Tortellini with Saffron Cream Sauce
This recipe comes from our stellar Atlanta-based sous chef, Rachel Barnett, who earned a master's degree at the Italian Culinary Institute in Calabria, Italy a few years ago. She made the pilgrimage back to Italy to teach Italian cuisine for a few weeks and arrived home with this tortellini recipe. Needless to say, this recipe comes from some of the most experienced hands seasoned in the streets of Italy.
Tortellini is fun to make by hand—no need to be intimidated by homemade pasta. Rachel's recipe is authentic and not complicated, though it is imperative that you use '00' flour, a very fine flour used in traditional Italian pasta-making that produces a silky dough and a tender pasta. We strongly suggest preparing the filling prior to making the pasta dough, as the dough should be as fresh as possible. It is best to use pasta dough right after it is made so it will retain its optimal color.
A little bit of saffron goes a long way, which is probably a good thing, as this delicate orange-red thread-like spice (actually the stigma the saffron crocus flower), is the world's most expensive spice by weight. It lends an aromatic, sweet-savory, grassy honey-like flavor and aroma that complements and gently cuts the creaminess of this dish. Enjoy!
- Servings 8
- Dish Lunch
- Time 80 minutes
- Skill Advanced
Pasta Filling ingredients
Pasta Dough ingredients
Saffron Cream Sauce ingredients
To Serve ingredients
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, grate provolone using the smallest side of a cheese grater (if possible, use a microplane grater).
Add ricotta to shredded provolone in mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, mix the cheeses until well combined.
Once cheeses are combined, add the sherry vinegar and salt. Using a rubber spatula, mix everything until thoroughly combined. With a tasting spoon, taste the filling mixture and adjust seasoning if needed.
Transfer filling mixing to a piping bag fitted with a plain round medium-sized tip and tie shut. Place in refrigerator until the pasta dough is completed.
First, make sure your worktable is clean, sanitized and completely dry.
Dump flour into a heaping pile on worktable. Measure salt onto the top of the flour pile.
Using your fingertips, slowly move your hand in a circular motion, making a well in the center of the flour pile.
Once an opening has been formed in the center of your flour, add eggs, yolks and oil to the open center. Using a fork, whisk eggs and oil until totally combined, trying not to incorporate any flour at first.
Once eggs and oil are mixed, continue whisking with a fork and slowly incorporate flour from the inside walls of the well. Incorporate with fork until all the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork any longer.
Using a plastic bench scraper, clean as much dough off of the fork as possible. Scrape the remaining flour on the table and fold into the wet dough. Continue folding in the flour until all of it has been incorporated. Form dough into a ball.
If there are any flour scraps that resemble sand left on the table, do not incorporate. Adding the dry flour scraps to the already formed dough will cause dry pockets in the dough.
Wrap dough ball tightly with plastic and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Resting is crucial, as it gives the gluten strands time to relax; overworking the dough will form a stronger gluten net that will create a tough dough. To check if the dough is ready to be worked again, gently press into the dough with your index finger and release. If your finger indentation holds its form, the dough still needs time to rest. If your finger indentation bounces right back, the dough is ready to be worked again.
Unwrap the dough ball and place the smooth top side onto the table. Using the heel of your palm, press down into the center of the dough and move your palm forward, gently stretching the dough forward.
Turn the dough 45 degrees counterclockwise and, again, press down with the heel of your palm, gently pulling forward. This is referred to as kneading.
Repeat the kneading process (step 9) just until the dough is firm but not tough. If you feel the dough starting to become tough, wrap it in plastic and let it rest again.
Once you’ve finished kneading, form the dough into a smooth ball, wrap in plastic and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
After it has rested, cut the dough into four equal pieces. (Note: When not using dough, keep it covered with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.)
Take one quarter of the dough and begin flattening with a rolling pin. If you have a pasta roller, start on widest setting and pass dough through, moving down in size until you’ve reached the smallest setting on the machine. If you don’t have access to a pasta roller, use a rolling pin to roll dough until it is thin enough to almost see through. At this point your dough is ready to be cut and filled.
Using a straight-edge pastry wheel, cut the dough into 2-inch squares.
Remove ricotta filling from refrigerator. Pipe a small amount of the filling onto the center of each square.
Dip the tip of your index finger into a bowl of water and wet two adjoining sides of the dough squares. (This will help the dough adhere so it stays sealed while cooking.)
Fold the bottom right corner of the square to the top left corner, forming a triangle. Using your thumb and index finger, pinch both open sides of the triangle to seal closed. Wrap the two bottom points around your index finger and press gently to adhere them together. Remove your finger from the pasta, and you'll have the perfect tortellini.
After you've finished stuffing the tortellini, dust pasta lightly with semolina flour so it doesn’t stick together. Place finished pasta in freezer until frozen.
While pasta is freezing, prepare the saffron cream sauce.
To cook pasta, bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Place thoroughly frozen tortellini into pot and allow to boil for 1 minute and 30 seconds until al dente. (Check one to ensure doneness.)
Once pasta is cooked, remove from water with a mesh skimmer and transfer to pan containing desired sauce. Toss tortellini in warmed sauce and serve immediately.
Saffron Cream Sauce
Place cream and saffron in a medium-sized saucepan on low heat. Bring cream to a simmer, allowing the saffron to steep until color begins to bloom into the cream, approximately 10–15 minutes. Take care not to burn or scald the cream.
Transfer cream to a clean medium-sized saucepan by passing through a chinois. Discard the leftover saffron threads.
Place the saucepan with cream back on the stove over medium-low heat.
Add grated parmesan to hot cream, stirring with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir sauce while cheese melts, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot so that the cheese doesn’t stick.
Once cheese has melted and been incorporated into the sauce, add red wine vinegar and salt for seasoning. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. If you like a thicker sauce, add more cheese and allow to melt.
If not serving immediately, remove sauce pot from stove and transfer to an appropriately sized storage container, placing parchment paper directly on surface of the sauce so a skin doesn’t form.
If serving right away, transfer sauce to a medium-sized saucepan and return to stove over low heat seating. (You will then add the cooked tortellini and the serving accoutrements.)
Add sun-dried tomatoes to warm saffron sauce on stove and heat over low heat.
Add cooked al-dente tortellini to saucepan. Gently toss pasta in sauce so all tortellini are evenly coated in the sauce.
Add cold butter to saucepan and stir gently with a wooden spoon until butter melts and emulsifies into the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Transfer finished pasta to serving vessel. Garnish with torn basil leaves, breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.