Tuesday, 24 January 2017
Tortellini in brodo with cime di rapa
Last week dicey farming conditions created a “courgette crisis”, sparking newspaper headlines and shopper fury at empty supermarket shelves. Never has the humble courgette been so in demand, and the people of twitter rejoiced when new stocks finally arrived. For me this highlighted the gloomy state of eating in this country, and the frankly bonkers casual reliance on supplies of a summer vegetable in the middle of January. Despite the bleak weather, the winter months throw up some amazing produce, bang in season right now and much more perky than a sad box of zucchini that’s had to be flown in from who knows where. Surely people can have a little imagination and use what’s being harvested locally right now, which would surely be better for the food and farming system as a whole? January is clearly proving to be a ranty month for this blog, what with the torrent in my last post. I wonder what’s going to be on the receiving end of my food wrath next week.
Back to the recipe, something inspired by some decent food telly of late. I’ve been really enjoying the latest series of Rick Stein’s Long Weekends, providing the perfect blend of holiday escapism and his reassuring kind of food commentary that hasn’t changed in decades. You know what you’re getting with half an hour with Rick. It’s certainly nothing new, with a focus on fish and markets, yearnings for Padstow and countless swimming clips, but sometimes it’s nice to switch off rather than another programme on this year’s food fad, or another revelation that my favourite food is going to be the end of me. In one episode, Rick was in Italy wolfing down tortellini handmade effortlessly by a brilliant bunch of ancient women, and I had to have a go at making some myself. Served swimming in broth, it looked the perfect thing to combat the icy weather of late.
I was pleased to see some beautiful cime di rapa when picking up ingredients from my excellent local greengrocers in North London. These greens are often referred to as ‘turnip tops’, and are similar to very fine broccoli in taste and texture. Although it can be quite hard to track down outside of the capital, kale, chard or sprouting broccoli can be used perfectly as a substitute and should be widely available right now. Beaten with ricotta, parmesan and prosciutto, it makes a lovely rich filling for dinky little pasta dumplings. The broth made from chicken bones and shallots is simple and warming, the type that often provides just what’s needed when feeling the brunt of these cold months. Adding the parmesan rind is a great tip that I picked up a few years back, and it’s worth freezing them for such an occasion.
For the pasta:
200g ‘00’ grade pasta flour, plus a little extra for dusting
2 medium eggs, plus 1 extra for brushing
A pinch of fine salt
1 tbsp olive oil
For the filling:
1 large bunch of cime di rapa
100g ricotta cheese
8 slices of prosciutto, chopped
1 small garlic clove, grated
20g parmesan, grated
For the brodo:
600-800g chicken bones or wings, cut into small chunks
3 shallots, halved lengthways with the skin left on
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs of thyme
1 glass of white wine
The rind from a piece of parmesan (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil
A handful of cime di rape
Start by making the brodo. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large saucepan until hot. Season the pieces of the chicken carcass and brown well on all sides, in batches if necessary. Remove to a side plate, then add the shallots cut-side down. Fry for a minute or two, until well caramelised. Return the chicken to the pan along with the garlic and herbs and cook for a further minute. Add the wine and reduce by half, then cover with 2 litres of water. Drop in the parmesan rind and a pinch of seasoning. Cover with a lid and gently simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When the broth is cooked, strain through a sieve into another large saucepan, and discard the now spent bones and vegetables.
To make the pasta dough, tip the flour into a large bowl and combine with the salt. Make a well in the middle, then crack in the eggs and pour in the olive oil. Use a fork to whisk the eggs and oil, gradually incorporating the flour until a dough is formed. Transfer to a clean surface and knead well for 8-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic in texture. Wrap with cling film and pop in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.
Whilst the pasta is resting, make the filling. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Sprinkle in a generous pinch of salt. Fill a large bowl with ice-cold water. When the water is boiling add all of the cime di rapa to the pan and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until the stalks are just tender. Use tongs to transfer the cooked greens to the cold water to halt the cooking process, then drain. Separate out roughly a handful to use as a garnish later and set aside. Squeeze as much of the water from the remaining leaves and stalks as possible, then transfer to a food processor. Add the garlic, parmesan, prosciutto and some seasoning and blend well, until everything is finely chopped. Spoon in the ricotta and pulse a couple more times to combine. Scrape the mixture into a bowl.
Use a pasta machine to roll out the rested dough until it reaches the thinnest setting, using the spare flour to dust if necessary. Lay the finished sheet across the worktop. Break the remaining egg into a bowl and whisk, then use a pastry brush to lightly cover the surface of the pasta. Dot small half-teaspoons of the filling at intervals along the sheet, allowing 6-8 per portion, then cut around with a small pastry cutter. Fold the pasta around the filling to form a half moon, sealing around the filling using your finger and thumb. Bend the two pointed corners back around the filling and press together to form a tortellini. Transfer to a well-floured plate and repeat with the rest.
Bring the strained brodo to the boil. Arrange the spare whole cime di rapa into the bottoms of each bowl.
Shake any excess flour from the tortellini, then lower into the brodo. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to the bowls. Top up with the broth, and drizzle over a little olive oil. Finish with a generous grating of parmesan and serve.