Thursday, June 30

Ricotta Tortellini with Broad Bean, Tomato and Purple Basil Salad

I am a magpie. On my days off around Bristol I can't stop myself picking up (and buying - obviously) random shiny sparkly glistening gastronomic gems. This weeks haul was some fresh ricotta from Murray's Italian deli in Clevedon, some amazing purple basil from Stourhead farm shop and some local broad beans. Not too difficult to pull a nice summery dish together from this lot - try making something from the quince jelly, smoked sausage and cold pressed rapeseed oil that I bought from the Foodie festival last week!

I have to show you this photo of my tortellini. I was so proud to see them all lined up and ready to cook. Over the last two years my thick, clumsy, uncoordinated excuses for fingers have become adept at making really quite passable pasta. Try making your own fresh pasta, it doesn't matter if you mess it up. Tortellini are probably the most tricky to master but an easier option is just to cut circles of dough and fold over a blob of filling to make 'half moon' ravioli. Even easier, just make fettuccine and run the salad through the pasta at the end, topping with ricotta and parmesan - lets be honest, it will taste the same. A pasta machine makes life easier but don't buy one unless you plan to use it regularly, a rolling pin and some patience works almost as well. To feed four as a starter or 2 as a main:

'OO' pasta flour - 400g
Free range eggs - 4
Fresh Ricotta - 250g
Grated Parmesan - large handful
Lemon, juice and zest - 1
Broad Beans - 500g
Super ripe tomato - 1 or 2
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 50ml
Purple (or Green) Basil - small handful
Salt and Pepper

Pasta dough is very easy to make, be brave! The quantities of egg and flour are always the same: 100g flour + 1 egg (you can scale up to any quantity of dough required). Put the flour and eggs in a food processor and blitz together with a pinch of salt until a dough forms. If it is a little dry, add a splash of olive oil. Wrap in cling-film and chill for 1/2 hour.

Pod and blanch your beans and refresh in ice cold water. Remove the leathery pods once cold and set beans aside. De-seed and chop the tomato, mix in a bowl with the olive oil, the beans, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon - allow the flavours to get to know one another for 1/2 hour outside the fridge. Mix the ricotta with the parmesan, lemon zest and a little juice and season to taste.

To make the pasta using a machine - pull off 1/3 of the dough and dust with flour. Shape into a thinnish disk and begin to run through the pasta machine with the rollers set to their widest setting. Take the resulting rectangle of pasta and fold the ends into the centre. Turn the pasta square 90 degrees and run through the machine again dusting with flour as you go. Repeat 6 to 8 times until the pasta is smooth and glossy. Now start reducing the width of the rollers by one notch and run the pasta through again omitting the folding stage. Keep running it through and reducing the roller width until the pasta has been through on the thinnest setting. If you don't have a machine, knead well and use a rolling pin and try to get the dough as thin as possible.

To make tortellini, cut the rolled dough into 10cm squares and spoon a generous blob of ricotta filling into the centre of each square - to make even tortellini, make sure the filling quantity is the same each time. Using a little water and your finger, wet a semi-circle around the filling and fold the edge of the pasta nearest you, over the filling and to join the other edge furthest away from you.   Press around the filling to remove any air and seal.   Using a suitable round cutter or knife, cut around the filling leaving a 10mm edge to make 'half moon' ravioli. You can stop here if you wish? With the straight edge facing you and using your thumb, roll the filling 90 degrees away from you so that the pointy edges of the pasta are up in the air. Wet one point and pull both together into the middle and stick together.   Continue to roll the pasta away from you to release from the work surface and voila - one tortellini.   Reshape a little and place on a floured tray - repeat to make 12 in total. Fresh pasta will keep for a day or so in the fridge uncovered before it starts to discolour.   Don't worry if it dries out a bit, this is actually a good thing.

Cook the pasta for 2 mins in boiling salted water, drain and serve with the salad. Let me know how you get on - any questions happily received.

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