Making your own tortelli is a bit of a commitment, so I've paired it with the simplest of sauces to even out the workload. Having said that, I admit that I love zoning in on a kitchen task that has my mind completely focused and my hands busy. It's a kind of meditation where I work out "stuff " as I become one with the dough. It's a bit of me-time that doesn't involve a manicurist. My family happily leave me in my pasta zone while I churn out little pillows of loveliness. It never ceases to amaze me that something that took me hours to make can be wolfed down by my family in a matter of minutes. It's my own Tibetan sand mandala.
Ricotta and Spinach Tortelli with a Simple Tomato Sauce
For the Pasta Dough:
200g "00" flour, plus extra for dusting
200g fine semolina, plus extra for dusting
4 whole eggs
For the Filling:
500g fresh ricotta
250g baby spinach leaves
100g finely grated Parmesan
1/4 whole nutmeg, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Bunch basil leaves
Finely grated Parmesan
Make the Pasta Sough:
Put the flour. semolina and eggs into a food processor and blitz until the mixture forms a ball around the blade. Turn the dough out onto a board sprinkled with a combination of flour and semolina and knead briefly. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to rest for an hour.
Make the Filling:
Put the spinach into a dry frying pan over medium-low heat. Cook until it wilts. It will give off quite a lot of moisture. Once wilted, drain in a colander. Allow to cool, then squeeze as much moisture out of it as you can.
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Add the spinach and mix until the spinach is evenly distributed though the cheese.
Make the Sauce:
Put the olive oil into a wide saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it starts to turn golden at the edges. Add the passata and cook for 10 -15 minutes, until the sauce darkens and thickens. Remove from the heat, add the balsamic vinegar, check the seasoning and set aside until you are ready to serve.
Make the Tortelli:
Unwrap the rested pasta dough and cut into four even portions. Work with one portion at a time, covering the other portions with an up-turned bowl to keep it from drying out.
Dust a work surface with a mixture of flour and semolina. Flatten the dough out so that you can feed it through the widest setting on a pasta machine. Roll the dough through the pasta machine, then fold the dough into thirds and feed it back through the widest setting again. Do this three times in total. This process develops the gluten in the flour and results in a silky texture. Keep rolling the dough through the machine, decreasing the setting each time, dusting with a little flour if needed, until you have run it through the thinnest setting. The dough will be very fine and long. Cut it half so that you have two sheets of equal length.
Lay one sheet on a dusted work surface. Dollop heaped teaspoons of filling along the middle of the dough, making sure you leave enough space to have an edge of dough around the filling. Brush a little water around the filling and lay the other sheet of dough on top. Press the dough around the filling, being sure to press out any air. Use a 5cm x 5cm scalloped cookie cutter to cut out each tortelli. Place the tortelli on some tea towels while you continue working with the remaining dough and filling until they are all done.
Put the sauce back on a low heat.
Put a large pan of water on high heat. Bring to a rapid boil and add a good palmful of salt. Cook the tortelli in batches for about 2 minutes, or until they rise to the surface of the water. Remove them using a slotted spoon and put them straight into the simmering sauce. Once all the tortelli have been added to the sauce, gently stir to coat them with the sauce, adding more pasta cooking water if the sauce has thickened too much. Sprinkle with basil leaves and serve with finely grated Parmesan.