Friday, March 4, 2011

Home-made agnolotti with tomato basil sauce

Preparing this meal was like a 2.5 hour rollercoaster ride and when it was finally time to disembark, I was exhausted! It was a journey that instigated a range of emotions during it's many ups and downs and twists and turns - excitement, frustration, impatience, fear, and finally relief. The result of this marathon effort was a totally rewarding dinner that was gobbled up by all in no time, the only disappointment was my failure to capture a decent picture of the completed dish.

My dear mother-in-law offered to give me her pasta machine some time ago. She had only used it once and found it rather difficult to work with on her kitchen bench which she believed wasn't long enough for the job. After we spoke about my cannelloni experience of rolling the sheets out by hand, she immediately pulled out the machine for me to take.

In hindsight, I should have started with something simpler but I had a stubborn fixation to christen this machine with some agnolotti. Filled pasta with a simple garlicky tomato and basil sauce is high up on my list of pasta favourites which is why I wanted to try a home-made variety with great urgency. Latina filled pasta used to be a quick and easy occasional meal of convenience as a vegetarian and is something I have been craving lately.

Most of the processes involved with the meal were simple and took very little time. The pasta dough was the first cab off the rank and once again I used Keira's simple recipe which results in a perfectly pliable dough. While the dough was resting, I made a tomato basil sauce, a tofu "ricotta" and spinach filling for the pasta and some garlic "butter" for garlic bread. No problems here either!

When it was time to make the pasta, things became a little bit more interesting... For starters, the clamp wouldn't attach to my bench securely which meant that whilst rolling the sheets, it would unfasten at times and result in a sheet of uneven thickness or the sheet would break half-way through! When the sheets were made to a satisfactory standard, the lid of a jar was used to cut out circles from the sheets, the pasta circles placed on a small dumpling press, a heaped teaspoon of tofu "ricotta" was placed in the centre which was then enclosed with the press to give the agnolotti a neat finish. This was an extremely tedious procedure and I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the last piece of agnolotti was formed.

Finishing the meal was a piece of cake, my only concern was that the filling could explode from the pasta as some of the agnolotti appeared to be very thin and delicate. This only occurred to a couple of them so I was pleased with the success rate. I chose to cook them in individual serves as each batch only took a couple of minutes and I wanted to keep a very close eye on these babies. There was NO WAY all this effort was going to be destroyed by an overcooking mishap!

I had a sudden realisation whilst packing up, that the clamp fits the other side of my bench perfectly (pictured below) where the bar stools are usually located, all I needed to do was stop for a moment and think outside the square. This night was definitely a learning experience.

I'm looking forward to more experiments with the pasta machine, both with different styles and types of flours. Next time I might choose something a wee bit simpler until I get the hang of it...

Tofu "ricotta" and spinach filled agnolotti

Pasta dough (from Around the World Vegan)

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup water
olive oil

Place the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the water into the well and work the flour into the water slowly until a firm dough has formed. Knead the dough on a clean bench for 10-15 minutes until it has a smooth and elastic consistency. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and rest for 30 minutes.

Tofu "ricotta" and spinach

350g firm tofu
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
100g fresh spinach

Steam the spinach until just wilted. Allow to cool then squeeze out as much of the moisture as possible. Finely chop the spinach.

Crumble the tofu in a bowl. Add the nutritional yeast, basil, oregano, salt, lemon juice and spinach and mix well.


Use a pasta machine or rolling pin to roll out thin sheets of pasta. Cut out circles of pasta using the lid of a jar or a cookie cutter then place each circle into a small dumpling press, add a heaped teaspoon of tofu "ricotta" and seal. Place the agnolotti onto a lightly floured plate and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.

Simple tomato basil pasta sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
350mls tomato passata
12 large basil leaves, chopped
salt, to taste 

Extra basil, to serve

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and cook over a medium for a few minutes until the onion has softened. Stir through the garlic for a minute then add the tomatoes, tomato passata and basil. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or longer to concentrate the flavours further. Add salt to taste. Serve with some extra chopped basil.

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