Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Spinach and Sausage Tortellini

At my house, one of the few things that wins every time is pasta. It doesn't matter what I do to it, whether I cook kale and throw it in, toss in some sausage, or perhaps some browned butter, it is always a winner. Red sauce, white sauce, garlic butter sauce, bacon cream sauce, ground sausage, ground beef, shrimp or chicken, it doesn't matter. I might toss in fresh lemon juice, tomatoes, and steamed vegetables with a protein, or make a spicy red sauce with shrimp. My kids love it, my husband loves it, my sister usually loves it (unless there are shrimp).
Besides being one of the easiest meals to throw together in about half an hour, pasta is also fun and easy to make. I know we have this preconception that it is difficult and time-consuming, but pasta is quick and easy, and can be done in a matter of minutes. The dough is simple and easy, and I find it so rewarding to make it fresh. All you need is flour and eggs and  you have a blank canvas for anything you can conceive. Add freshly ground black pepper and you have a delicious base for a strong cheese and browned butter. Make spinach pasta and top with a rich cream sauce.
One of our family favorites is spinach and sausage tortellini. Sometimes we add cheese, sometimes we leave it out, but I usually make a double batch and freeze some of it for another meal. It doesn't seem like very much, but if you have had tortellini you know a little goes a long way. They are also delicious if you drop them into a spicy vegetable tomato soup.
So the next time you have a lazy afternoon, set aside a little time to make up a batch of pasta and see how delicious and tender homemade pasta is.

(I usually double the recipe and pop some in the freezer)
For the pasta:
2 cups flour
3 eggs

For the filling:
There is an endless multitude of fillings you can use. Just be sure you season them as you normally would, and cook all meats to a safe temperature. Fresh pasta cooks in a matter of minutes and most meats do not cook that quickly, even ground.
 about 1/2 cup of filling per batch
cooked spinach with garlic and italian sausage
cheese and cooked spinach
lobster and bechamel sauce

For the pasta:
Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour, add the eggs. Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner rim of the well. As you incorporate the eggs, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape (do not worry if it looks messy). The dough will come together in a shaggy mass when about half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, primarily using the palms of your hands. Add more flour, in 1/2-cup increments, if the dough is too sticky. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up any left over dry bits. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 3 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust your board with flour when necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature. Roll and form as desired.

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