This week and next, we'll be featuring the holiday food traditions of L.A. chefs. Today, Sotto's Steve Samson tells us about his family's Christmas tortellini.
"My mom is from Bologna so practically every special occasion meal, especially Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, is centered around tortellini. It's become a family tradition for everyone to help nonna as she rolls out, fills and forms the little stuffed pastas. This becomes a source of entertainment when eating, as the kids like to guess who made each tortellino, i.e. 'this one's ugly, grampy must have made it.'
"The tortellini are first served in brodo, in a rich meat stock, with grated parm. My mom then prepares them con panna, grampy's favorite, with reduced cream, a touch of nutmeg and more grated Parm. It's hard for me to explain what a huge influence something as simple as a bowl of tortellini has had on my life. I hope it doesn't come across as hyperbole, but I've been eating tortellini since before I can remember. My mom learned from my nonna who learned from my bis nonna, etc.
"As a child and on into adulthood, I have always associated food with a closeness to family and tradition. I've always loved to cook Italian food because it makes me feel more tied to my heritage. That's probably the main reason I started cooking professionally -- and no dish represents it more than tortellini."
From: Sotto's Steve Samson
For the pasta:
500g 00 flour (can substitute all purpose)
5 whole eggs (I prefer fertile eggs because they have a much deeper color)
1. Mix all the ingredients in a planetary mixer with the dough hook attachment.
2. When the dough comes together, let mix for about eight more minutes in order to properly knead the dough. The pasta should be smooth and elastic.
3. Wrap the dough with plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for at least a half
For the filling:
100g chopped mortadella
100g chopped prosciutto (this is a good way to use up prosciutto ends)
100g pork tenderloin, cut into cubes
100g skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
½ cup dry white wine
120g grated Parmigiano Reggiano
One tablespoon ricotta cheese
Salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste
1. Brown the pork and chicken in a hot pan with a little olive oil and butter. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and continue cooking until the meat is just cooked through. Let cool.
2. I like to put the meat, mortadella and prosciutto through a meat grinder with a fine die. If not, it can all be put into a food processor or finely chopped by hand. Mix in the remaining ingredients and season, being careful not to overdo the nutmeg.
3. Roll out the pasta as thinly as possible with a pasta maker or by hand. Cut the pasta sheet into small squares, about ½ inch by ½ inch. The test of a good tortellini maker is by how small he or she can make the tortellini. Nonnas usually have an advantage, not just through decades of experience, but also because they often have very small fingers. That's a joke.
4. Put a small dab of filling in the middle of the pasta square, fold it over into a triangle and then pinch the two corners togethers. The resulting little beauty should be a dead
ringer for Venus' belly button. The Roman goddess, not the tennis player.
For the broth:
5 pounds cut-up beef neck bones
5 pounds chicken bones
2 quartered onions
6 celery stalks, cut into 2 inch pieces
3 carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 small tomato, cut in half
10 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
4 pieces Parmigiano rinds
1. Rinse the bones well, getting out as much blood as possible. Place the bones in a large stock pot. Add enough cold water to cover the ones by about three or four inches. Place the pot over medium high heat. As the stock nears its boiling point it will start to release all the coagulated proteins from the bones. Lower the heat so the stock only reaches a low simmer.
2. Skim very well. Once all the scum has been skimmed, add the remaining ingredients and simmer for three hours.
3. Pass the stock through a fine mesh strainer. Skim off the fat. If the flavor is not intense enough, reduce the stock to concentrate the flavor. Season with salt.
The whole dish and assembly:
1. Bring the broth to a low simmer. Add the tortellini. Cook until the pasta floats to the top of the broth, and then 3-4 minutes longer, until the pasta is cooked through. Ladle broth and tortellini into a bowl and finish with a generous heap of freshly grated Parmigiano.
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