Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Scrigno di Venere (Pasta Wrappers Filled with Spinach Fettuccine, Porcini Mushrooms, and Ham)

This recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. The idea is that you wrap fettucine in a pasta wrapper, then tie it up to look like one of those purses of gold coins mercenaries from the middle ages would be paid with. However, when it came time for me to secure the pasta wrapper, I had no such luck. It’s rather difficult to manipulate the pasta wrapper without tearing it, so I ended up with a pasta crunchwrap supreme. My negligible photography skills sure weren’t helping either.  Nevertheless, I finally got around to cooking this recipe, which I had been eyeing up ever since I bought Essentials two years ago. Would I make it again? Ehhh, probably not; at least, I wouldn’t bother with the wrapper, but the spinach pasta with the sauces? DELICIOUS. Ham and porcini is a perfect combination of ingredients.

For 2 servings:

Pasta Wrapper:
2 large eggs (4 oz.)
6 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour

Make a well with the flour, add in the eggs, and beat the eggs with a fork (or your fingers), slowly incorporating the flour until you have a mass of dough. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 7 to 10 minutes, until silky in texture. Spritz with non-stick cooking spray, wrap in plastic, and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

Green Fettucine:
2 large eggs (4 oz)
6 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour
5 oz frozen spinach

Saute the spinach over medium/medium-low with some salt for a few minutes, to help draw out the moisture. Place the spinach on paper towels to remove excess moisture. Mince into small piece and add to the flour. Proceed using the same method as the pasta for the wrappers.

Rolling out the pasta:

Lightly flour the dough. Pass through the widest setting of the pasta machine 4 times, folding the dough into thirds each time. Proceed to roll the dough through thinner settings, one increment at a time, until the desired thickness. My pasta machine goes from 1 (widest) to 9. I rolled out the sheets of fettucine to a 7, and the pasta wrappers to a 6. I cut the fettucine with the attachment on my machine, but you could hand cut (to make tagliatelle) the green pasta as well.

To make the pasta wrappers, cut the long sheets of pasta into thirds. Brush the edges with water, and combine to make a large square of pasta. On a floured surface, use a rolling  pin to combine the pieces. Cut two 8” circles (I used the removable bottom of a tart pan as a tracer).

Cooking the pasta:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta wrapper one at a time (they grow in diameter in the water) and cook for 30 seconds. Remove and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking, then place on a towel. Cook the fettucine in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then drain the water, reserving some for the sauce. Save 4 strands of fettucine for tying up the wrappers

Ham & Porcini Sauce:

1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, diced
¼ lb. ham, cut into pieces
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup porcini soaking liquid (see below)
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup parmesan cheese

Soak the porcini mushrooms in warm water for half an hour. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter and reserve. Chop any large pieces of mushroom into bit sized pieces. In a large pan over medium heat, add the butter, then cook the shallots until golden. Add the porcinis, and 1 cup of the reserved soaking liquid. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Add the ham, cook for half a minute, then add the cream until thickened. Turn off heat and set aside until your fettucine is cooked. Pasta’s ready you say? Great, put the pan over low heat, toss in the fettucine along with the parmesan cheese and toss to cook. Add ¼ cup of the reserved water from the pasta if you need it (I did).


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan, add the flour, and stir for 2 minutes, cooking until golden. Add the milk in two additions, stirring to incorporate. Season with salt.

Bringing it all together (finally):

Preheat your oven to 450°F, and move the rack to the upper third. Place some béchamel on a plate, and coat each pasta wrapper with it. Place the wrappers in small baking dishes (I used a corningware dish I had – seemed fitting for a throwback dish such as this). Fill with half the fettucine. Add the excess béchamel to each. Close up the wrappers so they come together at the top, and secure with toothpicks. Wrap two strands of green fettucine around each. Failing that, fold the pasta wrappers like they were a Cruchwrap Supreme. Awkwardly lay your reserved fettucine on top. Cook on the upper rack of the oven for 8 minutes.


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