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Pasta Roll

Rotolo di Pasta

SERVES 8 TO 10

While most professional chefs in Italy are men, the one area that remains the domain of women is pasta fatta a mano, pasta made by hand. In most Italian restaurant kitchens, it is the women who produce the thinnest, sometimes almost translucent, sheets of pasta with only several forceful passes of the rolling pin - it takes me quite a bit longer.

The matterello, or rolling pin, is thin and about two feet long, and the pasta dough yields in elastic submission to its sturdy shaping. My friend Maria, who makes all the pasta for Tre Vaselle in Torgiano, loves my version of a hand-rolled and stuffed pasta, which is first poached and then baked. I serve this spectacular dish as a first course or as a main course. You can make the filling and sauce a day ahead and refrigerate them until ready to use.

Ingredients

FILLING

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup Filippo Berio olive oil

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 pound prosciutto, diced

2 1/2 cups chopped cooked spinach, well drained

1 cup ricotta cheese, well drained

2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 large egg, beaten

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

PASTA

1 3/4 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour

1/4 cup semolina flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

CREMAZOLA SAUCE

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup (5 ounces) mascarpone cheese or cream cheese

1/4 pound Italian Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

To make the pasta, mix the flours and salt together and mound on a work surface. Make a well in the center of the flour. Crack the eggs into the well. Mix the eggs with your fingers or a fork. Then begin incorporating the flour from the inside of the well into the eggs, taking care not to break through the sides. Incorporate just enough of the flour to make a soft but not sticky dough. Brush away the excess flour and knead the dough until smooth, about 10 minutes. You may need to add a little warm water if the dough seems too dry or a little flour if it is too wet. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest while you make the filling.

To make the filling, spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the preheated oven until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully, as they burn easily. Set aside to cool.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until soft. Stir in the prosciutto and pine nuts and cook until the mixture is fairly dry. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1 minute. Remove the mixture to a bowl and let cool. Add the cheeses, egg, salt and pepper, and nutmeg. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin to a large round about 22 inches in diameter. The dough should be very thin - no thicker than a sheet of typing paper.

Spread the filling evenly over the dough to within ½ inch of the edges. Roll up the dough like a jelly roll. Pinch the seam to seal it and to prevent the filling from coming out. Place the roll along a long edge of a large clean kitchen towel, roll the pasta up in a towel, and tie the ends of the towel with string.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully lower the towel-encased pasta roll into the water, bending it gently to fit. When the water returns to the boil, partially cover the pot and poach the roll for 20 minutes. Remove the roll carefully with 2 spatulas, place it on a baking sheet, and let it cool.

Butter a 9-x-13-inch baking dish.

Untie and unwrap the towel and carefully transfer the roll to a cutting board. Cut the roll into 1-inch lengths and lay them on their sides in the baking dish in a single layer.

In a saucepan, combine all the sauce ingredients and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat to medium and stir the mixture until smooth. Pour half the sauce over the rolls. Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pasta rolls are hot and the sauce is bubbling.

Reheat the remaining sauce to pass at the table, and serve immediately.

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