Dinner Dare – Ravioli Verdi al Salmerino

A paradox of life is that as a child you dream of being an adult and can’t wait to grow up, and as an adult you end up fondly reminiscing those carefree, fun days of your childhood. I suppose the big thing about adulthood for kids is the liberty to do whatever you want. No bed times, no dietary restictions, no compulsory hats and scarves when going out. Then as an adult, you realize that you actually want to go to bed early enough, your teeth get rotten and your tummy will ache with a diet of candies and chocolate, and – at least in a climate like Finland’s – you are willing to do everything in your power to insulate yourself from the terrible cold winter.

But every now and then it is good to forget about your pragmatic middle-aged self and channel your inner Pippi Longstocking and do something less sensible to fully enjoy the benefits of your liberty. You owe it to your dreaming 10-year-old self.

One of my (and my spouse’s) ways to enjoy this freedom is to start too ambitious cooking projects at very insensible times – e.g.  starting to make fresh stuffed pasta at 9 o’clock in the evening on a week night. (Well ok, my 10-year-old self might not have been very impressed with this kind of “rebellism” but I am middle-aged after all.) Making fresh stuff pasta is always an impossibly long project so you will then end up eating totally exhausted at a time that most adults consider to be closer to a proper breakfast hour than dinner time. But it is still a very enjoyable meal!

However, in case you are feeling less daring about your evening schedules, you can also split the workload into two evenings as I did with this recipe. I prepared the dough and the filling in one evening and then turned them into ravioli the next.

Green Raviolis with Salmon

Serves 6

400 g flour

50 g durum wheat flour

400 g fillet of salmon (boned)

100 g spinach

4 eggs

300 g ricotta cheese (soft)

2 shallots

dry white wine

sage

parsley

butter

olive oil

salt, pepper

Cook the spinach in boiling water (for some minutes) and after that, drain and squeeze the water out of them as much as possible. Chop the spinach.

Make the pasta dough by combining the two types of flour with the eggs, spinach and a pinch of salt. Knead until you have obtained a homogeneous dough. Wrap the dough in a foil and leave it to rest in a cool place (e.g. fridge) for at least 30 minutes.

Cut the shallots into small pieces. Chop the parsley. Cut the salmon into small(ish) slices. In a pan, heat some olive oil and cook the shallot on a low(ish) heat for 3 minutes. Add the salmon and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and a dash/ splash of white wine. Continue cooking for 3 more minutes. (Tip: In case you prefer your salmon not overly cooked, you can prepare the salmon in two batches. The first 250 g should be more well-done as it is used for the filling and it is then easier to mix. The second 150 g you can cook in a shorter time frame as it is used in the sauce).

Let the salmon cool down. Take 250 g of the salmon and mix it together with the ricotta and parsley to prepare the filling. Season it with salt and pepper.

Roll out the dough into a sheet that is 1 mm thick. Take one half of the sheet and add small (walnut size) portions of the filling at equal distances (at least several centimeters apart). Place the other half of the sheet on top and gently press it around the edges of the filling. Using a ravioli cutter or a pastry wheel, cut squares around each filling to make the ravioli. Finally press the sides of each ravioli tight with a fork to ensure the filling will not leak out of it during cooking. You can find a good example of how to do this process exactly for example here.

In a pan, melt 60-70 g butter on a low heat with some leaves of sage. Cook the ravioli in salted, boiling for a 2-3 minutes (they float when they are ready but you can always also check the right time by cooking one piece before the others). Serve the ravioli with the sage butter and the remaining pieces of salmon.

 

Mamma Mia Moments – Tagliatelle Verdi con Sugo al Limone

There are many reasons for love of cooking and Italian food. One is pure necessity: we have to eat anyway so why not make the most of it? As you gradually learn new skills, the task of preparing enjoyable food also becomes easier and (nothing short of a miracle) even your baking skills improve to the level of mere occasional disasters.

Another source of motivation for me is what I like to call mamma mia moments. They are those occasions when you just happen to find such a perfect recipe that so brilliantly strikes a chord that all you can do is utter a satisfied “mamma mia”. These mamma mia moments do not occur every week nor every month but when you come across one, you certainly appreciate it!

Some of my mamma mia moments are definitely linked with Italian pizza. However, the most recent one I had when  we made this fantastic pasta dish from the July 2015 edition of La Cucina Italiana. In fact, my partner and I were so baffled by our success that we are afraid to try the recipe again in case it was just an unrepeatable stroke of pasta luck. But now after our second attempt of equal success, I am happy to share it with you as well!

The method to prepare the fresh pasta is quite interesting and relatively fast. You do not need a pasta maker at all. Instead the pasta paste/ dough is rolled out with a rolling pin. After that it is wrapped into a roll, the roll is cut into pieces and the pieces unrolled. In addition to the tasty pasta, the sauce combining lime, creme and white cheese is just superb.

Green Tagliatelle with Lime Sauce

Serves 4

400 g mangold (or 300 g fresh spinach)

300 g flour

125 g stracchino (I substituted this with mild brie cheese)

120 g cream

2 eggs

2 (organic) limes

60 g butter

olive oil

salt

If you use mangold, cook it in unsalted boiling water for 10-12 minutes. Drain, wring out the cook mangold (to remove as much of the cooking water as possible) and weigh it (not sure why this recipe is saying this but apparently it should weigh 100 g). Mix the mangold into small pieces/ paste in a blender. If you are using fresh spinach, a few minutes of cooking is sufficient and you don’t need as much fresh spinach as mangold.

Knead the flour with the eggs and blended mangold/ spinach until you have obtained a soft dough. Cover it and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Grate the limes or cut the lime zest with a knife (don’t use the white part, only the green). Then squeeze out the lime juice. In a pan, melt the butter and a thread of olive oil. Add the grated/ cut lemon zest and let it gather flavour for 2 minutes. Add the lime juice and season with salt. Finally add the cream and the cheese. Once the cheese has melted, switch of the heat.

Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to a sheet (not too thin, ~1 – 1.5 mm thick). Sprinkle a light layer of flour on the sheet. Then with your hands, carefully wrap the sheet (lenghtways) to a roll. Don’t make the roll too tight. Cut the roll with a knife into sices (about 1-2 cm thick). Finally unroll the slices and place each tagliatella next to each other on a floured surface.

tagliatelle

Carefully transfer the tagliatelle to a kettle with salted boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain the tagliatelle and combine with the lime sauce. Serve immediately.