This post is part of our Non Sequitur Fridays series, which will feature a different Wistian's take on a non-Wistia-related topic each week. It's like our "employee of the month" but less "of the month"-y. Jonathan Turnbull-Reilly is an engineer at Wistia. His last Non Sequitur was about meditation.
February in Boston was the worst. I don't know about you, but a full month of shoulder-high snow drifts, failing public transit, and unplowed streets has left me wishing I could activate some kind of human hibernation gene until it's all over. As it turns out, eating a big meal is an important stage of hibernation for us larger mammals, so today I'd like to teach you how to make one of my favorites: tortellini.
Winter doom and gloom aside, I have more warm memories associated with this dish than any other, and it’s one of the first activities my wife and I did when we started dating.
Fair warning: it takes some time, so be prepared to spend at least two hours (if you’re super efficient and not taking videos of everything along the way). That said, if you’re a slow-food, journey-is-the-destination type with a good friend and a free afternoon, roll up your sleeves, pump up some jams, and let's get started.
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups semolina flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesan
- 3 tablespoons chopped marjoram
- 1 whole lemon
- 3/4 cup pine nuts
- Salt / pepper to taste
Technically, you can pull this off with a rolling pin and a sharp knife. I've tried that method, and you should know: it will double or triple an already lengthy process. If you take a masochistic approach to cooking, by all means proceed. Otherwise, I highly recommend obtaining a pasta roller like this one:
You can find one of these Marcato rollers used for about $40 (new: ~$80). Mine is probably 20 years old. They're stainless steel, easy to maintain, and if you take care of them, they will last forever. Plus, there are much easier applications for it—you’ll be able to pump out pounds of fresh fettuccine and spaghetti in minutes.
Other helpful items
- A sharp knife
- A piping bag (a ziploc with one corner cut off will suffice in a pinch)
- A rimmed baking sheet
- A small spray bottle
Preparing the dough
Mix all-purpose and semolina flour thoroughly in a medium-sized bowl. Make an indentation in the flour mixture and crack all three eggs into it. Using a fork, break the yokes and begin beating the eggs in small circles, keeping them contained in that depression, so that they gather flour from the sides. This will help you form an an even texture in the dough and control its moisture.
Eventually, the dough will start to form a shaggy, sticky ball. When it does, begin to knead it (3–5 minutes), stretching and folding it as you go. This develops gluten strands that will hold your dough together in the rolling process. When you are finished, gather your dough into a smooth ball and wrap it in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.
Roll, slice, fill
Secure your pasta roller. Grab a handful of dough and shape it into a rough circle. Keep the rest tightly wrapped. Start your roller on the widest setting. Fold in thirds, and send through again. Repeat this process as you narrow the settings, keeping a roughly rectangular shape. The dials on these machines generally have 7–8 settings. I use 6 for these.
When you have a long, wide sheet of pasta dough, trim the edges, and divide into 2.5 inch squares. Using your piping bag, squeeze a teaspoon's worth of filling into the center of each square. If your dough starts to dry out, or become brittle, mist your workspace with the spray bottle.
Fold each of your squares corner to corner, forming little triangles. Press to seal, working from the center out so there are no air pockets (this will prevent your pasta from exploding when you cook it).
The next part is tricky, so here are some pictures to explain. To form the tortellini: 1) wrap two corners of the triangle around your finger, pressing them to seal. 2) Fold the tall corner down over the side. 3) Fold the rest of that edge down, pressing to seal.
Bring 2 quarts of water to boil in a large saucepan. When it reaches a rolling boil, add olive oil and salt. Add tortellini. Since this is fresh pasta, it will cook very fast, so pay attention! When the pasta floats, it's ready. Strain the pasta water, preserving 1 cup for sauce. Set aside.
The lemon and marjoram in the tortellini provides a bright flavor that can cut through heavy sauces. It also works well on its own, so here is a light, easy sauce pairing that you can use after all that hard work on the pasta:
Combine 1 cup of pasta water with 2 tbsp butter and the rest of your lemon juice in a small sauce pan. Reduce by half, adding salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle that sweet, sweet goodness.
If you were looking for an quick meal to squeeze in on a work night, sorry. This one is a time sink. It's inefficient, impractical, and unwieldy. But with the right company, a welcome and delicious break from screens and snowstorms.
Huge shout out to my wife, Adrienne, for all of her help. Also to Kristen and Jared Craft for lending their photo and video instincts (and breakfast. We started early.)