by Edward Schneider
Could filled pasta be the best thing in the world? No: there’s music that has it beat, and some would argue that Leonardo’s Ginevra de’Benci is better than pierogi. But come dinnertime, I’ll take cappelletti over Mozart almost any day.
Jackie and I always yearn for filled pasta, and we sometimes take the time to make it ourselves. A little while ago, during our dill craze, we made some big ol’ tortelloni with this filling: a leek and a bunch of Swiss chard thoroughly cooked in olive oil, squeezed dry and finely chopped; a cup of fluffy, dry ricotta from Tonjes at the Union Square Greenmarket; a great deal of chopped dill; grated long-aged parmesan; one egg yolk; and salt and pepper. There was filling left over, and we froze it in a disposable plastic piping bag so that it would be ready for use.
There’s something particularly pleasurable about small pasta shapes that can go into your mouth whole. Tortellini, for instance, are one of the fun things about Emilia Romagna. Most of these small forms need to be made individually and dexterously, which can be a nice way to while away an hour of a Saturday afternoon. But we recently wanted some small-form filled pasta for dinner STAT, and I remembered a Piedmontese version called ravioli (or agnolotti) del plin or dal plin or al plin. (The variations reflect diverse nomenclature, not forgetfulness.)
These look as if they are difficult to make; it is a seemingly complicated wrap that always impresses diners. But in fact, they lend themselves to speedy production, as you can see in this video. It is in Italian, but the demonstration is crystal clear – though I tend to use water, or nothing, rather than egg white to seal filled pastas and, of course, re-roll the trimmings to make more ravioli. Jackie and I made a big pile of them in ten or fifteen minutes, pretty good even considering that I’d made the dough earlier in the day and the leftover chard-dill filling a week or ten days before. (Note that these are traditionally made with a meat stuffing, but that they worked beautifully in our version suitable, as they say, for lacto-vegetarians.)
Take heart from that video. I promise: although it is a professional who’s demonstrating the technique, it truly is just as easy as she makes it look. And even if it weren’t it would be a party trick worth learning, because these are so pretty and such a delight to eat tossed in butter and a few sage leaves and sprinkled with grated parmesan.
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