This is a dish we made on a cooking class about a week ago using the first fresh peas of the season. My guests wanted to learn to make ravioli, and so we made ravioli with the classic Bologna filling for Tortelli. Tortelli have a trickier fold than ravioli and are not the wisest thing to tackle on a first-time-ever pasta making session.
The fresh tomatoes around now are still greenhouse, not yet good enough for making a good tomato sauce. The classic barely melted butter and sage dressing seemed too wintry for early April. I decided on this vibrantly colourful and tasty "condimento", using the lovely plump seasonal peas in the market. The combination of peas and prosciutto is very typical of Bologna, though pureed peas are not. I had learnt that pureed peas are both vibrantly colourful and tasty when cooking for my friend Inge, who cannot bear the sight of anything small and round on her plate - she always assures me that she is not the only person in the world to have this particular food phobia though I have yet to meet another. But I am grateful to her, and as I post this recipe I want to thank her, for leading me to this rather wonderful concoction.
Though we made and filled our own pasta, you can also enjoy the dressing on bought filled pasta or even using plain pasta. I can imagine it with penne, which I would previously toss with some ricotta and dust with nutmeg, to get nearer to the flavours of the dish we made.
Here's what you do:
For the dressing
1. 5 kilos of fresh peas in the pod
a 120g thick slice of Prosciutto Crudo (salt cured aged ham, like Parma ham) from the narrow end (in Italian Gambuccio)
EVO oil, salt, water
Patiently shell the peas - you can save the pods for making pea pod stock
Bring a pan of water to the boil, salt when it is boiling and tip in the shelled peas.
Cook till tender then drain and refresh at once in ice cold water to help keep the bright colour
Use a stick blender to whizz into a puree that retains some texture, diluting as needed to achieve the consistency you prefer. Taste and season with salt to your taste
Cut the Prosciutto into dice. Place in a small saute pan with a little olive oil and cook over medium low heat till crisp.
For the filling
a very large bunch of fresh parsley
200g fresh ricotta
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
Strip the leaves from the parsley and chop quite finely.
Separate the egg and reserve the egg white for another use.
Grate the cheese very finely.
Place the parsley in a bowl, add the egg yolk, and mix gently.
Push the ricotta through a potato rice to make it light and fluffy, letting it fall into the bowl with eggs. Mix again till well combined.
Tip in the grated cheese, grate over the nutmeg and mix a last time.
Keep the mixture in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
For the pasta
400 g "00" or finely milled soft cake flour
Make the pasta in your normal way and leave to rest in a plastic bag for at least 30 minutes. If you want to prepare ahead you can keep it in the fridge overnight.
Cut the pasta dough into several pieces. Work on just one piece at a time, rolling out a wide strip on the last but one setting
It is best to just roll out one piece at a time as you need to cut fill and fold to make the ravioli, and you don't want the pasta dough to dry out. If it does the ravioli won't seal properly.
Use a cookie cutter to stamp out circles.
Collect up excess pasta dough, replace in plastic bag, then re-roll to get more ravioli.
Place about a teaspoon of filling slightly off centre on each circle.
Stretch the dough over the filling and press round the filling, working from the centre out to the edges, so as to eliminate all air round the filling. Press lightly to seal.
Set your finished ravioli on a cloth placed in a woven straw or wicker basket. This is so they get air underneath as well and so they dry without developing humidity and sticking on the bottom.
I prefer not to use semolina flour for the purpose of keeping pasta from sticking. Placing it on cloths works perfectly and avoids a floury mess in the pasta water.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, salting well when it has already come to the boil.
Gently heat up the pea puree. You can add a knob of butter if you like though we didn't. Reheat the previously crisped Prosciutto dice.
Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water for about 4/5 minutes.
Spread each of four plates with a good amount of the pureed peas.
Drain the ravioli well and place on the pea puree.
Scatter the top with crisped Prosciutto dice and serve hot. We had it without any cheese on the grounds there was cheese enough in the filling.
You can make small portions to serve as pretty and colourful starter as in the photo below.