Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tortellini Time!

I love making tortellinis/raviolis for my family, because it lets me be thrifty, gourmet and healthy all at the same time. They're not what I would call easy, but once you do them a couple of times, it gets easier. I make a tripple batch. I had expected to have enough for dinner and some leftover for lunch, but we added a guest and then my kids polished them all off.

 For the pasta, combine 6 cups of flour (use 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white) and 3 tsp. salt. The salt doesn't serve any purpose but for flavoring, so if you're watching your sodium, don't worry about keeping it out. Make a hole in the middle (a well), and add 6 eggs, 3 tbs. oil, and 3/4 cup water.
More oil will make the dough easier to roll out, but make it harder to stick to itself. You don't actually need to oil to make pasta, it's perfectly good with out it. Just know that you'll need to make a few more passes with the rolling pin to get your pasta rolled out. Starting in the center, start whisking with a fork to beat up the eggs and slowly work your way out to bring in all of the flour. You'll have a pretty firm dough, and you're going to want to knead it for about 5 minutes to really work those glutens up. Then you're going to need to let it rest for a bit while you make your filling, so wrap it up in plastic wrap and leave it be.

For the filling, you add one lbs of ground beef, 1 lbs of ground pork or turkey sausage, and 1 lbs of shredded potatoes. You can omit the potatoes and replace them with meat, but I use them for three reasons. 1, it stretches my dollar, 2, it cuts down on the amount of red meat my family is eating, and 3, my kids eat their veggies and they don't even know it. Trust me, they can't tell the potatoes are in it.  They did catch me sneaking carrots in once, and now they look for them but the potatoes, they haven't a clue. You also want to add 6 cloves of minced garlic and 1 cup of grated onion. Brown and drain.

If you have an Immersion blender, that would be ideal from grinding the meat up. You don't want to puree the meat, you're not making pate. But you want it "mechanical mash", which is just finely ground. You can put the meat into an upright blender, about 1 cup at a time, and pulse five or six times, you'll get the same effect. Once you've mashed your cooked meat, add 1 cup of cracker crumbs, (I prefer saltines), 1 egg, and a lot of spices. I make it extra spicy, because I find boiling the tortellinis causes them to lose flavor. I use 1 tsp. garlic powder, 3 tsp. Italian seasoning (mix of parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram), 2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and 1 tbs. red pepper flakes (optional). Mix well, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Rolling out pasta dough can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you've never done it before. And it can be a bit of a work out, but it's worth it. Even frozen "fresh" pasta cannot compare to the real thing! First, divide your dough into eight pieces. If you're making 1/3 or 2/3 of this recipe, then divide it into quarters. Next, flatten a piece out with your hands, don't stretch it. Then just use your rolling pin and take your time with it. You're going to wear yourself out if you rush, and especially if you "put your back into it". The dough is very firm, and applying extra pressure will not get it rolled out any quicker than moderate pressure, so don't be too vigorous or you'll only frustrate yourself. I have to tell myself that almost every time I make it. Steady movements are what win this race, so be the tortoise, not the hare. ;-)

Once the dough is rolled out to about a millimeters thickness, cut it into squares and put about a tablespoon of filling onto each one.

Wet two edges of the pasta and fold over to make a triangle. Press down the edges firmly, being careful not to get any of your filling in the way. You could also just roll them up on the diagonal, so you don't have the triangle flaps, but I find that cooking them, the pasta sometimes doesn't cook through all the way if it's too thick.
Bring the two corners together and press them.
That's a fresh tortellini! You want to put them on a tray, not touching, and refrigerate until cooking time. At this point, you can also freeze them. Once you're ready to cook them, bring a large stock pot of water to a full boil and drop the tortellini's in, about 15 at a time. It only takes six or seven minutes to cook the pasta through. Once cooked, you can add them to broth, or pair them with your favorite sauce.

This makes tortellini's for 8 people (or 6 that include teenage boys), use only 1/3 or the recipe two people, and 2/3 for 4 people, and you're very likely to have leftovers.

3 cups of white flour
3 cups of whole wheat flour
3 tsp. salt (optional)
6 eggs
3 tbs. canola oil
3/4 cups water

1 lbs. lean ground beef
1 lbs. ground pork or turkey sausage
1 lbs. (2 cups) shredded potatoes
6 cloves minced garlic
1 cup grated onion
1 cup cracker or bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 tsp. Italian seasoning (mix of parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbs. red pepper flakes (optional).

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