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A Pasta Date with Mom (Tortellini from Scratch)

This is what I dug out of the fridge and pantry this week:

Semolina flour, purchased two years ago during a flurry of enthusiasm over all things Bob’s Red Mill. Due to expire this month. Found under a pile of tablecloths in the pantry.

A mushy sweet potato, ready for the trash if I don’t cook it tonight. Retrieved from the dark corners of our fridge’s vegetable drawer, hiding below stray onion peels.

Half a ball of smoked mozzarella, leftover from a night of making fancy omelets for dinner.

A bag of dried sage from our friend Adam’s garden in Greenpoint.

A tub of Pecorino Romano, always on hand.

Also: Husband out of town. Spontaneous Monday night call from Mom and Dad, asking if I want anything from NJ because they’re swinging by Brooklyn to visit the grandparents. “Yes–three eggs.” Done.

And: One lonely KitchenAid mixer, barely used this summer.

The Monday night call turned into a late-night hangout with the folks. Dad cooked dinner while Mom and I rolled out pasta dough—the perfect antidote for a pantry full of almost-expired semolina flour.

Our first attempt was tortellini with a sweet potato/sage/smoked mozzarella/Pecorino filling, until we realized how long it would take to roll an entire bowl’s worth of them. We weren’t that desperate for tortellini. We moved on to ravioli since each one uses more dough and filling. A quicker job. Success, until we ran out of filling. The remaining dough was transformed into whatever pasta shapes we could think of—linguine, trofiette, and various other noodle incarnations.

Tortellini are another one of those things I’d never considered making from scratch. They just always came from a freezer bag, or if you wanted to get fancy, you’d get them fresh in a box from a specialty store. Turns out, it is crazy trying to hand-fold every little bite in your plate. But it still feels pretty cool just knowing how to make them.

Sweet Potato Tortellini

Pasta Dough
1 ½ cups semolina flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons water

Egg Wash
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons water

Tortellini filling
1 sweet potato
About 2 tablespoons smoked mozzarella, cut into tiny cubes (about 1/8-inch)
1 teaspoon dried sage, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated Pecorino Romano

Special Equipment:
Pasta dough roller; if you’re making ravioli, a round ravioli cutter, cookie cutter, or the metal lid of a small-mouth Mason jar; stand mixer (optional)

Make the pasta dough:
Pour flour into a large bowl so you have a small mountain in the bowl’s center. Create a well in the middle and add the salt, then eggs, one at a time, gently beating them with a fork.

Add the water and continue mixing, gently folding in flour from the well’s inner walls until a sticky dough forms. Switch to hand kneading when a good amount of flour is incorporated. Continue kneading for 8 to 10 minutes, adding small amounts of water if needed. The final dough should be firm and elastic, not sticky.

OR: Skip this mess and throw everything into a stand mixer. Knead with a dough hook for about 8 minutes after the ingredients are combined.

Form the dough into a ball and let sit, covered, for 1 hour.

Prepare the filling:
Poke holes all over the sweet potato with a knife or fork and wrap it in tin foil. Bake at 450 degrees for 45 minutes, or until soft.

Let it cool, then in a small bowl mash the potato with a fork and add the mozzarella, sage, and Pecorino Romano. Mix until well combined. Cover and refrigerate while you roll out your dough.

Roll the pasta dough:
Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and flatten each into a rough 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. Cover any dough that you’re not using.

Set your pasta roller to its widest setting. Lightly dust one rectangle with flour and feed through the rollers. Fold the rolled dough in half and feed it back into the rollers, folded end down.

Continue 4 or 5 times then adjust to the next, narrower setting. Feed the dough through twice, but don’t fold it anymore. Keep adjusting the roller until you reach the narrowest setting, feeding the dough through once at each setting. You’ll end up with a thin, smooth sheet of dough, about 24 inches long and 5 inches wide.

Transfer to a floured surface and cut into manageable sheets (anywhere from 6 to 12 inches each). Cut each sheet into two-inch squares.

Fold the tortellini:

Drop about ¼ teaspoon of filling into the center of one dough square. Brush the edges with egg wash.

Take one corner of dough and fold it diagonally over the filling to create a triangle. Align the dough’s edges and gently press down to create a seal around the filling, being careful not to trap any air inside.

You now have a dough triangle sealed and stuffed with filling.

Brush the triangle’s two bottom corners with egg wash. Pick up the triangle and wrap it around the tip of your finger. Use the egg wash as glue to make the two corners stick together. Your triangle is now a ring with a point in the middle.

Gently fold the point back, so it creates a flap outside the ring. Remove from your finger.

That’s it…now you have ONE piece of tortellini. Repeat about 100 times for two servings.

If you get tired if this, you can use your rolled dough for ravioli. Or just cut it into thin strips for linguine. It really doesn’t matter what shapes you make…just cut the dough into bite-size pieces or noodles and boil them with your favorite sauce. There’s truly no way to mess this up.

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3 Responses to “A Pasta Date with Mom (Tortellini from Scratch)”

  1. Andrea says:

    What an amazing experience, all from scratch!

  2. Lorna says:

    This looks delicious! And well worth the effort I think.

  3. Katherine says:

    How cool! And I love the step-by-step photos.

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