Monday, September 15, 2014

Spinach, Ricotta, Roasted Garlic Tortelloni

Ok, I will admit that making homemade stuffed pasta takes work. But the theme of September's blog posts seems to be commitment; once you unwrap and begin to roll out that fresh pasta dough, you are committed to making yourself some pasta. And pasta for those you love...if there are leftovers. ;) I promise you this filling is very worth all of the work. The flavor combination is inspired by a slice of pizza from a late night Brooklyn pizzeria I used to visit after a night dancing with friends. The place is so good the line is out the door, regardless of the hour; people will line up for this pizza at 2pm the same as at 2am. They would serve this popular slice which was covered in chopped spinach, dotted with whole cloves of roasted garlic and heavy with large, rich dollops of ricotta. The combination was amazing. I haven't had a slice in half a decade and I am still craving it as I write this post. What to do when I get out to Brooklyn about once every 2 years? Well, I can stuff some homemade pasta with the same ingredients and smother them in a homemade marinara sauce to bring some of the magic to my own kitchen.

I used Chef Chiarello's recipe for pappardelle pasta dough, found here, although I tweaked it by adding an extra 1/3 cup of each flour. The dough was wetter, but also more forgiving than other doughs I've tried. We decided to split the dough in half and use half of it to make capellini, which was lovely with a garlic, olive oil, italian sausage and broccolini sauce. The other half made nearly 3 dozen 3.5" tortellonis, so if you use the whole pasta dough for tortellonis it should yield almost 6 dozen. That is hours and hours of pasta shaping. As it was it took me 3 hours to make 35 tortelloni.

Homemade stuffed pasta is not incredibly difficult to make, so much as it is time consuming. One thing to keep in mind when making tortelloni: dust everything with ample flour; I set my finished ones on a wax paper lined sheet tray dusted with plenty of both ap flour and semolina flour. Also, if you'd like to make your own sauteed, chopped spinach, start with 8 ounces baby spinach and wilt in a pan with about 1 Tablespoon olive oil for about 8 minutes, then allow to cool before wrapping in cheese cloth and squeezing moisture out (as much as possible).

I served mine with a homemade marinara.

Spinach, Ricotta and Roasted Garlic Stuffed Tortelloni

12 ounces pasta dough, rolled down to the 3 thickness setting on a pasta roller and cut into 3.5" circles, using a pint glass or other wide-mouth glass
8 ounces chopped baby spinach
5 ounces dry ricotta (try to get the kind with less whey)
Paste of 1 small head of roasted garlic
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

1. Mix together ricotta, spinach, roasted garlic paste, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside.
2. Form tortelloni: set 1/2 Teaspoon ricotta mixture in center of 3.5" circle. Then wipe the edges with water, to help them stick. Bring top and bottom of circle up together and join. Press the edges around the filling, so that the filling forms a bump in an otherwise half moon shape. Set the half moon on the table so the rounded edge is facing toward the top of your pastry board. Gently tug on the corners of each edge to stretch them out a little. Brush water on the inside of one corner and the outside of the other and join over the lump made by the filling. Press together well, then roll the extra edge of pasta down over the back of the lump (this might be clearer in the picture). Once all tortellonis are formed bring a pot of water to boil and salt it well. Cook the tortelloni to desired doneness. I cooked mine for about 7 or 8 minutes and they were just slightly al dente.
3. Serve in broth or topped with your favorite sauce.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Banana Bread Pudding with Caramel Bourbon Sauce

I've been away from my blog for too long. I've really missed sharing recipes with all of you, but I do have a good excuse: I've been planning a wedding. My wedding. A happy occasion and life-changing event. The big event is sort of the subject of today's post: love and commitment. For many of you, food equals love. I'll bet you guys have some great memories of meals cooked at home by a parent or spouse, served with a smile and very clearly prepared out of love. This stunning dessert requires several elements to come together to really make it shine. As the saying goes, the sum is greater than its parts. It takes work and the harmonious blending of ingredients and effort. Hmm...this is starting to sound familiar. ;)

The dense and moist consistency of banana bread, even stale banana bread softens the puddings and makes them more custard-y, as well as adding a depth of flavor from the cinnamon baked right in. Fabulously sweet and starchy bananas are a great compliment to the buttery caramel sauce. A slightly sweeter whisky, bourbon just completes the flavor profile and makes the pudding reminiscent of Southern bread puddings, which have a wonderful, whiskey-heavy sauce.

I made my own banana bread a couple of days before making my bread pudding, but you can absolutely use store bought.* Actually, I should say puddings, as I used a set of silicone baking cups to make individual versions. If you'd rather make one big version just use a 9 x 13" pan and lay the banana bread cubes in a single layer, the banana slices over top in a single layer, then another layer of cubes and just spread the egg mixture as evenly as possible over everything. An optional topping,  no matter how you bake it, is toasted walnuts. 

Banana Bread Pudding

1 loaf banana bread (from a standard 5 x 9" loaf pan), sliced 1" thick
2 large bananas, sliced thinly
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup half n half
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and toast sliced banana bread in the oven for about 25 minutes to make it stale. Cut the toast into cubes.
2. Turn the oven up to 350. Mix all ingredients except for the bananas and banana bread in a medium bowl. Assemble puddings: in each greased baking cup place a layer of bread cubes, packed as tightly as possible. Top with a layer of banana slices and then another layer of tightly packed banana bread cubes. Pour egg mixture over the top layer of bread and fill the cup up with the egg mixture up to about 1/4" below the top.
3. Bake assembled puddings until set, approximately 20 - 25 minutes. Pop out of baking cups and serve, drizzled with caramel.

Caramel Bourbon Sauce

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup half n half
4 Tablespoons salted butter
1 Tablespoon honey Bourbon
2 Tablespoons Bourbon

1. In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, melt butter. 
2. Whisk in half n half and sugar and cook for about 7 minutes, whisking gently the entire time.
3. Whisk in alcohol and cook while whisking another 3 minutes. Allow to cool somewhat before drizzling over puddings. The sauce is also great over ice cream. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and I welcome your feedback!

*I used Joy the Baker's recipe for Brown Butter Banana Bread, slightly tweaked (less sugar, and since I didn't have molasses, but I did have brown sugar, I added some of that in the molasses' stead) to account for the sugar in the custard: