I have been offline for a couple of weeks, but it has been for a very good reason. I was on holiday with my husband and family on the spectacular island of Sicily. We spent a glorious 10 days soaking in the food, culture and natural wonders of the island. After having visited this intoxicating and uniquely special place, it is very evident to me that Sicily is a place unto its own. You do feel the Italian influence, but there are so many other cultural influences such as Greek, French, Arab, just to name a few, that are still very evident today in its food, architecture, and everyday life.
I will be posting soon, a comprehensive post about our visit…what we ate, where we visited to give you some ideas for your own visit (which I highly recommend!). We travelled almost a thousand miles; to three different coasts, hiked up Mt. Etna and actually witnessed an eruption, made our way across the middle of island through the beautiful countryside with its rolling hills of wildflowers, vineyards, olive groves, and blooming yellow wild fennel. It was the trip of a lifetime and a sensory overload with all of the unforgettable places we saw, awe inspiring scenery and the bold flavors of the cuisine…from seafood couscous in Trapini, to the bold red wines, pistachio cream filled cannoli, wild fennel and fish pasta, and my favorite, sesame biscotti.
One of our stops on our trek, was Abbazia Santa Anastasia or St. Anastasia Abbey located at the base of the Madonie mountains in the rolling hills that overlooks the Tyrrhenian sea coastline near Castelbuono near Palermo. The Abbey is surrounded by verdant rolling hills of vineyards and olive groves with a view that spans all the way to the Aeolian islands. It is spectacular to say the least and absolutely takes your breath away.
One of our afternoons was spent taking a cooking class with Chef Antonio Bonadonna, the Executive Chef at Abbazia Santa Anastasia (Abbey Santa Anastasia) and the restaurant, The Gardens (L’orto e Il Giardino). One of the recipes he taught us was how to make homemade tortellini.
Chef Antonio Bonadonna was such a pleasure to have our cooking class with…warm and inviting and eager to teach us and very patient with all of our flubs. The fact that he got my husband excited to cook and actually announce that we should host a dinner and make this handmade pasta for our friends was a score in my book! And, yes, my husband was true to his word and made this pasta for our friends a few days ago. I happily had the role of sous chef and Chef Bonadonna would have been very proud of the final product…second helpings were had by all!
If you are intimidated in making homemade pasta, not to worry, I was too; especially since I am married to an Italian. It is actually super easy. Just give yourself a little bit of time, maybe pour a glass of wine and get your kids or friends involved in helping fill and shape the pasta.
Have a pasta rolling machine certainly makes it easier to roll out the pasta and they are pretty inexpensive. If you don’t have one, no worries as you can certainly use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into sheets.
The dough for this recipe is super simple…flour and eggs. The simple ratio to remember is 100 grams (scant 1 cup) of flour to one egg. This is one portion. So, if you are making pasta for six people, for example, 600 grams of flour (scant 6 cups flour) and six eggs. You can scale back or up as you need.
So it goes like this. Once you have made the pasta, you need to let it rest covered for at least 30 minutes, but an hour is okay too.
While the dough is resting, you can make the filling. Chop your eggplant into pretty small pieces. If you peel the eggplant, the filling has a better texture and the skin can sometimes become bitter when you cook it. Saute the eggplant in a generous amount of olive oil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped parsley and season with salt. Cook until the eggplant is soft and lightly browned.
Let the cooked eggplant cool a bit. I like to put it in a large mixing bowl and spread it out on the sides as it cools faster this way. Once cooled (about 15 minutes or so), add the ricotta and mix until well incorporated. It is okay if the eggplant is still warm when mixing in the ricotta just as long as it is not screaming hot.
Once you have rolled out the dough fairly thin ( I like to us 8 or 9 on the pasta roller). Cut the sheets into squares. You can make them any size you want, but I think 5 to 6 inches (16 centimeters) is a good size.
To make the tortelloni, take one of the squares and dip your index finger into a bowl of water and outline the pasta square (this will help seal the dough). Fill each square with a dollop of filling, making sure to place it closer to one of the corners (this lets you fold the dough easier).
Next, with two fingers make a dent in the center of the pouch.
To serve it, you can make simple tomato sauce with a little tomato puree and basil to taste or buy your favorite store bought (I won’t tell!). The finished product is well worth the little bit of extra effort. If you have any left over, you can freeze them in a single layer on a sheet tray in the freezer for a few hours then transfer them to a sealable freezer bag.
We even were awarded with diplomas. Hats off the Chef Bonadonna and Santa Anastasia Abbey for a wonderful and once in a lifetime experience!
A couple of notes:
- This recipe is directly from the repertoire of Chef Antonio Bonadonna who is the Executive Chef at the Abbazia Santa Anastasia (St. Anastasia Abbey). If you happen to be visiting Sicily and near Cefalu or Palermo, I highly recommend a visit to Castelbuono and this beautiful Abbey that has been transformed into a hotel and a wonderful restaurant and take a cooking class with Chef Bonadonna. To book a class you can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You can check out more about the abbey and its vineyards at: www.abbaziasantanastasia.com
- I am in no way a sponsor or am receiving any kind of compensation (monetary or otherwise) for promoting this vineyard and hotel. It is all based on my personal and wonderful experience that I had there.
- For the pasta
- 600 grams (4⅘ cups) flour (all purpose)
- 6 eggs
- For the filling:
- 2.2 pounds (1 kilo) eggplant, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 1¼ cups (300 grams) ricotta cheese
- 1½ Tablespoon chopped parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
- freshly grated parmesan cheese
- In a large bowl or on a clean work surface, add the flour and salt and make a well in the center of the flour. Crack the eggs in to the well.
- With a fork start bringing the dough together. Once it is starting to come together, use your hands to form a ball. Add more flour if it seems a little sticky. Knead it until you obtain a firm and smooth dough.
- Let the dough rest, covered with a clean kitchen towel for at least 30 minutes, but an hour is okay too.
- With a pasta roller or a rolling pin, roll out the dough thin. If you are using a pasta roller, slice off a piece of dough and put it through the roller (it should be on 7 or 8), fold over and put through the roller again. Change the roller setting to 9 and put the folded pasta sheet through the roller one more time.
- Cut squares (roughly 6 inches or 16 centimeters).
- With your index finger, dip it into a bowl of water and out line the pasta square (this will help seal the dough).
- Place the filling the the upper center of the square and fold over to create a triangle. Make sure you press the outside of the triangle firmly so the pouch is well sealed.
- Next, with two fingers make a dent in the center of the pouch.
- Finally, bring the two outside corners together and press together firmly.
- Place on a floured sheet tray and keep the finished tortelloni covered with a kitchen towel until you are ready to cook them.
- Peel and cut the eggplants into small pieces
- Saute the eggplant in a few Tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped, parsley and season with salt. Cook until the eggplant is soft and slightly golden brown.
- Set aside in a bowl to cool (about 15 minutes)
- Add the ricotta to the eggplant and mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula until the mixture is well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Boil a lare pot of water to a boil and add a good amount of alt (a tablespoon or two). One the water is boil, cook the tortellini in two batches. It takes about 3 to 4 minutes. You know they are done when they are floating to the top.
- One the tortelloni is finished cooking add them to a pot or high sided pan of tomato sauce (homemade or store bought...your preference) and coat the tortelloni in the sauce.
- To serve, spoon a few of the tortelloni into a shallow pasta bowl. You want just coated in the sauce. You can drizzle a little more over top if you want. Finish with a little freshly grated parmesan cheese.