Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Short and Sharp Shock to the System

Hello dear readers, I wonder if many of you are, like me, threatened by the recent presence of a distinctly autumnal climate. No? Oh, you saw this coming? Well, yeah I suppose coming back to London last week, I should have been prepared for the drop in temperature. Still, I brought my flip flops along in defiance.

Today, I made a dish that is wholesome and satisfying without being over-the-top hibernation food. I give you: tortellini in brodo. I decided to make the tortellini by hand but not bother with making and rolling out the pasta, which turned out to be a great timesaver. I will certainly be revisiting this recipe and incorporating different toppings as and when the mood strikes. Here, I managed to find the very last of the English peas of summer, and they decorated the broth with a nice frisson of color and intense sweet flavor. The tortellini I filled with ricotta (you know I couldn't resist) and pancetta. For those vegetarians out there, substituting the pancetta for spinach wouldn't leave this dish lacking.

This dinner is my way of capitulating to autumn with its attendant leaf kicking, the new pair of boots in place of flip flops, and another candle on the birthday cake for me. Tortellini in brodo is my way of saying "Bring it on, autumn. Bring it on."

Tortellini in Brodo

For the tortellini:

12 sheets fresh pasta (usually packaged for lasagna)
2 eggs
½ cup pancetta, diced
2 medium shallots, diced
1/3 cup ricotta
Salt and pepper to taste
For the broth:
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 small white onion, sliced into ribbons
4 fresh sage leaves, julienned
1 ½ cups English peas
Directions: When working with fresh pasta, it is important not to let the sheets dry out before you have formed them, so I like to stick them in between the folds of a damp tea towel after I take them out of the fridge but before I actually use them. To make the filling, sauté the pancetta and shallots over medium heat until most of the fat is rendered; about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Stir pancetta mixture into the ricotta and add one of the eggs. Add salt and pepper as needed. To fill the tortellini, cut the sheets into about 2-inch squares, lay them out and brush the edges with the other egg, beaten. Spoon about a teaspoon of mixture onto each square and fold over to form a triangle. Pinch the seams closed and bring the points together, pinching securely closed again (see pictures). Once filled, lay the tortellini on a lined baking sheet to dry out a little.

To make the broth, sauté the onions and sage in a large saucepan with a few tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and allow the onions to caramelize. This should take about 20-30 minutes over medium-high heat. Once the onions are translucent and have taken on a light golden color, add the stock and let it come to a high simmer. Drop in the tortellini and the fresh peas. They should take about 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness of the pasta sheets and how long they have been drying for.

Remove from heat and serve with shaved parmesan. Rediscover your love of fall.