Monday, May 26, 2014

Mushroom Tortellini in a Cognac Cream Sauce with Crispy Fried Prosciutto


A few weeks ago, my husband and I had the rare opportunity to relax on the beach without the rest of the family in tow.  A few magazines, some music, some drinks, some waves.... it was wonderful!  Well I happened to come across a recipe that caught my eye.  It just so happened that it caught his, too!  That's pretty funny, as cooking magazines are definitely NOT his thing.  HaHa!!  The recipe was for a mushroom tortellini in a beef broth.  It may be wonderful, but it just didn't strike me as something that my family would have been that into.  But the idea of making the mushroom tortellini definitely intrigued me for a few reasons:  1.) I knew my husband would go nuts over them.  2.) My daughter has been asking to make some homemade tortellini for quite a while now.  3.) The recipe for the filling looked like a great "starting place" for something I'd like... knowing good and well I would probably put my own spin on it in the end.  So for the rest of the afternoon I put it in the back of my mind wondering just what I would pair the tortellini with in place of the beef broth soup.  

On the way to dinner that evening, it hit me.  Then I sort of yelled out "I GOT it!"  I think I probably scared him.  Don't you feel sorry for him, having to put up with a girl who obsesses about mushroom tortellini when she's on a beach weekend?  Well anyway, this is the recipe that spawned from that weekend.  I waited until my daughter was done with school and we had some time to really get in the kitchen and do this right!  Let me tell you... it was RIGHT!  Out of the whole batch, there were only three tortellinis left at the end of the night, and we were all STUFFED!  My husband said it was probably up there in the top three meals that I had EVER made for him.  Raving success!!!  

Shaking your head at the idea of making the pasta from scratch?  Well at least do yourself a favor and go grab some pre-made tortellini and give the sauce a shot!  Oh come on!  Cognac and mushrooms are a classic pairing; and the silkiness of this sauce is going to knock someone's socks off!

Ingredients:  (serves 4 - 6... about 4 dozen tortellini)
For the pasta -
  • 1 2/3 cups all purpose (AP) flour
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • a nice pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • few drops of water if needed 
 For the Filling -
  • 10 oz mixed wild mushrooms, chopped fine
    • (use criminis if wild mushrooms not available)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Optional* - 1 cup roasted chicken breast, chopped
For the Cognac Cream Sauce -
  • 4 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced fine
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced fine (about 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 large handful of sliced crimini mushrooms (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup cognac
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
  • 1 handful of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • Optional* - the rest of the roasted chicken that you've pulled off of the the bone.
For the Garnishes - 
  • fresh parsley
  • prosciutto, thinly sliced into ribbons and pan fried in a dry pan until crispy (optional)

Step-by-Step: 
Alright, admittedly, this is a multi-step recipe.  It's definitely something you make for someone you love.  That said, you could totally make the tortellini ahead of time, then make the sauce and put it all together when you are ready to wow someone.  I am so sorry that I didn't make a double batch and freeze half, because three days later, I was so wishing to have this again! 

Pasta is SO inexpensive and easy to make.  You really owe it to yourself to give it a shot!  My pasta machine has been around for .... I won't tell you how many years now.  And believe me, I have definitely gotten my money's worth.  I tried a fancy, food processor method the other day, and literally threw it all in the garbage.  I prefer this old school, do it by hand, method.  It's fun!

For the pasta:
1. Mound up the flour onto a clean work surface and make a well in the center with your fist.
2. Break the eggs into the well and add the oil and a pinch of salt to the well.
  • 1 2/3 cups all purpose flour + 2 lg eggs + pinch kosher salt + 1 Tbsp EVOO
3. Starting in the middle of the well, gradually mix the egg mixture into the flour using the fingers of one hand, bringing the ingredients together into a firm dough. If the dough feels too dry, add a few drops of water; if it’s too wet, add a little more flour. 

4. Knead the pasta until smooth, 2 to 5 minutes. Lightly massage it with a hint of olive oil, pop the dough into a plastic food bag, and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. The pasta will be much more elastic after resting.

While our pasta is "resting," let's make the filling.  

For the filling:
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pan over medium heat.  
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Add the chopped mushrooms and season lightly with the kosher salt.  
10 oz mixed wild mushrooms or crimini mushrooms, chopped fine
nice pinch of kosher salt
Cook until they release their liquid, about two minutes.  Then increase the heat to medium high and cook until the pan is dry and the mushrooms are golden brown, about 3 - 5 minutes.  
See all the liquid they give off?
Now the pan is dry.
Transfer to a bowl and let them cool completely.  Once cool, stir in the chives, parsley, Parmesan, ricotta, egg yolk, nutmeg, and black pepper.
Cooled sauteed mushrooms
1/3 cup chopped chives
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg yolk
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp black pepper
Optional**
You can keep your tortellinis meatless, or you can chop up some roasted chicken and add in there.  I planned on making half and half.  Well to be completely truthful, we ended up eating ALL of them (together), so it wasn't a great experiment.  But there really are SO many ways to personalize your dishes.  You know you don't really have those sorts of options in a restaurant right?  That's why cooking at home ROCKS!!! 
1 cup roasted chicken breast, chopped
And now we are ready to make our tortellini.  This is the fun part!  

Shape the tortellini:   
First we need to pass the dough through the pasta machine:
Divide the pasta dough into 2 even sections. Keep the part you aren't using in the zip top bag while you work with the first one. Flour the dough, the rollers of a pasta roller (or your rolling pin), your hands, and the work surface.
1. Start to feed the blob of pasta dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine. As the sheet of dough comes out of the machine, fold it into thirds and then feed it through the rollers again, still on the widest setting. Pass the dough through this setting a total of 4 or 5 times. This effectively kneads the dough, ensuring the resulting pasta is silky smooth.
2. Pass the pasta through the machine again, starting at the widest setting and gradually reducing the settings, one pass at a time, until the pasta achieves the required thickness. The pasta sheet will become very long—if you are having trouble keeping the dough from folding onto itself, cut the sheet of dough in half and feed each half through separately. Generally the second-from-last setting is best for shapes that are to be filled.
3. After the pasta has reached the requisite thickness, we will make our tortellinis with this first sheet, leaving the rest of the dough still in the zip top bag.  Then we will roll the other half out and repeat with the rest of the filling.  This is to ensure that the dough will not dry out while we are forming the tortellinis.

If rolling the pasta by hand: Flatten a dough piece into a thick oval disk with your hands. Flour a baking sheet for the rolled out finished pasta. Place the oval dough disk on a floured work surface, and sprinkle with additional flour. Begin rolling out the dough with a floured rolling pin working from the center of the dough outwards, constantly moving the dough and lifting it to make sure it's not sticking.  The goal is to roll the dough into a big circle, about 1/8" thick.  Trim the edges so that they are straight (a big square), then cut the dough into 2-2 1/2-inch squares.

When your long sheet is ready, I found it was easiest to cut the dough using a pizza wheel.  Cut the dough into 2 1/2 " squares.  Okay, so my squares were NOT perfect.  Oh well.  Maybe yours will be better.   I suppose I can call them "rustic."  LOL!
You need to moisten the edges of the square with water.  You can do this with a pastry brush dipped in water, or just your finger dipped in water - which is equally effective!   You can do this before you add the filling or after.  It doesn't really matter.
For me, the quantity of filling that worked best was 1 rounded tsp, plopped right into the center.  Try your best not to get any of the filling on the edges, as this will prevent a good seal. 
Okay.  Take a breath.  Let's do this thing.  I promise... It's not hard.  After about three of them, you'll get into the rhythm of it... Make sure your edges are moistened and clear of filling.
Fold the square diagonally to form a triangle, pressing out any air pockets around the filling. 
Bring the two opposite points of the triangle together to form a ring around your finger.  Lightly moisten the ends and pinch the points together with water.   
Transfer them to a well-floured baking sheet as you go so they won't stick.  You want them to dry out now.  
Repeat with the remaining filling and dough to form the rest of the tortellini.  
At this point, you can make the sauce, or you can put these little lovelies away until you need them.  They can be refrigerated for a couple of days, or even frozen for up to a couple of weeks.  If you are going to use them later, however, let them dry well and dust with flour so they won't stick together.  

For the sauce:   
Saute the shallots and garlic in the EVOO/butter for a couple of minutes until soft.  
4 Tbsp butter + 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced fine (about 1 Tbsp)
Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until there's only a little liquid left in the bottom of the pan.     
1 large handful of sliced crimini mushrooms (about 3/4 cup)
Wow....just look at how glossy the butter looks on them.  Almost like a candy glaze.  Okay.  Focus!
Deglaze the pan with the cognac. 
3/4 cup cognac
Add in the cream, tomatoes, and chives.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium until sauce has thickened and reduced to a silky, creamy consistency (maybe around 5 minutes). 
1 cup heavy cream
1 handful of grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped chives
Next add the freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano cheese, kosher salt and black pepper to your taste, then turn off the heat.  There are many places I can find to "skimp" on ingredients, but not with my Parm.  So if you can, please make your cheese purchases in the "block" form and grate your own. 
1/2 cup Parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
kosher salt
black pepper
If adding roasted chicken, add it in now.  The chicken is already cooked, so you really are just heating it up.  We did not want to add it earlier, because you didn't want to overcook it or allow it to start breaking up.   

Boil the tortellini:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the tortellini to the boiling water.  After the float to the top, cook until done, about 8 - 9 minutes more.  They are quite tender, so please take care not to just "dump" them out roughly into a colander.  I prefer to use a kitchen spider to transfer them.  This also reduces the incidence of splashing boiling water onto anyone.  Test one with a fork for doneness, then transfer the cooked pasta directly into the sauce.  There is no need to rinse them. 

Garnish:
Use a pizza wheel or very sharp knife to cut very thin slices of prosciutto.  Add the slices to a pan and dry "fry" them until they crisp up.

Garnish the dish with freshly chopped parsley and crispy prosciutto - and maybe a fresh grating of Parmesan cheese over the top.
crispy fried prosciutto
fresh parsley
Now you would know that on this particular plate, I forgot to add the prosciutto.  Well, dangit!  Guess you'll have to look at the stuff in the big skillet.  For the family, I added in the rest of the rotisserie chicken as well as a handful of the crispy prosciutto.  I knew my family would want visible "meat" in the meal.  You will, of course, know your dinner guests or family best.  Enjoy! 

I hope you enjoyed this amazingly delicous recipe!

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Written Method:

Alright, admittedly, this is a multi-step recipe.  It's definitely something you make for someone you love.  That said, you could totally make the tortellini ahead of time, then make the sauce and put it all together when you are ready to wow someone.  I am so sorry that I didn't make a double batch and freeze half, because three days later, I was so wishing to have this again! 

Pasta is SO inexpensive and easy to make.  You really owe it to yourself to give it a shot!  My pasta machine has been around for .... I won't tell you how many years now.  And believe me, I have definitely gotten my money's worth.  I tried a fancy, food processor method the other day, and literally threw it all in the garbage.  I prefer this old school, do it by hand, method.  It's fun!

For the pasta:
Mound up the flour onto a clean work surface and make a well in the center with your fist.  Break the eggs into the well and add the oil and a pinch of salt to the well.  Gradually mix the egg mixture into the flour using the fingers of one hand, bringing the ingredients together into a firm dough. If the dough feels too dry, add a few drops of water; if it’s too wet, add a little more flour.  Knead the pasta until smooth, 2 to 5 minutes. Lightly massage it with a hint of olive oil, pop the dough into a plastic food bag, and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. The pasta will be much more elastic after resting.

For the filling:   
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pan over medium heat.  Add the chopped mushrooms and season lightly with the kosher salt.  Cook until they release their liquid, about two minutes.  Increase the heat to medium high and cook until the pan is dry and the mushrooms are golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and let them cool completely.  Once cool, stir in the chives, parsley, Parmesan, ricotta, egg yolk, nutmeg, and black pepper.
 
Shape the tortellini:   
First we need to pass the dough through the pasta machine:  Divide the pasta dough into 2 even sections. Keep the part you aren't using in the zip top bag wrapped in a clean towel while you work with the first one. Flour the dough, the rollers of a pasta roller (or your rolling pin), your hands, and the work surface.

1. Start to feed the blob of pasta dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine. As the sheet of dough comes out of the machine, fold it into thirds and then feed it through the rollers again, still on the widest setting. Pass the dough through this setting a total of 4 or 5 times. This effectively kneads the dough, ensuring the resulting pasta is silky smooth.

2. Pass the pasta through the machine again, starting at the widest setting and gradually reducing the settings, one pass at a time, until the pasta achieves the required thickness. The pasta sheet will become very long—if you are having trouble keeping the dough from folding onto itself, cut the sheet of dough in half and feed each half through separately. Generally the second-from-last setting is best for shapes that are to be filled.

3. After the pasta has reached the requisite thickness, we will make our tortellinis with this first sheet, leaving the rest of the dough still in the zip top bag.  Then we will roll the other half out and repeat with the rest of the filling.  This is to ensure that the dough will not dry out while we are forming the tortellinis.

If rolling the pasta by hand: Flatten a dough piece into a thick oval disk with your hands. Flour a baking sheet for the rolled out finished pasta. Place the oval dough disk on a floured work surface, and sprinkle with additional flour. Begin rolling out the dough with a floured rolling pin working from the center of the dough outwards, constantly moving the dough and lifting it to make sure it's not sticking.  The goal is to roll the dough into a big circle, about 1/8" thick.  Trim the edges so that they are straight (a big square), then cut the dough into 2-2 1/2-inch squares.

When your long sheet is ready, I found it was easiest to cut the dough using a pizza wheel.  Cut the dough into 2 1/2 " squares.  Okay, so my squares were NOT perfect.  Oh well.  Maybe yours will be better.   I suppose I can call them "rustic."  LOL!

Cook's note... Let me talk just a second about my filling.  You've noticed a few times in my ingredient list that I've had some optional things listed.  This recipe lends itself very well to being a hearty meatless meal.  However, if you would prefer, you can dress it up nicely with some roasted chicken both in the tortellini and in the sauce, as well as having the added textural element of the crispy fried prosciutto as a garnish.  As always, the choice is completely up to you! 

For me, the quantity of filling that worked best was 1 rounded tsp, plopped right into the center.  Try your best not to get any of the filling on the edges, as this will prevent a good seal.  You need to moisten the edges of the square with water.  You can do this with a pastry brush dipped in water, or just your finger dipped in water - which is equally effective! 
Fold the square diagonally to form a triangle, pressing out any air pockets around the filling.  Bring the two opposite points of the triangle together to form a ring around your finger.  Lightly moisten the ends and pinch the points together.  Transfer them to a well-floured baking sheet as you go so they won't stick.  You want them to dry out now.  Repeat with the remaining filling and dough to form the rest of the tortellini. 

For the sauce:   Saute the shallots and garlic in the EVOO/butter for a couple of minutes until soft. 
Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until there's only a little liquid left in the bottom of the pan.  Deglaze the pan with the cognac.  Add in the cream, tomatoes, and chives.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium until sauce has thickened and reduced to a silky, creamy consistency (maybe around 5 minutes). Next add the freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano cheese, kosher salt and black pepper to your taste, then turn off the heat.  If adding roasted chicken, add it in now.  The chicken is already cooked, so you really are just heating it up.  We did not want to add it earlier, because you didn't want to overcook it or allow it to start breaking up.  

Boil the tortellini:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the tortellini to the boiling water.  After the float to the top, cook until done, about 8 - 9 minutes more.  They are quite tender, so please take care not to just "dump" them out roughly into a colander.  I prefer to use a kitchen spider to transfer them.  This also reduces the incidence of splashing boiling water onto anyone.  Test one with a fork for doneness, then transfer the cooked pasta directly into the sauce.  There is no need to rinse them.

Garnish:
Use a pizza wheel or very sharp knife to cut very thin slices of prosciutto.  Add the slices to a pan and dry "fry" them until they crisp up.  Garnish the dish with freshly chopped parsley and crispy prosciutto - and maybe a fresh grating of Parmesan cheese over the top.  

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