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!

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Salmon en Papillote

Main Dishes, Recipes

En papillote… sounds awfully fancy, doesn’t it? French for “in parchment,” this dish is exactly as it sounds – salmon fillets baked in a parchment pouch. It looks impressive for its simplicity of preparation, and best of all, the parchment packaging makes cleanup a breeze (yes, I know I sound like a Reynold’s foil commercial).

Quick & easy baked salmon

Quick & easy baked salmon en papillote

I think salmon and lemon are a classic combination, so why fix what isn’t broken? I went extra simple (only 4 ingredients!) with fresh lemon, butter, and a lemon pepper blend, but you could easily spruce this up with some fresh or dried dill, fresh lemon zest, or even a splash of white wine for flavor and moisture.

Ingredients:

2 fillets of salmon, skin-on, about 3-4 oz per fillet

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, sliced into two thin pats

1 lemon

1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning blend (or salt & pepper to taste)

Parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Tear out two large squares of parchment paper, about as long as the width of the roll. Arrange the squares like a compass, so that one of the points (i.e. the “southern” point) is pointing toward you. If desired, rinse the fillets and pat dry with a paper towel. Place each fillet skin side down on its own square of parchment, a bit south of the center.

Step 1: Cleaned fillet sprinkled with lemon pepper

Step 1: Cleaned fillet sprinkled with lemon pepper

Season with lemon pepper seasoning blend. If the blend does not include salt, sprinkle a bit on the fillet as well.

Step 2: Butter!

Step 2: Butter!

Top each fillet with a small pat of butter, for moisture and flavor.

Step 3: Fresh Lemon!

Step 3: Fresh Lemon!

Cut two thick slices from the lemon and set aside the rest for later. Layer the lemon slice over the butter.

Now to make the iconic en papillote pouches. Fold the north corner down to the match the south corner and enclose the fillet. Starting from one side, either east or west, fold over the newly created folded edge in small, tight, acute-angled folds. Be sure the folds overlap, working your way around to create a rough circle or semi-circle.

Step 4: Fold and set on a baking sheet

Step 4: Fold and set on a baking sheet

Set the pouches onto a baking sheet and stick into the preheated oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. The fillets will be a bit firm to the touch when they are ready.

Part of the fun is opening it up like a present, so I like to plate my salmon en papillote straight out of the oven. Garnish with fresh wedges from the reserved lemon. Cut or tear open the packet and dinner is served!

Voila!

Voila!

Salmon en papillote is also a great fuss-free dish for dinner parties. The pouches can be assembled in advance and kept in the refrigerator until dinnertime. Each guest receives a pre-portioned dinner that’s simple and delicious! Serve alongside steamed vegetables (or pictured above: blanched broccoli florets) or a rice pilaf.

Limoncello & Semolina Cookies

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

Ever since shortly after we graduated high school, my best friend and I have not lived on the same coast. Luckily we have this thing called the Internet, and in college, much of my extra spending money was saved up for the occasional jaunt to New York to visit and catch up. I know, what does this have to do with the cookies? I’m getting to it.

You can take the boy out of southern California but you can never really take southern California out of the boy. As he moved from cold-weather-state to cold-weather-state, I knew he missed home and the sunshine. One day, knowing of my love for limoncello and baking, he sent me this recipe that had been adapted from an Italian cookbook. In retrospect, I think he was also not-so-subtly hinting at me to send him a care package.

If you don’t have semolina on hand, I discovered that you can substitute Cream of Wheat, 1:1. I also found that being a bit more generous with the limoncello helps the cookies really sing with that lemony goodness. Not to mention that adding some extra lemon zest helps to yield cookies that are just like brilliant rays of sunshine bursting out of a USPS Medium Sized Flat Rate Box.

Fresh from the oven - golden drops of sunshine

Fresh from the oven – golden drops of sunshine

So here’s the recipe, with my tweaks, for the cookies that are so good that they have been requested for cross-country delivery. (And many thanks to Brian of Clinton Hill Foodie for sharing his recipe for a sweet treat that’s surely cheered up a homesick friend on many occasions.)

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

2 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of semolina (or Cream of Wheat, original flavor)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons olive oil (if you have it on hand, try the Meyer Lemon oil from Global Gardens!)
1 cup white (granulated) sugar, plus extra for rolling the balls of dough
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 lemon, zested and juiced (plus the zest of 1 more lemon, optional)
3 tablespoons limoncello
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Yields 60 small cookies if making 1-inch diameter spheres of dough

Dry Stuff

Dry Stuff

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Before

Before

After

After

Creamed butter

Creamed butter

In a large bowl, cream the softened butter with the sugar and olive oil. Forget to leave the butter out on the counter to soften? I do that all the time! I don’t have great foresight when it comes to baking. But after the croissant making class we took at Elle A Cooking, we learned a spiffy trick to get straight-out-of-the-fridge butter soft and ready to go. If you’re using the whole stick of butter (we are in this recipe), leave it in its wrapping and whack it a few times with a rolling pin. Alternatively, you can place the butter between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper and do the same thing. Pounding it out somehow softens it enough for creaming. Probably something to do with kinetic energy, like warming up before you work out. Shrug.

Spiffy Lemon Covers

You can use these Spiffy Lemon Covers to catch the seeds!

Now add your lemon juice, limoncello, vanilla, and zest. It will look liquidy and the butter may look globby. It’s OK. Just mix together as best you can.

See? Globby.

See? Globby.

Slowly add the dry ingredients, stirring to combine until you a ball of dough starts to form. Mix well to incorporate all of the lemony goodness into the dough.

Ready for the chill!

Ready for the chill!

Set up a sheet of plastic wrap and pour out the dough to form a disc. Cover with more plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (2-3 hours would be even better, especially if your kitchen and/or house is on the warm side).

Mmm sugar....

Mmm sugar….

One hour later… preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Set up a plate or shallow dish with granulated sugar. Break off pieces of the chilled dough and roll between your palms into cute approximately 1-inch diameter spheres. Roll each sphere in the sugar to coat and then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The sugar will help give the cookies a wonderful crisp and crackle on the outside. The cookies do spread a little so leave about 1.5-2 inches between them. This batch of dough yielded 4 trays of 15 cookies.

Cutest tray of cookies ever!

Cutest tray of cookies ever!

Once you fill up 2 trays, place them in the oven and set a timer for 7 minutes. At this halfway point, swap the trays so that the tray on the top rack is now on the bottom one and vice versa. Also rotate the trays so that the side that was closest to the back of the oven is now at the front. Set the timer for an additional 7 minutes for a total of 14 minutes bake time.

Couldn't resist snapping a quick picture!

Couldn’t resist snapping a quick picture!

I know, I know – who wants to expend the extra effort? I used to skip this step too and bake the cookies for the full 14 minutes in one shot, but for this last batch, I went the extra mile and every cookie was a beautiful, perfect golden brown on the bottom. Totally worth it, so just do it.

Eventually transferred these to a cooling rack instead..

Eventually transferred these to a cooling rack instead..

Take the cookies out of the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. I initially left them on the parchment and simply moved them to cool on our countertop, but the heat creates a steamy condensation on the bottoms and starts making them soggy. They taste great fresh out of the oven and keep well in an airtight container left at room temperature for a few days… if they survive that long!

PS: We were inspired to whip up a batch after finding some beautiful golden Eureka lemons from Gonzaga Farms (the same people who sell stone fruit from Tenerelli Orchards) at last week’s farmer’s market.

PPS: This is also the first post in a series of alcohol-inspired or infused desserts I’m working on. Stay tuned!