The following is an excerpt from In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love by Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber. It has been adapted for the Web.
Tortelli di Zucca
Around the elegant northern city of Mantova these ravioli are called Tortelli alla Mantovana, “in the style of Mantova.” Of course, in Mantova itself they are simply referred to as Tortelli di Zucca, “squash Tortelli.” A Tortello is a 2-inch-square raviolo, also called a Cappellaccio in some regions. They are not difficult to make and they are worth all the time and effort.
In addition to the ingredients listed below, you will need either a pasta-rolling machine (not to be confused with a pasta-making machine) or (proficiency with) a rolling pin; as much open counter space as possible; a pastry brush; and a little water. Keep in mind: Measure the flour carefully, better to have pasta dough that requires regular dustings of flour as you work it than to have an impossibly stiff dough. And once you begin to roll out the dough you must work without interruption to avoid handling complications. Serves 4.
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the dough
- 1 can (12 ounces) plain pumpkin
- 1/4 cup crushed amaretti cookies
- 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup ricotta
- Salt and pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
In a large bowl mix together the eggs and 3 cups flour until you can compress the mixture into one shaggy mass with your hands. Wrap this crude dough in plastic and set it aside while you prepare the filling
In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, cookies, bread crumbs, ricotta, and salt and pepper until well blended. Taste and correct seasoning as needed. Set filling aside while you roll out the pasta.
Cut off a piece of dough the size of a grapefruit. Set the pasta machine at its widest setting. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until it is just thin enough to put through the rollers of the pasta machine. Put the dough through the machine again but at the next setting down. Continue to put the pasta through the machine, each time on successively thinner settings— dusting with a little flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to everything in sight, except itself—until you have rolled it through the machine on the thinnest setting.
On a lightly floured work surface, lay out the sheet of pasta and cut it in half. Set aside one half. Lightly brush the remaining half sheet of dough with water. Place filling by the tablespoonful at 2-inch intervals in 2 rows down the length of the dough. Beginning at one end, carefully lay the setaside sheet of dough over this piece, pressing it into place down the middle as you slowly lay it down to cover the dots of filling. Once in place use your hands to align and press the edges of the dough together, and to press between the dots of filling. (You must be sure to get good contact so that the ravioli don’t open up when boiled.) When the dough sheets are pressed together around the filling, you are ready to cut the ravioli apart. Slice once lengthwise between the two rows and then cut crosswise between dots to free up each raviolo. Set the ravioli on a clean dishtowel where they won’t be disturbed, making sure they do not touch one another. Repeat the procedure, beginning with a grapefruit-sized hunk, with the remainder of the dough until the filling is used up. (Any leftover dough can be stored or rolled and cut into another shape for use on its own.)
Fill a bowl large enough to hold the tortelli with hot water and set aside to warm.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Put about 10 or 12 ravioli in the boiling water and cook for 8 minutes. While they cook, gently melt the butter in a sauté pan. Empty and dry the warmed mixing bowl and transfer the melted butter to it. After about 8 minutes lift out a tortello with a slotted spoon and test one corner: it must be tender to the bite, not al dente. When tender, use the slotted spoon to remove the cooked tortelli and very carefully turn them in the melted butter. Once all the tortelli are buttered, serve immediately with a separate bowl of grated parmigiano alongside.