Pasta in different shapes and forms

Recently Alex and myself have been exploring the exciting world of pasta in different shapes and forms. We have now made Taglietelle, Ravioli, Tortellini, Cavatelli as well as Chinese Wontons. I thought i would share the results of our experimentation with you. Please be patient, as upto now we have just experimented with different dough, filling and wrapping techniques. Also, we have only tried a limited number of filling types so far. As we experiment more, we will add more specific recipes here.

For Taglietelle, Ravioli and Tortellini, we always use the same dough recipe. It is an egg based dough and you can find the recipe we use here.

In the above linked recipe, it says you should place the heap of flour on the work surface, make a well and then place the eggs in the middle. Then you are meant to gradually incorporate the flour into the egg while mixing with your fingers. I did it the first few times I made this dough and it does work nicely. It helps to create the smooth dough, although you have to be careful you don’t break the flour barrier, ending up with the egg flowing out all over the worksurface and onto the floor 😉 I must admit, I have also made this dough in the standard way in a stand mixer and it was a less messy and more straight forward. The result was the same really for us. Therefore, please don’t get discouraged by the messy option and do it however you find it easiest. 

The key rather is to knead it for a long time. I usually knead for minimum 15 minutes as it says, or even longer. You should knead it until you can stretch the dough very thinly with your fingers without breaking through it. Really, it is worth it!

Once you have made the dough, you can have fun and make it into Spaghetti, Taglietelle, Lasagne, Ravioli, Tortellini….just have some fun 🙂 We do recommend to get a past rolling machine as the past dough is rather elastic and difficult to hand roll.

For Taglietelle:

  • Take pieces of the pasta dough and roll out into sheets using the pasta roller.  You need to start with the thickest setting and then keep rolling the dough sheet through, each time using a thinner setting until you reach the desired thickness of your pasta (we have 7 thickness settings on our pasta maker and usually go to setting 4 for Taglietelle – roll it to whatever thickness you like though).
  • Then, use the Taglietelle cutting portion of the pasta roller to cut your Taglietelle.
  • After cutting, we usually hang the Taglietelle on a clothes horse to allow them to dry. This is better than laying them out on the surface, as then they don’t stick and you also save some space.

For Taglietelle, we usually make a really simple tomato based seafood sauce. For this, we buy some prawns (ideally uncooked prawns) in their shells and use the shells to make a lovely intense seafood stock:

  • Shell the prawns, keeping the shells. You can place the shelled prawns in the fridge while preparing the sauce.
  • Place the shells in a baking tray and roast in the oven at 220 degrees C for around 15 minutes – this really intensifies the flavours.
  • Afterwards, place the roasted prawn shells in a saucepan and cover with hot water. We usually also then add a pinch of saffron, some salt and pepper, the green fluffy ends of a fennel bulb, a bit of a celery stalk, bay leaf.
  • Leave the prawn stock to simmer gently for about 1 hour. Then you can remove the shells and boil the stock to reduce it to a small volume. It should be very intense.
  • Then, use the stock to prepare your sauce. We make a tomato based sauce with onions, garlic, tinned tomatoes, prawn stock (add however much you like to get the desired prawn flavour in your sauce – we usally like quite an intense flavour but some people may like it more subtle. The prawn stock can also be frozen, so don’t worry about not using up all).
  • Once the sauce is ready, you can place the fresh Taglietelle in boiling water and cook for around 5 minutes. Test the pasta while it is cooking as you may prefer it more or less al dente. We tend to always prefer our pasta more al dente.
  • While the past is cooking, fry the prawns on a hot pan with some butter, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and a little salt for seasoning.
  • To serve, place the Taglietelle on a pre-heated plate and top with the sauce and prawns. Finish off with shavings of parmesan!

For Ravioli

  • Same as for Taglietelle, you need to roll the pasta dough into sheets. The sheets need to be thinner than ones you roll when you are making Taglietelle (we usually roll the sheets to setting 5 on our pasta roller which has a total of 7 thickness settings – you can test the rolling with one small dough piece and then take it from there. Just remember you will be folding the pasta in half to make tortellini and using two sheets on top of eachother to make raviolli – so do roll the dough thin enough).
  • Once you have rolled out the dough sheets:
    1. Place the sheet of pasta on a well floured surface and place small portions of whatever filling you are using at regular intervals along the whole sheet of dough, leaving at last 1 cm space around the edge. 
    2. Note: You want to make sure your filling is not too wet. So far, we particularly liked Ravioli filled with caramelized red onion and Gruyere cheese. Very easy to make just by chopping onions finely and caramelizing them on medium in a saucepan with some brown sugar and balsamic vinegar for around 30 minutes until nicely browned. Then just add copious amounts of Gruyere cheese 🙂 or goats cheese would work well too.
    3. Depending on how wide your pasta sheet is, you may be able to portion out the filling over two rows on the same pasta sheet. 
    4. Finish by gently placing another same sized pasta sheet on top, pressing down in between to seal in the filling portions.
    5. Make sure to press out the air before sealing the filling completely, otherwise the Ravioli may expand and burst when cooking. 
    6. Once you have done this, you can cut out squares or circles with a cookie cutter around the enclosed filling to end up with square or circular Ravioli. Just make sure the edges are pressed together nicely once you have cut them, so the filling doesn’t spill out.
    7. For cooking, just boil some water with salt in a pan. Once boiling, tip in the ravioli and cook for 4-6 minutes, depending on how al dente you like them. You just need to test one during the cooking to see when they are ready.
    8. We just ate our Ravioli with some chopped rocket leaves, cheese shavings and a glug of nice olive oil. And yes, of course some parmesan shavings!

For Tortellini:

  • We roll the dough to setting 5 on our pasta maker.
  • Cut circles out with a cookie cutter. We usually cut circles of around 9cm in diameter.
  • Place portions of filling in the middle (again, don’t use too wet a filling: I must admit, again we just stuck to a very simple filling of caramelized onion and cheese…such as Emmental or Gruyere…can’t go wrong there. Although I think I will try a pumpin based filling next).
  • Once you have placed the filling in the centre of each dough circle, fold each dough circle in half, encasing the filling, and press the edges together; making sure to press out all air prior to sealing completely.
  • Once you have your half moon shaped filled pasta, take the two corners, bring them together and press together to finish your tortellinis.
  • Don’t use water to try and wet the dough to help it to stick. That doesn’t work and just ends up with sticky mess. Rather press the dough corners together very firmly. You can fold the dough corners over eachother a little as well and keep pressing. You will see, it will work.
  • We cook the Tortellini around 4-6 minutes until al dente and then top with a glug of olive oil, some chopped herbs (e.g. parsly, rocket, red beetroot leaves…) and finished with shavings of parmesan. Just simple. 

For Wontons

  • I used this recipe to make the Wonton dough.
  • Compared to what it says in the above recipe, I used the pasta roller to roll the Wonton dough – this was so much easier than hand rolling the dough to the thin sheet required! I just kept using thinner and thinner settings on the pasta roller. I went to setting 5/6 on our pasta roller. You will see how it goes while rolling and easily identify when you can’t roll it any thinner without making holes in it. It does need to be thin however, so don’t be tempted to leave them too thick.
  • As said in the above recipe, use corn starch instead of flour on your worksurface when rolling the dough and making the Wontons. This will prevent the dough from sticking but will not make the dough tough.
  • For the Wonton filling, as well as the broth and chilli oil to go with the wontons, I used this recipe here but used about double amount of ginger and also added a tablespoon of sake and a tablespoon of sesame oil. You can basically experiment and add flavours as you enjoy them. I particularly like the sesame oil flavour.
  • For folding the Wontons, I just did the same as I do for making tortellini. I know this is not the traditional way but upto now that is what I did and they were delicious. Next time I will take a look at proper Wonton wrapping techniques and try them out.

For Cavatelli

For shaped pasta like Cavatelli, it is common to use a semolina based flour to give it more texture and make the pasta easier to shape. I looked around a little for recipes and found that generally, the following is the consensus for ingredients:

200 grams semolina
25 grams regular flour
pinch of salt
125 grams warm water

Just mix the ingredients together and knead until you have a really smooth, springy dough. At the beginning, the dough was rather inflexible and kept breaking. The more you knead it, the more it stretches nicely. I kneaded for around 20 minutes. Still I was not certain then whether the dough was right as it still wouldn’t stretch that easily without breaking. However, I just carried on and placed it into the fridge to rest for an hour. You can leave it for longer as well if you like.

Then, Alex found this very mesmerizing video on how to make different pasta shapes…it is rather addictive to watch! The first shape the guy talks about is Cavatelli. Have a look and try. It was quite simple. Just need to get the right pressure on the dough piece and foward moving motion to get the Cavatelli shapes right. And the dough was perfect, springy and smooth. So the kneading before had worked fine!

We ate our Cavatelli with a tomato based ragu with some goat sausage.

 

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