Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Prawn tortellini with chickpea puree

Before midnight mass on Christmas Eve many Italian families sit down to a fish dinner. In Bologna, this might consist of prawn tortellini followed by salt fish. (The recipes are given separately here.) The tortellini are light and delicate and come served on a bed of pureed chickpeas if you are lucky enough to find this dish on the menu at Marcello dall’Aglio’s La Locanda del Castello in Sasso Marconi.

Salt fish is not widely available here but you can make a more than passable version at home using fresh cod and sea salt. This could be fried, deep fried in a light batter or, as in this case, used to make croquettes. It is accompanied by an irresistible sauce made out of roasted baby tomatoes, red onion and roasted pureed red peppers.

The tortellini are best prepared ahead because they are tricky to make at the last minute. You could also prepare the salt fish dish and its sauce in advance so if you really were coming back for dinner after midnight mass it could be on the table in minutes.

If you consider tortellini too fiddly, you could make a larger filled pasta or even serve the prawn filling between two small sheets of pasta, but it will be less delicate.

The chickpea puree needs careful preparation. Chickpeas and aubergines are two foods that are too often poorly prepared because they are taken for granted. Soak the chickpeas overnight. Bring them to the boil and then immediately put in a very slow oven for several hours or simmer on a low gas. They hate rapid boiling and tense up. If you live near a Spanish or Portuguese shop, you could buy a jar of sumptuous cooked garbanzos.

Preparation time: in inverse proportion to the time taken to down the tortellini.

Ingredients (for four generous portions)

for the tortellini pasta

300g pasta flour

3 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

½ tsp salt

for the tortellini filling

200g uncooked large prawns

2 tbsp olive oil

25ml brandy

50g ricotta

4 spring onions

salt and pepper

for the chickpea puree

150g chickpeas

4 cloves of garlic

3tbsp extra virgin olive oil

50g parsley

salt and pepper

for sauteeing

2tbsp olive oil

25g butter


1. The day before, soak the chickpeas in plenty of warm water

2. The next day, bring the chickpeas to the boil along with the garlic, then immediately transfer to a slow oven (140 degrees C.) or a low gas so that the chickpeas simmer.

3. Make the pasta by combining all the ingredients and kneading until the dough is elastic and no longer sticky, 10-15 minutes. Wrap in clingfilm and transfer to the fridge.

4. Remove the intestinal channel and shells from the prawns and quickly fry in olive oil until they turn pink. Add the brandy and flambé.

5. Chop finely or process along with the ricotta, spring onion, adding salt and pepper. Place in the fridge.

6. When the chickpeas are soft, strain them and process with the peeled garlic, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper.

7. Roll out the pasta dough using a rolling pin or a machine until it is almost transparent. You will have a number of wide strips of pasta that you should cover with a cloth to keep them moist until you come to use them.

8. Mark out 4cm diameter circles using a pastry cutter. Place a half teaspoon of filling in the centre of each one. Fold the pasta over to make an envelope and pinch it together ensuring that no air is trapped inside.

9. You can finish there or you can make the characteristic shape of tortellini by wrapping the pasta around your finger so that the two wings touch and then are pressed together. It will help if you gently push the filling into a fat little cord shape once you have created the envelope.

10. Heat the puree in a dish over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave. Put on a salted large pan of water to boil, reduce to a rapid simmer and add the tortellini a few at a time.

11. Depending on the fineness of your pasta, they will take 4-6 minutes to cook to al dente. Try one after four minutes. Strain them when they are cooked.

12. Heat a oil and butter in large frying pan, tip in the tortellini and sauté for two minutes.

13. Place a mound of puree on each plate, flatten it slightly with a spoon so that it provides a platform for the tortellini.

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