Comfort dishes might be something associated with Winter, but sometimes you need comfort from more than just the weather. Here is a simple pasta dish that offers therapy in its making as well as a light combination of flavours that will not weigh you down. We took out our pasta machine this week and were reminded at how easy it is to make and roll pasta dough. Of course it will need a bit of work at first to bind the dough and soften it (since the liquid in the dough is all egg) but you can always put the flour and eggs in a food processor, pulse it to breadcrumbs and then knead it if you prefer.
Our filling is mushroom and herbs. We opted for a simple filling, the vegetable with some flavouring. More like a chinese dumpling in style than the usual creamy pasta filling, it is almost failsafe – dry so it won’t leak or soften the pasta, simple to make and very light. We sauteed the mushrooms to the point of dehydration (called duxelles) – which concentrates the flavour, and then we added a little garlic, herbs and truffle oil.
You will know it is ready to roll when the dough becomes smooth, silky and almost shiny.
After a little rest, portions of it can be wound through a pasta machine, using progressively thinner settings. It helps to run it through the thinnest setting a couple of times to make the pasta super smooth. It also helps to have four hands. A helper to hold the sheet of pasta will avoid it resting on the machine and getting indented.
So we are not trying to sell ourselves as pasta experts, we were just wanting a light pasta dish. We opted for a simple tortellini. We do not have any fancy pasta presses but a small circular biscuit cutter works just fine. Each circle needs just a small teaspoon of filling. You can serve these pasta on their own, a little pesto sauce drizzled over as we have shown here or in a broth/soup. Perfect vegetarian dinner party fare. Vegan if you omit a parmesan cheese garnish.
Tortellini are actually very simple – fold the circle of pasta in half then bring each end of the semicircle together at the straight edge, using water and a pastry brush to aid the sealing.
You will be surprised at how much pasta you make, and how little mushroom results from a starting mass of 750g fresh mushrooms. Please forgive us if you have leftover fresh pasta, we had a little that we used to make lasagne sheets.
- 200g (1 3/4 cups) Italian type 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
- 3 medium sized eggs
- half teaspoon olive oil
- 750g (26.5 oz) mushrooms
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- Half teaspoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Chopped Thyme leaves - quarter teaspoon
- Chopped chives - quarter teaspoon
- Quarter teaspoon truffle oil (optional)
- Parmesan cheese and chilli flakes
- Pesto sauce
- Put the flour in a mixing bowl and create a well in the middle.
- Beat the eggs then pour this into the well.
- A little at a time, mix the flour into the egg, kneading it till the dough comes together.
- Keep kneading for 10 minutes or so, until the the dough is silky and smooth.
- It will need a bit of effort, but you will feel the change when it gets there.
- Depending on size of your eggs, you may need a little flour or a little water if the dough is too sticky or too hard.
- Once the dough is at the right consistency, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 mins. You can leave it overnight but if you do, let it come to room temperature before rolling.
- Chop the mushrooms very very finely.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan and put all the mushrooms in.
- Saute over a medium heat. Initially the mushrooms will sweat but keep heating till all the liquid comes out and boils off. It helps to concentrate their flavour. The volume will reduce considerably.
- Tip the garlic into the frying pan and cook a few minutes more to soften it.
- Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and add the chopped herbs.
- Add a drop of truffle oil if you have it.
- Allow to cool.
- When the pasta is ready to roll, start at the thickest setting and adjust the roller by one notch at a time to get progressively thinner sheets. Work with a quarter at a time, keeping the remaining dough wrapped in cling film.
- When the dough is at its thinnest, run it through a couple of times.
- Lay it on a floured worksurface and cut circles of pasta
- Put a teaspoon of filing on each circle and brush the edge with water. Fold in half and seal the edges. There is a little knack to this as you do not want any juice from the mushroom to leak out, so we tend to seal them by holding the pasta with its filing in the hand and carefully sealing from one side out to the other.
- Once each one is done, dab a bit of water on to each end of the straight edge of the filled pasta semicircles. Carefully bring these edges together and seal them.
- Place each completed pasta shape onto a floured surface and keep covered with clingfilm until ready to cook.
- To serve, boil water in a large pot, add a pinch of salt and a small glug of oil
- Boil the pasta for a minute or two and carefully remove with a slotted spoon into a drainer/colander.
- Serve the tortellini with pesto, parmesan and chilli flakes as here or in a vegetable broth or soup.