes a few minutes. You can also keep the cooked pasta in your freezer. In this case, cook them again for about two minutes after defrosting.