Ciao Italia Family Classics
Mary Ann returns to her family's humble beginnings to bring us a treasure trove of more than 200 time-honored recipes.
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MAKES ABOUT 10 DOZEN PASTA TWISTS
In addition to pasta all'uovo, pasta made from just eggs and unbleached flour, traditional pastas are also made from purees of fresh spinach, carrots, tomatoes, and beets. In this unusual recipe, strips of beet pasta are twisted around a filling of Gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto, and pine nuts and transformed into caramelle, pasta resembling paper-wrapped candies. Serve this as a first course.
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
1/4 pound prosciutto, minced
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 pound Gorgonzola cheese, chopped
1 small beet, stem trimmed to 2 inches
2 1/2 to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fine semolina flour
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 large eggs
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/4 cups packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
Fine sea salt to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Wrap the beet in foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until a fork pierces the flesh easily. Let cool, then peel and puree in a food processor. Set aside.
Meanwhile make the filling: In a medium skillet, melt the butter. Add the parsley and prosciutto and cook until the prosciutto begins to crisp. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove the mixture to a bowl and add the cheese, mashing it with a fork until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the pasta, combine 2 cups of the unbleached flour, the semolina flour, and salt and mound on a work surface. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the beet and eggs. Mix the beet and eggs together with a fork until well blended, then gradually incorporate the flour from the inside walls of the well. When the dough becomes too firm to mix with the fork, knead it with your hands until a ball of dough forms that is soft but no longer sticky.
Push aside the excess flour. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, adding additional flour as needed. Cover the dough with a bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 5 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered. Flatten each piece with a rolling pin, then roll the dough out through a pasta machine into 1/8-inch-thick strips 40 inches long and 4 inches wide. Cut twenty 2-inch-wide strips from each piece. Or roll the dough out by hand.
Spread a scant 1/2 teaspoon of the filling over each strip, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Fold each strip lengthwise in half and pinch the edges to seal. Twist the ends to resemble a candy wrapper. Place the caramelle on clean kitchen towels in a single layer.
To make the sauce, place all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor or blender and pulse until blended. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Pulse until a smooth paste is obtained. Transfer to a small saucepan and set aside until ready to use. (The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 days.)
Bring 8 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot. Carefully add the caramelle and cook until al dente, about 4 minutes. Carefully remove the caramelle with a slotted spoon and place them on a warm serving platter.
Meanwhile, heat the parsley sauce. Pour the sauce over the caramelle, toss gently, and serve immediately.
Note: To make ahead and freeze: Place the caramelle in single layers on a floured cookie sheet between sheets of plastic wrap. Cover with foil and freeze until hard. Transfer to plastic bags, seal tightly, and freeze for up to 2 months. Cook without thawing, until al dente, about 6 minutes.
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