A Day of Pasta Making with Jens: Therapy for the Soul
Taken with the simple and irrefutable fact that no purchased pasta comes close to homemade pasta and gaining confidence in the pasta making process, I invited Jens over for a day of pasta making. After the class we took together in Italy, last November (2014), we have both been motivated to make the Agnolotti del Plin. The shape is so easy to make and such fun. A little thrill shoots through my inner core every time I cut a row with the wheel. Who thought of this process? Thank you! It is brilliant, and such fun. Gather the family round. Buy a few ravioli cutting wheels. This is a great activity for the family.
Traditionally, there are four sauces used for Agnolotti del Plin. Sage and Butter Sauce, Roasted Meat Sauce for the meat filled version, red wine or red wine and broth, and broth on its own. As we were making both versions on this day, the Roasted Meat Sauce was a must try.
The soft pillowy cushion of each filled pasta pocket is texturally sublime and a personal triumph for me. This is pasta that I am proud to serve to anyone. It is noticeably homemade. It is vastly different texturally than anything one can purchase anywhere. And the gravy? The perfect complement to this meat filled version. It is subtle in flavour compared to the bold filling and offers a lovely mouth feel, as well. Vanja does not like thyme. The traditional version suggests adding fresh thyme leaves a minute before tossing the pasta into the sauce. Thyme would be an incredible addition visually and flavour-wise.
Here we are. Perky and ready to make 800g of flour into pasta as each of us plans to do a full recipe of each version of Agnolotti del Plin: the spinach-filled version and the meat-filled version.
Preparing the Meat Filling for the Agnolotti del Plin
Above is 440g of beef and 350g of pork loin on a bed of chopped vegetables. I was very confused about the amount of vegetables required to roast with the meat; however, researching the recipe in Italian led me to understand these are a necessary component of the roasted gravy sauce. In the past, this recipe was developed to use leftover food from the kitchen. It would be crazy for anyone to roast meat to make this pasta! The leftover bits of roasted pork, beef, Italian sausage and salame were gathered at the end of the week and put together with curly endive, Parmesan cheese and seasonings to make a tasty filling for the pasta. This was economics. Use everything one has. Waste nothing. Make it tasty. Italians in every region are masters of making tasty food out of almost nothing. Such masters that people nowadays do roast meat just to make this tasty traditional dish. The problem with this is that getting the right amount of meat for a recipe that traditionally uses leftovers is difficult. There was really no specific filling recipe. One used what was in the house to make a tasty filling. Of course, there was balance and the meat filling of the Piemonte region would typically consist of a combination of roasted meats, sausage and salame to create the regional meat filling flavour. I want to master that flavour before I go rogue and make my own creation from kitchen leftovers in my house.
I thought I had purchased plenty of beef with 440g purchased and needing only 300g cooked. Yet, there were only 220g of beef after roasting it. The amounts in our own concoction were therefore considerably different than the recipe, below. What we had and used is in brackets after the required amount of each item in the recipe.
I was chopping meat for the meat filling. Jens whipped up the spinach filling.
We followed Federico’s advice and heard him coaching as we tasted and reseasoned. “It must be bold, remember?” Jens echoed. Our ricotta wasn’t as wet as the one in Italy, so we added a little heavy cream to get a better consistency and noted how that little bit of cream changed the balance of flavour and the mixture again required more seasoning.
I bought the Italian sausage at the Italian Center Shop. I bought the spicy kind on purpose, but it was actually not spicy at all, which was very unusual. However, it was full of flavour and deeply delicious. I fried it up and carefully crumbled it into small pieces.
Above, you will find the chopped meats mixed together: the fried Italian sausage, the roasted beef, roasted pork loin, and the cooked salame.
The meat mixture went into the Thermomix to see if it would all fit for grinding. The answer was no. This is the full amount of meat, to the top of the 2 litre Thermomix bowl, so back in the bowl it went to have all other ingredients added to it, and then we ground half of the batch at a time and mixed them both together.
Cannot forget the head of curly endive. Gosh, this is bitter. I wanted to use very little of it! Level headed Jens: “Let’s see how it tastes with everything added to the mix.”
It cooked down considerably.
Parmesan was weighed and ground in the Thermomix.
All filling ingredients in the bowl.
Half into the Thermomix bowl.
We pulsed the machine on Turbo for 1 second, checking consistency each time. After 5 times, we felt the consistency was where we wanted it. Not a paste, with enough texture to provide interest, yet small enough to be piped onto the pasta.
Pasta made and rested long ago. Both fillings made. Time for lunch.
Where’s the wine? Silly me.
Filling the Agnolotti del Plin
We are really missing the gorgeous pasta making eggs they have in Italy. They are actually raised and marked specifically for pasta making. The yolks are a deep yellow orange and the pasta is an unforgettable golden hue. Nothing like that here, so we took Federico’s advice and added a touch of tumeric to the flour.
Pasta 00 flour in the bowl for dusting the pasta, as needed, when rolling it. Rice flour on the tray for dusting each agnolotti del plin so there will be no sticking together.
Now we are rockin’ and rollin’. Each of us has hand cranked pasta rollers. Mine goes to 6, Jens to 7. We managed to roll lovely thin pasta with our pasta rollers. Not as lovely as Federico’s who has 9 settings on his, but they worked. I investigated electric pasta rollers for North American electrical supply, and just cannot decide which is best. Federico’s was faster and it seemed to produce pasta with better consistency.
We made the spinach agnolotti del plin first. Jens filled his with much less filling than I. I got 150 with my batch. Used all the pasta. We shared one batch of filling, remember? He got 300 at least with his little ones.
The meat filled agnolotti were the same size as my spinach ones, but I made them the next morning. I wasn’t as frugal with my pasta, and wasted a bit too much. So, I had a small 1/2 bag of filling left, but no more dough. I made 110 of the meat filled pasta.
I suppose now is the time I should tell you I didn’t like our filling. Interestingly, the curly endive was not at all bitter in this filling. It was bright. It was the salame that took over and we only put the required amount of it in the recipe. We definitely needed more beef. Much more beef. And a little spice from the Italian sausage would have been nice, too. I know I can make this again effortlessly with a very tasty filling that is properly balanced.
I added a little too much tumeric to this batch of pasta, no? The happy news: if I serve both together, it will be easy to tell which filling is in which.
Now for the magic. The row of little rounds of filling is turned over and upside down. The edge that was facing you is now sealed onto the pasta on the other side of the fillings.
The pasta is pinched vertically between each filling portion from one end to the other. Remember to leave an end open to release the air as you go.
The ravioli roller is used to pinch together both pieces of pasta and to make the fancy fluted edge.
The photo above, left, was taken by Jens in Italy. The roller is quickly pushed between each pinch to form the individual pockets of filled pasta.
They are then dusted with rice flour, and frozen individually, as below, on a parchment covered cookie sheet.
The following day, portions are packaged into ziplock freezer bags, labelled and dated.
Roasted Gravy for Agnolotti del Plin with Meat Filling
Piemonte is the land of butter, not olive oil. There was butter added before roasting the meat, and there is butter added again, to release the vegetables from the pan and cook them together a little more.
Once they are well cooked, 450g of beef stock was added and the mixture was puréed in the Thermomix until almost smooth. We purposefully left a little texture.
At this point, the gravy was placed back into the pan, a cup of white wine was added, and slow cooked until reduced by half.
There were 4.5 cups of the gravy and this was shared amongst 4 freezer bags.
Putting it All Together
Preparing a portion of the pasta for Vanja at lunch, I used only 1/2 a bag of the sauce which would have been enough for 2 portions. The texture and thickness of the roasted gravy is apparent in the photos, above. The wine was critical to balancing the flavour of this gravy.
Boiling the pasta in hot salty water for 4 minutes was perfect.
Tossed it in the sauce and poured it into the bowl. Only thing missing is the thyme leaves.
Vanja didn’t want Parmesan on his pasta. It should have a good shower of shredded Parmesan crowning each steaming pillow.
“Yup.” was Vanja’a first comment. “It’s tasty. I like it. It’s not “to die for”, but it’s good.” It will be next time.
Then he tasted the gravy. “Smck! Smck! Smck! Hmmm. It’s subtle. It’s tasty, but the pasta filling is much stronger. The gravy is great with the pasta but not so much on its own.” I thought it was sensational, but did understand his point, as the filling was very bold. It was such a great learning experience, and such a pleasure to make this pasta at home. “I can do it! I can do it!” And maybe, just maybe, all by myself. I just don’t like to. Thank you so much, Jens, for keeping me company and making this experience such a joy. I tuckered out at 3:30 though was thoroughly gratified as I know I would not have completed this project without Jens joining me. I completely enjoyed my alone time the next day filling the pasta, so that was the best therapy for one’s soul. “I can do it! I can do it! And, I can do it by myself!
Agnolotti del Plin Con Carne or Meat Filled Agnolotti del Plin
1 egg to 100g of 00 flour is considered ingredients for pasta for one. This is a traditional pasta specialty of the Piemonte region in Italy. The first post I wrote about Agnolotti del Plin with Spinach filling has detailed "how to" photos that should be looked at, as well, if you are planning on making this pasta. There are detailed "how to make the pasta" photos and instructions there, as well.
- 500 g fresh homemade pasta dough
Ingredients for Filling:
- 150 g beef (220g)
- 80 g pork loin (200g)
- 1 onion , diced or 1 cup diced onion
- 3 celery , diced or 1 cup diced celery
- 2 carrots , diced or 1 cup diced carrots
- 80 g Italian sausage , skinned (300g)
- ½ curly endive , thinly sliced
- 100 g cooked salame , minced (200g)
- 50 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- freshly ground black pepper
- extra Parmesan cheese for topping cooked pasta
Ingredients for Roasted Meat Sauce:
- celery , carrot, onion mixture with pan sauces from the roasted meats
- knob of fresh butter (about 2 tablespoons or 30g)
- 400 g beef stock
- 1 cup white wine
- salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
- fresh thyme leaves to taste
Instructions for the Filling:
Roast the beef and the pork in the oven in a tray rubbed with butter alongside the chopped celery, onion and carrot and a little butter dabbed on top (Juices need to caramelize; add water or a touch of white wine to avoid burning, if necessary)
Brown the Italian sausage in a pan; set aside
Saute the endive in a little butter; set aside
After meats are roasted and cooled, reserve the juices and mince each finely; combine with Italian sausage, salame, and endive
Place meat mixture into a food processor; add egg and cheese; pulse to desired texture (not paste) paste) and adjust seasoning, as needed (salt, freshly ground black pepper)
Filling the Agnolotti del Plin:
Prepare the pasta dough; rest for 30-60 minutes, then roll into sheets
Prepare a cookie sheet by covering it with parchment paper; have rice flour out for sprinkling
Take the rolled portion of pasta dough, and slice off the ends to make a rectangle; the slice in half or in thirds, depending upon the length of your dough
Using one portion of the dough, place it horizontally in front of you and tilt the pastry bag vertically and disperse a small mound of filling on the long edge of the pasta sheet closest to you; continue along the edge of the pasta sheet, just far enough a part to pinch between each mound with fingers
Once the pasta sheet is lined with mounds of filling, take a firm hold of each end of the sheet, and turn it over on top of itself, ensuring there is an edge formed one turned (see above photo)
Gently press the edge to seal the sheet together, and close one end of the pasta filled with the mounds
Using the pointer finger and thumb of both hands, pinch the dough around each mound of filling starting at the end that you have closed with a pinch
Move down the row of mounds, repinching the one pinched side and closing the open side with a new pinch until the entire row is pinched, then pinch the other end
Using a round pasta cutter (see photo) trim off the long sealed edge; turn the filled pasta sheet so that it is in front of you horizontally and the mounds are exactly upside down
Line up the pasta roller (as in the photos above), very close to the dough and then just quickly push it through to cut each piece of Agnolotti del Plin free from the line- up; continue until each portion of filling has become an Agnolotti del Plin
Dust with rice flour to avoid sticking and place on parchment covered pan until ready to cook, or freeze
Continue until all Agnolotti del Plin have been formed
At this point, you can cover with a towel until cooking time, or fast freeze over night and then portion into zip lock bags for serving another day
Roasted Meat Sauce for Meat Filled Agnolotti del Plin: (makes 2 cups sauce)
Place sauce ingredients from the roasted meats into a frying pan
Saute ingredients with 2 tablespoons butter; add 400g beef stock and puree, but leave a little texture
Add 1 cup of white wine; place back into the skillet and reduce to half
Season again; add fresh time leaves just before serving
Add the meat filled Agnolotti del Plin, tossing to cover all with the sauce, and serve immediately with extra grated Parmesan cheese
A very specific step by step photo essay about how to fill the pasta is available with my Spinach filled Agnolotti del Plin post, here. It would be well worth your time to view the photos before attempting to make this pasta without any previous experience.
Meat for Roasting: When buying meat for roasting, purchase double the amount needed, or more. I purchased 440g of beef and it produced 220g of roasted beef.
Roasted Gravy Sauce Portions: We made a double batch of meat filling so each of us had 2.25 cups of sauce. Half a cup of the roasted gravy will sauce 24 of the agnolotti del plin. One cup of the sauce is enough for 4 servings of pasta.
Portioning the Pasta: This is dependent upon the size of your filled portions, but generally 10-12 portions would be considered a serving.
Meat in Filling: There are 410g of meat in this recipe. We doubled it, so we needed 820g of meat.
We had 220g of beef instead of 300g, so we used
200g of pork loin instead of 160g, and
300g of Italian Sausage instead of 160g.
We kept to the 200g of salame.
In the end, we had 920g of meat. Woops. Didn't count very well. Surprisingly, the flavour was completely overpowered by the salame. Lesson learned.
Filling each batch of pasta took 2 hours. Making the pasta and the fillings took 2 hours.As I said at the beginning, a perfect family activity. Every time you get out a batch to enjoy as a starter or as a meal, recalling the time spent making the pasta together will be a part of the eating experience. Nothing is more satisfying than a job well done. This is certainly one of those and a learning experience I look forward to sharing with my own family.
How I love projects!