Before I get into this pasta making experience, I wanted to share with you the experience I was lucky enough to have had with Todd and Diane, AKA White On Rice Couple. As their many loyal blog readers and Twitter followers know, T&D are extremely talented and gifted photographers, cooks, teachers and just all-around awesome people. They are also master GIVERS. I say this because I have been the recipient of their generosity more than once- most recently at their inaugural Food Photography Shoot Out where they invited a few bloggers to come and learn the tricks of their trade, for free. I learned so much I can barely even begin to put it in this blog, but the biggest lesson I took away from the seminar was that my photos should tell a story. So I’m trying to keep this in mind from now on when I post photos on this blog, and I hope you’ll all give me feedback on where I can improve (and also what’s working!). Their words about telling a story made me rethink my blogging a bit- I haven’t included a whole lot of personal information in my blog so far, but I think I may allow myself to be a bit more open in this space from now on. I mean, words should tell a story too, and maybe after five years my story should include more than just one about making this dish or that dish. Anyway, many thanks to Todd and Diane for sharing their wisdom, knowledge, humor and confidence with me and the others- I know we’re all better for it and I hope I make you guys proud! Here’s some of the pics I took during their workshop:
So, since we’re on the topic of telling a story, my story, to be exact, here’s what’s new….well, new to you all, over the last couple of months. If you’ve been reading Tuna Toast for awhile, you’ve probably gathered that I work in entertainment television, I’m married to a musician, have a cat, lived in Tokyo for a long time and love to cook. All of those things are still true, except for the first thing: I was laid off at the end of last year. Before you throw me any pity parties, let me tell you that A) it wasn’t a total surprise and B) it was the extra kick in the pants I needed to pursue my true passion, FOOD. Don’t worry, I’m not signing up for The Next Food Network Star or making plate after plate of green beans on a line in a kitchen. I thought long and hard about a field that marries my media experience with my love and knowledge of food and came to a conclusion, which I’ll share with you I as progress a bit further into my journey. Let’s just say I’ve started an internship to dip my toe into this new adventure, and I’m loving every minute of it! To wake up excited about work is a feeling I’d been missing for quite awhile, and it’s really, truly a great thing.
Ok, so you’re like, “Can you get to the FOOD already?!” Yes yes- these lovely little cappelletti were a triumph for me personally, because although I’ve been making fresh pasta for a couple of years, I’d never really gotten mine to the al dente consistency that pasta, ALL pasta, should have. I’ve played around with recipes that use type 00 flour, use a mix of semolina and all purpose and ones that use oil and eggs and even others that use only eggs, but I’d never gotten that wonderful, chewy texture out of my homemade pasta. Until now!! At the aforementioned Food Photography Shoot Out, I was whining to a fellow blogger about how soft my homemade pasta is. She happened to be Italian, and told me that most pasta recipes tell you to fold and roll the pasta dough through the thickest setting three times, which is true and therefore what I’d always done. She said Italian grandmothers fold and roll their pasta through the thickest setting at least fifteen times before moving on to the thinner settings since it builds up the gluten in the dough. Viola! It made perfect sense and I couldn’t wait to go home and try it.
I’d spied these beautiful cappelletti on Jul’s Kitchen and immediately added it to the top of my list of dishes I’d like to make, which I save on the desktop of my MacBook because, well, I’m a big dork and that’s just what I do. I made the filling – a combination of ground beef, ground pork, sausage and mortadella, Parmesan, bread crumbs and egg- the day before. If you could have smelled the kitchen when that mixture was cooking you’d think you’d died and gone to Italian Heaven, I tell you. It was a pretty good start to what would become a great dish.
The next day I was eager to start the pasta but wanted to decide what type of sauce would be good for the cappelletti so I was looking around the internet when I discovered that 99%, if not all cappelletti, was served en brodo, or in broth. I’d had my heart set on a marinara but didn’t want to upset any Italian grandmothers, so I researched at length to find a recipe for the perfect brodo. I realized that the Italian broth for this dish was always made with meat, which was new to me. I’d made broth before but always from bones, not actual hunks of meat, and I felt a little bit guilty purchasing large slabs of brisket, beef shank with tons of meat on it and chicken just to stew in a big pot of water but I did it anyway. OMG, am I glad I did. The meat, onion, carrot, celery and Parmesan rinds (I always keep them and let me tell you- they are the key to this broth!) made the richest, tastiest broth I think I’d ever made.
I made the pasta as instructed by my fellow blogger, and it was far more forgiving as I was rolling up my cappelletti that any other pasta I’d made in the past. It was much more elastic and could take on more filling since it was so durable. What a difference the extra rolling made! I wondered if it would hold the texture after I cooked it…
It did! It was perfectly al dente and kept its shape nicely. I was so happy to have finally figured out the key to a nice, chewy egg pasta. The combination of flavors of the different meats in the filling with the broth and a nice dusting of Parmesan was really magical, and I can see why this rich pasta is served in broth instead of coated with a heavier sauce. It was a great balance of flavor and texture.
For dessert, I made another recipe I’d “clipped” from a blog: David Lebovitz’s Goat Cheese Souffle. I’m a huge fan of light, fluffy Japanese cheesecake and I knew from the ingredients that this would have a similar flavor. I made the mistake of putting my souffles too close together so they did ooze a bit, but otherwise they were light, slightly sweet and just cheesy enough. I’d definitely make this again and maybe serve it with fresh berries.
So, that’s the end of the story, at least for today. I hope my photos did a better job of telling it than in my previous posts, and I will definitely work harder to become a better storyteller, both with the pictures AND the words!
Now go and make this cappelletti!