When I think of fresh pasta, I cast my memory back to the most unforgettable dinner at a small Agriturismo in Southern Tuscany. It was the christmas party for all the employees of the family I nannied for and it was such a memorable evening. Everything we ate and drank came from the property on which the villa sat – the pecorino was made from the milk of their sheep, the lamb cooked over wood, the prosciutto and salame, not to mention the 'vino' – all made by an elderly couple who owned the agriturismo. For me, however, the most amazing course was the silkiest, smoothest, thinnest ravioli I have EVER eaten. It was filled with foraged borage and homemade ricotta and was served with a nutty saged butter. Roberta, the matriach of the family stated it was too, the best ravioli she had ever eaten. When you eat pasta everyday, this is a huge statement!
This pasta dish, I'm sure, doest not sit in the same category as the borage ravioli, however, it reminds me of a dish I ate in Bologna – a small restaurant down a cobblestone lane. It may seem a little daunting, but once you have your filling made and pasta rolled, it's super easy!
For the pasta
200g '00' flour, plus extra for dusting
2 whole eggs
For the filling
2 cloves on garlic, finely chopped
2 large bunches of chicory, de-stemmed and roughly chopped (if you don't like the bitter taste of chicory, you can do 1/2 spinach or kate and 1/2 chicory).
50g finely grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
300g firm ricotta
For the browned butter
100g butter, roughly chopped
10 sage leaves or a few sprigs of fresh thyme
40g roasted hazelnuts
To make the pasta, tip the flour on to a clean board and make a well in the centre. Crack the eggs into the centre and slowly begin to incorporate the flour into the eggs with a fork. When the dough becomes stiff enough, use your hands and knead until it becomes a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 30 mins. Roll out pasta with a pasta machine, making sure you fold it over itself a few times (laminating) to get the best result. Use extra flour to help it not to stick.
Meanwhile, get started on the filling. Heat a large pan over a medium flame and add a good lug of olive oil. Add the garlic and roughly chopped chicory. Saute until just wilted and garlic is cooked, but not coloured. Place in a large bowl and set aside to cool. When cool, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Set aside.
Lay your pasta sheets on a clean floured surface and overlap to create one large sheet. Spread filling across the sheet. If it's too long/wide to roll, you can cut the sheet in half. Roll pasta and seal any loose edges by gently pressing. Lay the rotolo in a clean tea towel and secure either with string, or wrapping like a present (this is what I do). Lay in a large pan or fish kettle of simmering water and cook until pasta has cooked through (approximately 10 minutes).
Meanwhile, heat the butter in a small pan until foaming. Add the hazelnuts and sage or thyme and serve with the rotolo.
Once pasta is cooked transfer to a board, unwrap and slice. Serve immediately with brown butter sauce and extra parmesan.