Monday, 21 May 2007

Homemade tortellini with roasted tomato sauce

An original in progress
I was given a pasta maker about a year ago, so I've been experimenting with home made pasta. This one is a labour of love (allow 2-3 hours if you attempt it) but the process is fun, and the eating is worth the fuss (in my opinion). Keep in mind that this recipe is a work in progress - there will probably be leftover pasta filling, and you might want to increase the sauce volume if you decide to bake the pasta instead of boiling it. The tortellini in the picture was made with wholemeal flour, but white flour works well too.
Roasted tomato sauce

12 ripe medium sized tomatoes
1 head of garlic
1cm thick slice prosciutto end (about 15cm long); substitute any cured meat
handful fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Cut the tomatoes into halves and remove the brown core. Place cut side down on a baking tray covered in non stick paper. Cut the garlic head in half across the cloves, and place cut side down on the baking tray. Bake about 30 minutes then reduce the temperature to 250F/120C and bake a further hour. Meanwhile, cut the prosciutto into 0.5cm cubes, and fry until crisp. Drain excess fat.

Allow to cool slightly, then scoop the roasted garlic out of the skin into a small bowl. Mash with a fork, removing any hard pieces. Peel each tomato half, and scoop out and reserve the seeds. Chop the peeled seeded flesh and add to the garlic along with any juice. Strain the reserved seed into the garlic and tomato mix to collect as much juice as possible. Coarsely chop the basil and add to the tomato mixture along with the prosciutto and a splash of olive oil. Stir. The sauce can be kept in the refrigerator overnight.

Pasta Dough

2 cups plain flour
3 eggs (or 4 small ones), lightly beaten with a fork

Measure the flour into a large bowl, and make a well in the centre. Pour in the egg mixture, and stir with a fork until as much egg as possible is incorporated into the flour. Knead the dough for around 10 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap, and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile make the filling.

Tortellini Filling

1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup ground(or finely chopped) walnuts
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan parmigiano reggiano (or substitute about half the volume of pre-grated cheese
1 egg white (if making double just use the whole egg)
fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Assembling the Tortellini

Take a quarter of the pasta dough and roll through a pasta machine at the thickest setting. Fold the dough in half and run through the roller again. Repeat for each narrower setting until you get to the second narrowest width. Roll the pasta sheet through a few times, then lay out on a clean bench.

Cut circles approximately 8cm in diameter. Place a teaspoon of filling slightly off centre, brush the edge with water, and fold into a semi circle, smoothing the edges together and making sure there are no air bubbles inside. For more compact tortellini, pull the pointed edges together and press to seal. Place each completed tortellini onto a greased baking dish, and repeat the process until all the pasta dough is used.

Cooking the dish

If you’re better at this than me, the tortellini can be cooked briefly in boiling slated water and topped with sauce. Every time I try this, I end up with empty tortellini and boiling water full of ricotta mixture. So for foolproof tortellini, pour the sauce over the tortellini (best to make them flat rather than compact) in the greased and bake at 350F/180C for about 40minutes until the pasta is soft. This quantity should serve 2-3 as a main dish.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Bangkoknoi Thai Restaurant

1324 D Centre St NE
A good local Thai restaurant has been part of my life for many years now, so I'm a little ashamed to confess that it took almost 6 months in Calgary to try out Bangkoknoi, which is just a few blocks from home. Sadly it was snowing the night we visited, so we had to drive rather than walk.

The restaurant itself was a pleasant surprise, with cozy booths around the edge, and Thai style decorations. We started with Toong Tong, a pork mixture wrapped in wonton pastry and deep fried. Served with plum sauce, they were crisp and delicious. Next came two test dishes - beef panang and pad-sie-ew. Test dishes because they are long time favourites, and really, if they aren't fabulous it's time to find somewhere else to eat. Bangkoknoi did well on both. The panang sauce was not quite as thick as I'd like, but the pad-sie-ew was fantastic. I was pleased that coconut rice was available as well as the usual steamed.

In spite of being quite full (and having asked for half the main dishes to be wrapped to take home), we tried the mango sticky rice for dessert. It was a lovely contrast of sweet rice and tart fresh mango, and a perfect end to a wonderful meal. And so, after 6 months, we have a local Thai restaurant, and the universe is back in balance.