Homemade Squid Ink Pasta (Nero di Seppia)

Main Dishes, Recipes

Martin and I had always wanted to go to the fish markets in Downtown Los Angeles but we never seem to wake up early enough to catch the good stuff. One morning, we made our way over to Los Angeles Fish Co. in the industrial district, ready to be inspired by the bounty of the sea. Razor clams, Santa Barbara uni, PEI mussels, pompano fish, arctic char, fanny bay oysters… the assortment was exciting. One of the more interesting finds was a jar of cuttlefish ink. We love to order squid ink pasta whenever we find it on a menu, and we’ve always wanted to make it at home ourselves, so we opened our wallets and forked over the $35 for the 500 mL jar (as we later discovered, it will last us for a very long time).

Capellini nere alle vongole

Capellini nere alle vongole

The first question I had (and Googled) was “squid ink vs. cuttlefish ink.” The verdict? I learned that most commercial squid ink is actually from cuttlefish, and that cuttlefish ink is superior because of its rounded, smooth flavor. Squid ink could taste strongly of iodine. Both bring the briny essence of the sea and a stunning black hue to a classic Italian dish. My second question was whether I should have purchased the cephalopods whole and extracted my own ink sacs. Another Google search told me that commercially harvested ink, packaged in jars, are generally higher quality and better suited for cooking. And the third and last question — how the heck do I add it to the pasta dough?

Squid Ink Pasta Dough Ball

Squid Ink Pasta Dough Ball

Well, browsing online yielded a lot of recipes for what to do with the store-bought squid ink (don’t do it). But when I finally found some advice on making homemade black pasta, it turned out to be surprisingly easy! Just take our fresh pasta recipe (yields about 1 pound of dough), and whisk in one tablespoon of ink with the egg-oil mixture prior to pouring it into the flour. It’s that simple.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

5 ounces all-purpose flour

5 ounces semolina flour

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon squid ink (or cuttlefish ink)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1. Measure out the flours and gently mix to combine. Make a well in the center.

Flours and Egg-Ink Mixture

Flours and Egg-Ink Mixture

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, ink, and oil. Pour into the well.

Whisking in the Ink

Whisking in the Ink

3. Using a fork, stir in a circular motion to slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet.

Kneading Time!

Kneading Time!

4. When a dough starts to form, knead on a floured surface for 5-10 minutes.

Resting the Dough

Resting the Dough

5. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes to 1 hour.

Cross-section of Dough

Cross-section of Dough

6. Cut into quarters. Flatten into a disc and roll out to desired thickness.

Beautiful Velvety Jet-Black Pasta

Beautiful Velvety Jet-Black Pasta

7. Cook in salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and toss into sauce of choice. Serve immediately.

Cut Pasta

Cut Pasta

So if you’re looking to make a homemade Italian meal to impress a loved one, try making squid ink pasta. Now that’s amore!

Serving Suggestion: Squid Ink Pasta with Clams

Serving Suggestion: Squid Ink Pasta with Clams

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Lemon-Ricotta Tortellini

Main Dishes, Recipes

On Valentine’s Day 2011, Martin surprised me with a homemade spaghetti dinner made on our brand new, shiny Marcato pasta maker. Since then, we’ve made fresh pasta on multiple occasions, sometimes herbed, sometimes thinner or wider strands, but always a long, ribbon-cut noodle. It felt like a distant dream to be able to make shaped or filled pastas. Agnolotti, ravioli, tortellini, just to name a few — all of them seem to require so much skill! But this week, we decided to tackle tortellini and made plenty extra to freeze for future meals — it was a delicious success.

Lemon-Ricotta Tortellini in a brown butter & rosemary sauce

Lemon-Ricotta Tortellini in a brown butter & rosemary sauce

Pasta Dough:

We used our recipe from our very first blog entry on Nom Nom Cat. You’ll need 2-3 batches for the amount of filling below.

Filling:

15 oz ricotta (fat free is OK)

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

zest of one lemon (approximately 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons)

1 egg

pinch of nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste

(We used the proportions from this Epicurious recipe as a base.)

Recipe yields approximately 100 mini tortellini about the size of a quarter in diameter.

Mix together the ingredients for the pasta dough. Knead for a full 10 minutes to get the glutens working. Wrap the kneaded dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 40 minutes.

Lemon-Ricotta Filling

Lemon-Ricotta Filling

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the ingredients until combined. Our filling was a bit clumpy but that’s OK. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, gently pressing it so that it touches the surface of the filling. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Rolling out the pasta

Rolling out the pasta

Roll out the pasta, 1/4 batch at a time, to a thickness of 7 on the Marcato. You’ll want to be able to faintly see your hand through the sheet of pasta. Cover sheets in plastic wrap or a moist towel to keep them from drying out.

Cut the pasta into rounds

Cut the pasta into rounds

Use a cookie cutter or upside-down drinking glass to cut out even circles of dough. We used a 3-inch diameter tea cup.

Circles of Dough

Circles of Dough

Lay out onto a lightly floured surface. Once you have a nice little collection of pasta ready to shape, grab a small bowl of cold water.

Step 1: Pasta + Filling

Step 1: Pasta + Filling

Now for the fun part: gently lay one of the circles on the fingers of one hand. Top with a small dollop of filling. If you are making mini tortellini like we did, we used about 1/2 teaspoon of filling for each. Dip your finger in the water and lightly moisten the edge halfway around the circle.

Step 2: Fold Over

Step 2: Fold Over

Next, fold over the dough so that the dry half overlaps the moistened half. Gently press around the filling to avoid air bubbles (those will steam up and cause the tortellini to burst open during the cooking process) and continue to press outward to the edges.

Step 3: Dimple

Step 3: Dimple

Use one finger to poke a dimple into the center of the filling. This will serve as the guide for shaping the tortellini.

Step 4: Fold the Pointed Tips Together

Step 4: Fold the Pointed Tips Together

Using the dimple as the center point, pull the pointed tips toward each other. The flat edges should curl up like the brim of a hat and the dimple should help form a little point.

Step 5: Press the Overlapping Edges

Step 5: Press the Overlapping Edges

Press the overlapping edges together so that the dough is about even thickness as the rest of the pasta. This will help ensure even cooking later (if the junction is too thick, then it will be hard when the rest of the tortellini has reached al dente or mush).

Step 6: Arrange on a Baking Sheet

Step 6: Arrange on a Baking Sheet

Arrange your finished product on a baking sheet lightly dusted with flour. We were intending to freeze ours, so we lined our baking sheet with parchment paper. Placing them in straight rows like a pasta army is optional.

As easy as boiling water

As easy as boiling water

Cooking them is easy. If you are serving them immediately after making, simply cook them in salted boiling water. When they float, give them another minute or so before fishing them out with a slotted spoon. Taste one if you’d like – the pasta should be al dente.

Bon Appetito!

Bon Appetito!

We transferred our pasta immediately from the water to a pan of brown butter and rosemary sauce, although that turned out to be a bit rich. A better option, in our opinion, is a drizzle of your favorite olive oil (we used Global Gardens meyer lemon oil) and chopped basil. Refreshing and truly brings out the lemony filling!

Frozen Tortellini - perfect for a weeknight meal

Frozen Tortellini – perfect for a weeknight meal

To save for later, let the tortellini freeze at least overnight on a baking sheet in a single layer. After they have hardened, transfer to a resealable plastic bag, label, and store. For an easy weeknight dinner, simply boil up water. Season with salt and toss in a handful or two of tortellini. Watch until they float and then wait another 2-3 minutes, about 5-7 minutes altogether. The filling will have heated through and the pasta will be nice and al dente. Serve with a sauce of your choice.

And a little Photoshop fun for our dear readers... I couldn't resist!

And a little Photoshop fun for our dear readers… I couldn’t resist!

nomnomcat print button

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. Making homemade tortellini is certainly a challenge but one that we are so proud to have overcome. We hope that you too will try your hand at folding these little buggers. It was a fun project that turned out to be hours of quality time together in the kitchen. And after your hard work, there’s no feeling quite like the satisfaction of digging into a bowl of fresh pasta made by your own hands.

This month is hosted by Marnelli at Sweets & Brains.

Like this link-up? Keep your own Growing Edge in mind — we’ll be hosting in October!

Cheers!

Potato Gnocchi

Appetizers and Starters, Main Dishes, Recipes

Gnocchi. Nyo-kee. More than just a funny-sounding word for an Italian dumpling, gnocchi are fluffy pillows of potato or ricotta based dough swimming in sauces that vary from a simple brown butter to a rich bolognese. It is one of our favorite dishes to order when we go out for Italian, especially at places notorious for their homemade pasta. Finally one day, Martin had the brilliant idea to try making gnocchi ourselves.

Potato Gnocchi alla Arrabiatta

Potato Gnocchi alla Arrabiatta

As it turned out, making the gnocchi dough was relatively easy – considerably less finicky than semolina pasta dough. It does take some time to bake and cool the potatoes, but I think it’s worth having to plan ahead; baking yields a better dough texture than boiling does.

Ingredients:

2 pounds of russet potatoes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 egg yolks

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt

(Thank you to Simply Recipes for the ingredient proportions and the crucial tip to bake instead of boil the potatoes!)

Potatoes: ready for the oven

Potatoes: ready for the oven

Scrub the potatoes under running water, leaving the skins on. Stab the potatoes all around with a fork, the way you would when baking sweet potatoes. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, arrange the potatoes equidistant from each other, and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.

Time to cool the potatoes!

Time to cool the potatoes!

When the potatoes are tender and the skins have started to wrinkle and pull away, transfer to a cooling rack and slice them open down the middle to let the steam escape. I waited about 15-20 minutes until the potatoes were still warm but cool enough to handle.

Using a potato ricer

Using a potato ricer

Remove the potatoes from their skins and either mash with a fork or strain through a potato ricer into a large bowl.

The dough ingredients

The dough ingredients

Add the two egg yolks , lightly beaten, and the flour and salt to the potatoes.

Ball of gnocchi dough

Ball of gnocchi dough

Stir to combine but do not overwork the dough or the gnocchi will be tough and dense instead of light and fluffy. The mixture should just start to form a doughy ball.

Rolling out the dough

Rolling out the dough

Lightly dust a cutting board with all purpose flour. Working with a handful of dough at a time, gently roll out a tube about the size of a breadstick.

Cutting the dough

Cutting the dough

Using a sharp paring knife, cut the rolled out dough into small pieces, about 1 inch long.

Rolling the gnocchi on a gnocchi board

Rolling the gnocchi on a gnocchi board

We have a gnocchi board, but you could also use the back of a dinner fork to roll out the gnocchi. Whichever you choose, be sure to flour it so your gnocchi don’t stick. Holding the board (or fork) at a 45 degree angle, start the gnocchi at the top and press down and forward with your thumb. It is hard to describe, but you are essentially smearing the dough so that rolls over on top of itself as demonstrated in this how-to video we found on Youtube.

Our dumpling army

Our dumpling army

Set your finished gnocchi aside on a floured baking sheet and repeat until you use up all of the dough.

Just wait until they float!

Just wait until they float!

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the gnocchi in batches, maybe two handfuls at a time. They will be done when they float. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving dish or individual bowls.

The next batches, patiently waiting

The next batches, patiently waiting

Just top with your favorite sauce — we used a simple arrabiatta made with garlic, white wine, canned San Marzano tomatoes, and dried red pepper flakes. The ridges are great for catching the sauce, and each gnocco is a tender, pillowy cloud of potato goodness.

Our gnocchi cooking station

Our gnocchi cooking station

Writing this entry made me crave a warm, hearty bowl of gnocchi again… I think my next experiment will be a sweet potato gnocchi with a sage brown butter sauce. Will report back on how that goes!

nomnomcat print button

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. While Martin and I have made fresh pasta on many occasions, making our own gnocchi had always been just another item on our Bucket List until recently. In retrospect, it is a bit ironic that the small wooden gnocchi board was a more intimidating piece of equipment than our Marcato pasta maker.

This month is hosted by Stacey at The Veggie Mama.

Cheers!

Fresh Pasta: A Real Eye-talian Treat

Food Life, Main Dishes, Recipes

When it comes to pasta, a lot of people, myself included, would rather go for the quick and easy 5-minute Barilla capellini from the supermarket. On the off-chance you have an hour or two to make dinner, you should really consider making fresh pasta. It takes a little bit of time and effort but isn’t very difficult at all and tastes so much better than store-bought pasta. Once you get the basics of making fresh pasta, you can start experimenting like herb pasta, pumpkin pasta, spinach pasta, squid ink pasta, you name it! Let’s take a step back and start with the basics first.

Ingredients:

5 oz. All-purpose flour (approx. 1.13 dry cups) *
5 oz Semolina flour (approx. 0.85 dry cups) *
2 Extra Large Eggs
Pinch of salt
Dry herbs (optional)
Drizzle of olive oil

* the conversion comes out a bit funny, so for simplicity you could also use 1-1/4 cup AP flour and 3/4 cup of semolina. Rule of thumb is one egg per one cup of dry flour, so we’re looking for 2 cups total between the AP flour and semolina.

** UPDATE: if you do have a food scale, you may need a third egg to have enough moisture to turn the 10 ounces of dry ingredients into a silky dough

There’s a few ways you could do this but we’ll explain the “well” method here. If you have a stand mixer you could throw all the ingredients in and voila! Using a food processor would require some more attention to make sure the dough doesn’t get too dry and cause it to smoke up like ours did. We learned the well method from a cooking demo with the New School of Cooking at Eat Real Fest, and it works best for us.

First mix the semolina and all-purpose flour together in a large bowl. For this next step you could choose to use a cutting board but we like using the bowl because we tend to make a mess of things. Form a well with the flour mixture using the bottom of the dry measuring cup you used for the flour.

The Well

Crack both eggs and put them into the well along with a pinch of salt, drizzle of olive oil, and, if you’d like, some basil or other dry herbs. We used extra large eggs but if you use smaller eggs or larger eggs remember to adjust accordingly because 2 extra large eggs was just the right amount of moisture for the amount of dough we wanted to make.

Add Eggs

With a fork, break the yolks and begin mixing the ingredients in the well while slowly incorporating the flour mixture in a circular motion. Try to maintain the integrity and shape of the well to avoid mixing in too much flour all at once. It’s easier to use mix in less flour and add more if it turns out sticky than to need to add water or olive oil later if it became too dry. Continue mixing the ingredients together until you get a nice lump of dough.

Whisk together in a circular motion

When the dough is no longer sticky, jump in with both hands and begin kneading the dough with your palms on a cutting board sprinkled with flour. Knead the dough out, rotate it a quarter-turn, fold it over, and knead again, adding flour as needed if still sticky. Knead for about 5-10 minutes to get the gluten proteins working.

Put the lump of dough into an unsealed Ziplock bag and let sit on the counter for 40 minutes. If you’re in a rush, you can go as short as 20 minutes, but ideally you want to let it rest for 40 minutes to an hour.

After 40 minutes have passed, take the lump of dough, roll it out with a rolling pin, and cut it into 4 equal pieces. (Tip: you’ll want the pieces to be more narrow than wide so that it doesn’t stick to the edges of the pasta maker.) You’re all set! You could choose to make cut pasta, shaped pasta, filled pasta.. even leave the strips whole and make lasagna. We haven’t quite tried shaped pastas yet so read on for instructions on “string” or cut pastas.

To roll the pasta, we use a Marcato pasta maker, see link here for info about it. Set your pasta maker to the 0 setting and run the dough through it. Fold the dough over on itself in thirds (like you’re folding a brochure) and run it through the machine again. Repeat this 2-3 times until it has produced a consistent thickness. Change the dial to 1 and run the dough through once. Continue changing the dial to higher numbers and run the dough through once each time until it reaches the desired thickness. For spaghetti on the Marcato machine, we roll up to the thickness setting 6 and angel hair about 7 or 8. The higher you go on the setting, the thinner the pasta, and higher chance of it falling apart during cutting.

Beautiful rolled pasta dough

After rolling each piece of dough, cut the lengthy piece in half and place on top of a baking pan lined with saran wrap and let sit.  You can stack layers of saran wrap on top and repeat this step until all the dough has been rolled. The saran wrap keeps the rolled pasta from drying out while you finish up the rest of the dough. Be sure to keep the baking pan in a cool place! We once left it our stove (which is constantly warm because of the pilot light) and the bottom layer turned out to be unusable mush.

Let sit between layers of saran wrap to prevent drying out

The cutting of the pasta really just depends on your preference. The Marcato pasta maker comes with default cutting heads for fettucine and tagliolini. Additional heads could be bought separately for about $30-$40. For all intents and purposes, these two attachments with varying thicknesses should suffice. Peel off one of the rolled pieces of dough from the saran wrap. If it is too sticky, liberally sprinkle with all purpose flour. Excess flour will just flake off into the water later, but the cutting heads will not make clean cuts if the dough is too sticky. Roll the pasta through and make sure to catch the strands as they come out from the opposite side.

Hold the strands as they are cut

Lay the pasta on a drying rack to dry before cooking or storage. Space out the strands, dusting on extra flour if you have to, to ensure that the pasta does not end up in one big mass.

Finished product!

The pasta is best if consumed in the same day, so if you are using the pasta right away, you’ll want to let it sit on the drying rack for at least 10 minutes or so before dropping them in salted (or oiled) boiling water. Fresh pasta takes considerably less time to cook than the dried stuff in the box, so taste taste taste! When it is al dente (approx 2-3 minutes for capellini, 5-6 minutes or so for fettuccine), drain the pasta, toss in sauce, and serve immediately. You definitely need to dress the pasta shortly after draining in order to avoid clumping.

If you have leftovers or would like to keep the pasta for later, it keeps for about 3 days in the refrigerator in an airtight ziploc bag. Let the pasta dry on the racks for an hour or so and gently pack them in the bag so that the strands do not break. Freezing is not recommended, and drying on the rack will not dry the pasta sufficiently for long-term storage like the grocery store brands.

We hope this little guide will help you get started in your pasta making adventures. It may take some time and a few attempts to get the right texture and consistency in fresh pasta but it will definitely be worth the hassle. If you have time during the week, definitely consider making fresh pasta. We, however, still often make Barilla during the week for convenience’s sake (for shame, yes). Now that the basics is covered, it’s time to experiment with different sauces but will post them here as we do!