The Terroir of Barolo

la-morra-vineyards-piedmont-wine-tours-baroloGuests on our Barolo Walk and Wine tour in Piedmont enjoy some of the best wines in Italy in their breathtakingly picturesque terroir. Let’s begin by defining terroir: terroir refers to the complete natural environmental conditions in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, sunlight and climate. Across Italy winemakers expound on their particular terroir, and the significant role it plays in the end product – their wines.

nebbiolo-piedmont-wine-tours-barolo

Barolo wines are made from the Nebbiolo grape. Nebbiolo is thin skinned and very slow to ripen, and therefore extremely expressive of its terroir. Barolo producers noticed this expressiveness, and a system to identify the various subtle yet significant differences in the various vineyards began to emerge. In 1929, Fernando Vignolo Lutati divided the Barolo region into three different geological formations from different periods.

winter-vineyards-piedmont-wine-tours-barolo

The oldest of the three, from the Helvetian age, is located in the south-eastern area and encompasses the communes of Serralunga, Monforte, Castiglione Falletto and part of Barolo. It is composed mainly of white-yellow marl, a crumby earth, here mostly clay, that contains a substantial amount of calcium carbonate. This soil type produces more intense wines, with more color, body, and strong tannins that benefit from longer aging.

The south western side of the Barolo region, including Barolo and Novello, has a different marl that is a mix of clay and sand. The wines that result display more elegance, well-balanced, harmonious, with moderate tannins.

Finally, the north-westernmost part, encompassing La Morra and Verduno has younger soil, with more sand than the first two. As a result, the wines from these vineyards tend to be the fruitiest of the three, with milder tannins, ready to enjoy at a younger age.

castiglione-vineyards-piedmont-wine-tours-barolo

This attention/obsession with terroir might seem a bit old-fashioned. But keep in mind that wine production is an ancient tradition here, dating back thousands of years. Prior to the development of modern wine production techniques, the character of the wine was determined in the vineyard – the soil type, management, ploughing, pruning, trellising, when to harvest. This was a a time when there were almost no technological innovations which would have dramatically altered the relationship between the vineyard, its grapes and the resulting wine. Today a modern winemaker has a myriad of options in the cellar to affect the final result, sometimes so dramatically as to hide the unique characteristics of the terroir. The best producers find the right balance, how to use these modern techniques to enhance, rather than hide, the distinctive aspect of their terroir.

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Up until the early 1970s, Barolo wines were typically a blend of Nebbiolo grapes from different vineyards in the zone, the producers relying on their familiarity with the terroir to create the desired flavor profile – grapes from Monforte supplied the intensity and structure, those from Serralunga depth and power, La Morra grapes provide suppleness and aromas, Barolo an elegant earthiness, and Castiglione Falletto boldness and richness. Today, the practice of single vineyard wines is now the norm, following the cru model of Burgundy. The Barolo DOCG has been further divided into small parcels called Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive (Additional Geograhic Definitions), abbreviated as MeGAs. These are defined by historical use and terroir. There are currently a whopping 181 of these. The intent is for these to become similar to the crus found in Burgundy, with the great MeGAs emerging, the others falling into disuse.The name of the MeGA can appear on the bottle if all the grapes come from that specific MeGA.
The Grand Crus of Barolo

These are some of the most notable crus from Barolo. Although user take note, there are plenty of wonderful Barolo produced by smaller outfits that aren’t include here simply because they haven’t invested the time in marketing their wines to those that create lists like this!

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La Morra:

Arborina, Brunate, Cerequio, Conca, Gattera, Giachini, La Serra, Rocche dell’Annunziata

Barolo:

Bricco delle Viole, Brunate, Cannubi and Cannubi Boschis, Rue, San Lorenzo, Sarmassa

Monforte:

Bussia, Ginestra, Mosconi

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Serralunga d’Alba:

Ceretto, Falleto, Francia, Lazzanto, Marenca, Margheria, Omata, Parafada, Sorano, Vigna Rionda

Castiglione Falletto:

Bricco Boschis, Bricco Rocche, Fiasco, Mariondino, Monprivato, Pira, Villero

ceretto-barolo-piedmont-wine-tours-barolo

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Trofie con Pesto alla Genovese – Trofie Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Beans

trofie-pesto-cinque-terre-walking-tours-italiaoutdoorsItaly is home to many spectacular destinations, but Liguria and Cinque Terre certainly rank towards the top. We spend a week exploring this amazing region on our Liguiria and Cinque Terre walking tours, feasting on seafood and pesto and focaccia. When I want to recreate the experience at home, this is a quick and easy pasta dish than can transport you back to Italy in just about 40 minutes!

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Trofie is a pasta that originated in Liguria, from Golfo Paradiso, a strip of land in the Riviera di Levante including towns like Recco, Sori, and Camogli, which we visit on our tour. Trofie is shaped by rolling a small piece of dough on a flat surface to form a short, round length of pasta with tapered ends, then twisting it to form the final shape. Some recommend twisting the small piece of dough around a toothpick, then sliding the twisted cylinder off the toothpick. Either method is quite labor intensive. I haven’t attempted it myself, but I have found dried trofie at a local specialty store.

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Trenette is another pasta we see in Liguria. Trenette is a narrow dried pasta very often served with the local pesto. It is a long ribbon, slightly wider than ¼ inch, narrower than fettuccine and linguine, with a slight elliptical shape rather than flat. Not to be confused with short triangular tube pasta called trennette! Linguine is a perfectly good substitute easily found here in the US.

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My recipe for Pesto alla Genovese will get you started, and will not dramatically increase the prep time, Any homemade pesto will improve the authenticity and end result! On our tours, we would pair with a local Ligurian white like a Pigato or Vermentino.

trofie-pesto-close-cinque-terre-walking-tours-italiaoutdoors
Trofie con Pesto alla Genovese

Serves 4

1 small potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice (about 3/4 cup)
8 ounces green beans, washed, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound trofie or trenette pasta (linguine is a good substitute)
1 tablespoon butter
1 recipe Pesto alla Genovese

Freshly grated Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a generous amount of salt. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the beans and the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6-7 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the potatoes, beans and pasta.

Put the potatoes, beans and pasta in a large bowl. Add the butter and pesto and stir to combine, adding a little of the pasta water as needed to loosen the mixture. Serve immediately, topped with a bit of the grated cheese.

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Agnolotti del Plin – Piedmont’s Favorite Stuffed Pasta

agnolotti-del-plin-above-wine-tours-baroloI recently returned to the lovely Italy region of Piedmont to continue to research for our Barolo Walk and Wine Piedmont Walking tour. I recall my very first trip to the region, and my first taste of the local stuffed pasta, agnolotti, and their bright orange color. I soon discovered the source of this color was the intense orange of the egg yolks, which are the only part of the egg used in this pasta.

view-barbaresco-wine-tours-baroloI still indulge in this dish on every visit to the area, and finally created it here in my home kitchen to share with my family during the holidays. I referred to several authentic traditional recipes as I developed this recipe, but most of these skimp on instructions – they assume you already are well familiar with the process of making pasta. So I have included more details, and the recipe for the egg yolk pasta is from the French Laundry cookbook by Thomas Keller.

agnolotti-del-plin-la-morra-wine-tours-baroloBut the description of the dish itself from one cookbook I purchased in Italy provides a nice history of this local favorite. It begins by referring to one legend on the origins of this pasta, attributing it to a French chef in Torino. But the authors continue:

“But I am not so willing to accept the origins of this dish as attributed to the French chef mainly because agnolotti have been a part of the cuisine of this region for too many generations, and in a wide variety of versions, practically one for each Langhe village and farmhouse. For a long time this dish was probably served as the single-course main Sunday meal, and over time a rare balance of flavors was achieved: the gravy from the roast meat was the sauce for the agnolotti while the meat itself was used in the filling.

In the highest and poorest part of the Langhe, where veal or pork were often not available for economic reasons, they substituted pork and veal with barnyard rabbit, which was cooked and boned, and then used both for the filling and the sauce. This is a delicious variation and has a delicate, yet not by any means insubstantial flavor, and was skillfully prepared by the Langhe women.

agnolotti-side-wine-tours-baroloThe form and the texture of the pasta can also be varied (quite thick, thin, or extremely thin) and the shape can be square as is the tendency in Alba, slightly rectangular or “pessia”, or “del plin” (pinched) in the hilly area from around Alba into the High Langhe area. They are all perfect, tasty, and have a well-balanced filling which requires careful preparation.

My father taught me how to appreciate agnolotti with wine: put about a dozen freshly drained steaming agnolotti into a bowl and cover them immediately with Dolcetto wine, fishing them out one at a time with your fork.”

Nonna Genia, by Beppe Lodi and Luciano De Giacomi

agnolotti-del-plin-close-wine-tours-baroloAgnolotti del Plin

Serves 8 – 10 as an appetizer, 6 – 8 as a main course

For the pasta:

1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
6 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon milk

For the filling:

9 oz. mixed meats – veal, pork, beef, lamb. Either cut into 1-inch cubes, or you can use ground meats
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups loosely packed baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. sherry vinegar
1 egg
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the sauce:

Semolina flour for dusting
8 Tbs. (1 stick) (4 oz./125 g) unsalted butter
4 whole sage leaves, plus more for garnish
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for finishing

To make the ravioli dough:

Mound flour on a clean flat surface and create a well in the center, pushing the flour to all sides to make a ring with sides about 1-inch wide. Make sure that the well is wide enough to hold all the eggs without spilling.

egg-yolk-pasta-wine-tours-italyPour the egg yolks, egg, oil and milk into the well. Use your fingers or a fork to break the eggs up. Still using a fork or your fingers, begin turning the eggs in a circular motion, keeping them within the well and not allowing them to spill over the sides. Using this circular motion, gradually pull in flour from the sides of the well; it is important that the flour not be incorporated into the eggs too rapidly, or dough will be lumpy. Keep moving the eggs while slowly incorporating the flour. Using a pastry scraper, occasionally push the flour toward the eggs; the flour should be moved only enough to maintain the gradual incorporation of the flour, and the eggs should continue to be contained within the well. The mixture will thicken and eventually get too tight to keep turning with your fingers.

ring-egg-yolk-pasta-wine-tours-italyWhen the dough begins thickening and starts lifting itself from the board, begin incorporating the remaining flour with the pastry scraper by lifting the flour up and over the dough that’s beginning to form and cutting it into the dough. When the remaining flour from the sides of the well has been cut into the dough, the dough will still look shaggy. Bring the dough together with the palms of your hands and form it into a ball. It will look flaky but will hold together.

egg-yolk-pasta-dough-wine-tours-italyKnead the dough by pressing it, bit by bit, in a forward motion with the heels of your hands rather than folding it over on itself as you would with a bread dough. Re-form the dough into a ball and repeat the process several times. The dough should feel moist but not sticky. Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you clean the work surface.

Dust the clean work surface with a little flour. Knead the dough by pushing against it in a forward motion with the heels of your hands. Form the dough into a ball again and knead it again. Keep kneading in this forward motion until the dough becomes silky smooth. The dough is ready when you can pull your finger through it and the dough wants to snap back into place. The kneading process can take from 10 to 15 minutes.

Even if you think you are finished kneading, knead it for an extra 10 minutes; you cannot over-knead this dough. It is important to work the dough long enough to pass the pull test; otherwise, when it rests, it will collapse.

Double-wrap the dough in plastic wrap to ensure that it does not dry out. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before rolling it through a pasta machine. The dough can be made a day ahead, wrapped and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before proceeding.

To make the filling:

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over high heat. Add the mixed meats and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is caramelized and deeply browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside.

In the same pan over high heat, add the remaining olive oil and the onion. Cook for about 4 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release the caramelized meat bits, until the onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the red wine and cook until the pan is almost dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Add the vegetables to the meat, and allow to cool.

Combine the onion mixture with the browned meat in a bowl and stir until well incorporated. Put the warm meat mixture into a food processor to grind it to a smooth texture or chop it as finely as you can by hand.

Once the meat is ground, add the vinegar, egg, Parmigiano-Reggiano and nutmeg and season with black pepper and salt. Mix well.

To form the agnolotti:

To roll out the pasta using a pasta machine, divide the dough into 4 – 6 pieces. You will roll out one piece at a time, while rolling keep the remainder covered with plastic wrap so it does not dry out. Lightly flour the machine rollers, the work surface around the machine, and the first piece of dough. Set the rollers at the widest setting. Flatten the dough into a disc, sprinkle with flour, then feed the disc into the space between the two rollers. Feed the dough through with one hand, while holding the upturned palm of your hand under the sheet emerging from the rollers. Keep your palm flat to protect the dough from punctures by your fingers.

rolling-pasta-wine-tours-baroloAs the sheet emerges from the rollers, guide it away from the machine with your palm. Pass the dough through the rollers five to six times, folding it into thirds and flouring it each time. Then set the rollers at the next narrower setting and pass the dough through three times, folding it in half each time. Repeat, passing it through three times at each successively narrower setting. Repeated stretching and thinning builds up elasticity making especially light pasta. If the sheet becomes too long to handle comfortably, cut it in half or thirds and work the pieces in tandem.

rolling-pasta-sheet-wine-tours-baroloDon’t worry if at first the dough tears, has holes, is lumpy, or is very moist. Just lightly flour it by pulling the dough over the floured work surface. Take care not to overdo the flouring, or the dough may get too stiff. As you keep putting it through the rollers, it will be transformed from slightly lumpy and possibly torn to a smooth, satiny sheet with fine elasticity.

Different machines have different numbers of settings. These ravioli use the thinnest setting on a machine, which will be thin enough for you to see color and shape through it; this is perfect for lasagna and filled pastas. If it is so thin that the dough tears easily, however, stop at the next to last setting.

Place the pasta sheets on a floured sheet pan, separated by deli paper or plastic wrap. Cover the pile with a slightly damp towel.

To fill the agnolotti:

Dust 2 baking sheets with semolina flour and set aside.

Work with one sheet of pasta at a time, keeping the remaining sheets covered so they do not dry out.

Lay the pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface with a long side facing you. Trim the edges so they are straight. Place the agnolotti filling in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip, or if you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a resealable plastic bag, cutting off a bottom corner to make a 1/2 inch opening. Pipe a “tube” of filling across the bottom of the pasta sheet, leaving a 3/4 inch border of pasta along the left, right and bottom edges.

filling-agnolotti-wine-tours-italyPull the bottom edge of the pasta up and over the filling and pressing lightly with your index finger to seal the edge of the dough to the pasta sheet; don’t drag your finger along the dough to seal or you risk ripping the dough. When it is sealed, there should be about 1/2 inch of excess dough visible above the tube of filling (where you sealed it). Be certain that you are sealing tightly while pressing out any pockets of air. Seal the left and right ends of the dough.

filling-agnolotti-wine-tours-italyTo shape the agnolotti

Starting at one end, place the thumb and forefinger of each hand together as if you were going to pinch something and, leaving about 1 inch of space between your hands and holding your fingers vertically , pinch the filling in 1-inch increments, making about 3/4 inch of “pinched” area between each pocket of filling. It is important to leave this much “pinched” area between the agnolotti, or when the agnolotti are separated, they may com unsealed.

pinching-agnolotti-wine-tours-italyRun a crimped pastry wheel along the top edge of the folded-over dough, separating the strip of filled pockets from the remainder of the pasta sheet. Don’t cut too close to the filling, or you risk breaking the seal. Separate the individual agnolotti by cutting through the center of each pinched area, rolling the pastry wheel away from you. Working quickly, place the agnolotti on a baking sheet dusted with a thin layer of cornmeal, which will help prevent sticking. Don’t let the agnolotti touch each other or they may stick together.

agnolotti-wine-tours-italyRepeat the same procedure on the remainder of the pasta sheets. Either cook the agnolotti immediately in boiling water, or place the baking sheets in the freezer. Once the agnolotti are frozen, place them straight into airtight freezer bags and keep them frozen for up to several weeks. Cook the agnolotti while still frozen.

To serve:

Melt butter in a large saute pan. Add the sage and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked agnolotti, stir to combine and heat everything, Place into serving bowls and finish with grated Parmigiiano-Reggiano and sage. Serve with one of the amazing wines from the region, like a Nebbiolo from Langhe.

agnolotti-del-plin-wine-tours-barolo

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Barolo – Where Luxurious Wines Spring from Italy’s Loveliest Vineyards

barolo-view-piedmont-walking-toursThe most prestigious wine zone in the region of Piedmonte, and certainly a contender for the best in all of Italy, is the Barolo DOCG. Barolo is located in the Langhe, the southwestern portion of Piedmonte, a few miles from Alba. The magnificent vineyards of this region are as celebrated for their physical beauty as well as its wines, making it a perfect destination for one of our intimate Italiaoutdoors Italy walking tours. In 2014, the United Nations added the ‘vineyard landscape of Piedmont’ to its elite group of UNESCO cultural and natural sites, in recognition of both its natural beauty as well as distinguished wine tradition.There are 11 communes that make up this DOCG, the five original, and the most prominent, responsible for over 85% of the production are Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba, and Monforte d’Alba. The vineyards of Barolo are on the steep south facing hills that cover this area.

bricco-rocche-barolo-walking-tours-italyBarolo is produced with only the Nebbiolo grape, one of Italy’s oldest varietals. The name Nebbiolo comes from ‘nebbia,’ the Italian word for fog. Some attribute this name to the natural bloom that appears on the grapes as they ripen, giving them a cloudy color. Other to the thick layer of fog that typically occurs in the Langhe region during late October, harvest time. Nebbiolo is esteemed for its complexity, pronounced tannins and outstanding aging potential.

vineyard-piedmonte-walking-tours-italyBut Nebbiolo is challenging to grow. It requires more space than other varietals, as the first 2 – 3 buds on each branch are infertile. It also flowers quite early in April and ripens very slowly. A dry, warm September is required for a good year, one that allows the slow ripening Nebbiolo time to develop for a late October harvest.

antiche-cantine-marchesi-di-baroloWhile the Nebbiolo grape dates back to the 1200s, it is not until the 18th century that the wines from this area became known as Barolo, after the town. Marchesa Giulietta Vitturnia Colbert di Maulevrier owned much of the land that encompassed Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga. She grew her prized Nebbiolo in these towns, and insisted the wine be named Barolo. She later hired later a famous oenologist from Burgundy, France, Louis Oudart, to bring more sophistication to the production process. At the same time, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, became mayor of nearby Grizane. He had traveled across the Alps many times, gaining an appreciation of French wines during his travels. He also employed Oudart to take care of the wine from his family properties. This collaboration resulted in the modern style of Barolo as a dry, elegant wine.

barolo-serralunga-piedmont-walking-toursThe Marchesa was close friends with King Carlo Alberto from the House of Savoy. The House of Savoy was formed in the early 11th century in the historical Savoy region, which included the modern day region of Piedmonte. The House of Savoy was a monarchy made up of Dukes, Princes, Kings and Emperors. Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in the region of Piedmonte to ruling the entire Kingdom of Italy from its formation in 1861 until the end of World War II. During this time, Barolo was held in such high regard by the aristocracy, it earned the moniker “The Wine of Kings, the King of Wines”. The Nebbiolo grapes were so prized by the ruling classes that there was a 5 lire fine for anyone who cut down a Nebbiolo vine. Repeat offenders had their hands cut off and in some cases were even put to death.

barolo-enoteca-piedmont-walking-toursThe Barolo and Barbaresco Consortium was founded in 1908, but was not recognized by the Italian Government until 1934. Today, the Consortium includes Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba Langhe and Roero. There are 500 members, made up of small and large producers. The region was established as a DOC in 1966, and became a DOCG in 1980. All Barolo wines must be 100% Nebbiolo, a minimum of 13% alcohol, and aged a minimum 38 months, including 18 months in barrel. A Riserva must undergo an aging of a minimum of 62 months, including 18 months in barrel.

barolo-centro-piedmont-walking-tours

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Pansotti al Preboggion con Salsa di Noci

pansotti-salsa-noci-liguria-walking-toursI’ve just returned from a very productive (and very enjoyable) scouting trip to Italy. We are including the Italian Riviera and Cinque Terre to our tour offerings, and are excited to share yet another wonderful Italy destination with our clients. But our research starts well before even setting foot on the ground – for me, it begins in the kitchen with learning the traditional dishes of the cuisine of Liguria.

italian-riviera-walking-toursOne dish that immediately caught my eye was Pansotti, a triangular ravioli stuffed with herbs, greens, and cheeses. The name Pansotti comes from the pastas pot-bellied appearance, from pancia, “belly”. Given its meat-free stuffing, it was often served during Lent or other days of abstinence.

ingredients-salsa-noci-liguria-walking-toursOriginally the cheese used was prescinseua, a Genovese curd cheese similar to cottage cheese but more acidic. Today it is often made with a mix of ricotta and grated Parmeggiano-Reggiano.

pansotti-pasta-liguria-walking-toursWhat makes these ravioli from Liguria really unique is the filling, Preboggion, a mixture of at least seven wild herbs. The name itself is believed to have originated from the term “Pro boggion”, boggion meaning bouillon or broth, indicating a mixture of different things. The mixture today will vary, and depending on the season would typically contain herbs and greens such as cabbage primaticcio (wild cabbage), Rapunzel (Campanula rapunculus, a member of the bellflower family), dandelion, parsley, nettle, borage, wild chicory, chard, chervil, burnet, and sow-thistle. As these ingredients are not commonly found in a local vegetable market, they are foraged.

rapallo-liguria-walking-toursWe visit the town of Rapallo on our tours, a port city on the Tigullio Gulf. From the  16th-century Castello sul Mare (Castle-on-the-Sea) to the cable car to Nostra Signora di Montallegro (Our Lady of Montallegro), offering stunning panoramic views, to nearby destinations like Portofino and Camogli we have plenty to explore here. This is also the perfect destination to try the authentic Pansotti in Salsa di Noci – walnut sauce. A few local restaurants are officially recognized by the Rapallo De.CO., the Consorzio Pansotto Rapallo, a consortium dedicated to the preservation of this traditional specialty. While the following recipe would not be up to their standards, it was still delicious!

pansotti-rapallo-liguria-walking-toursPansotti al Preboggion con Salsa di Noci

Ligurians often use white wine in their pasta, which results in a very delicate pasta, perfect for these ravioli, so you may want to roll it a bit thicker than usual.

For the dough

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
1 large egg

For the filling

1/2 pound mixed herbs and baby greens
3/4 cup grated Parmeggiano-Reggiano
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup ricotta
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the sauce

3/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream

To make the dough:

Place the flour on your counter in a mound. Make a well in the middle. Place the salt, wine, 1/3 cup water and egg in the well. Using a fork, lightly beat the ingredients in the well. Gradually start incorporating the flour from the sides of the well. Eventually the sides of the well will collapse, at this point use a pastry scraper to work the rest of the flour into the dough. if the dough doesn’t come together after a few minutes, add the rest of the water.

pansotti-pasta-making-liguria-walking-tours

Knead the dough for about 15 minutes, working a bit more flour into it when it gets a bit sticky. The dough should be very smooth, silky, and very elastic.

To roll out the pasta using a pasta machine, divide the dough into 4 – 6 pieces. You will roll out one piece at a time, while rolling keep the remainder covered with plastic wrap so it does not dry out. Lightly flour the machine rollers, the work surface around the machine, and the first piece of dough. Set the rollers at the widest setting. Flatten the dough into a disc, sprinkle with flour, then feed the disc into the space between the two rollers. Feed the dough through with one hand, while holding the upturned palm of your hand under the sheet emerging from the rollers. Keep your palm flat to protect the dough from punctures by your fingers.

As the sheet emerges from the rollers, guide it away from the machine with your palm. Pass the dough through the rollers five to six times, folding it into thirds and flouring it each time. Then set the rollers at the next narrower setting and pass the dough through three times, folding it in half each time. Repeat, passing it through three times at each successively narrower setting. Repeated stretching and thinning builds up elasticity making especially light pasta. If the sheet becomes too long to handle comfortably, cut it in half or thirds and work the pieces in tandem.

Don’t worry if at first the dough tears, has holes, is lumpy, or is very moist. Just lightly flour it by pulling the dough over the floured work surface. Take care not to overdo the flouring, or the dough may get too stiff. As you keep putting it through the rollers, it will be transformed from slightly lumpy and possibly torn to a smooth, satiny sheet with fine elasticity.

Different machines have different numbers of settings. These ravioli use the thinnest setting on a machine, which will be thin enough for you to see color and shape through it; this is perfect for lasagna and filled pastas. If it is so thin that the dough tears easily, however, stop at the next to last setting.

Place the pasta sheets on a floured sheet pan, separated by deli paper or plastic wrap. Cover the pile with a slightly damp towel.

Prepare the filling:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the herbs and greens for 3 minutes. Drain, and submerge in ice water, and squeeze out the excess water.

Finely chop the blanched greens in a food processor or with a knife. Transfer them to a bowl and add the cheese, garlic, ricotta, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Add the egg and mix well to combine.

Prepare the Pansotti

Cut the dough into four pieces and cover three of them with plastic wrap. Run the remaining piece through the widest setting of an pasta machine. You should obtain a thick, flat slice of dough. Fold into thirds, then put it back through the machine from its shortest side at the same setting. Repeat this process at least 3 times. Then start running the dough through at progressively narrower settings until you reach the very last one, always flouring both sides of the dough and inserting the shortest side first. Set the resulting long sheet of dough aside on a lightly floured surface, and cover it with a kitchen towel to keep it moist. Repeat with the other three pieces of dough. This dough is very delicate and can be a bit sticky. Make sure you dust all surfaces generously with flour when working with it.

With a dough cutter or knife, cut all the dough sheets in half lengthwise. Then, from each sheet, cut out squares about 3 inches across. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the filling at the center of each square and fold it in half to form a triangle, sealing two of the sides with a quick brush of water. Continue filling and folding until you run out of dough and filling. You can leave  the triangles as is, or take the two corners on the fold and pinch them together to form a tortellini type shape.  I’ve seen Pansotti done both ways, in Rapallo the corners were pinched, which to me looks more like a “belly”.

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Arrange the pansotti in a single layer on a lightly floured surface and cover them with a kitchen towel. You can freeze them at this point, if you are not planning to use them right away.

Prepare the sauce

Toast the walnuts, and allow to cool. Place the cooled walnuts, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano in the bowl of a food processof and puree until creamy, about 2 minutes. With the food processor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream and continue to process until a smooth creamy sauce forms. Transfer to a bowl and add the ricotta, mixing with a spoon to incorporate it into the sauce. The mixture should be smooth but fairly dense. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pansotti for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they’re soft and pliable.

Meanwhile, transfer the sauce to a 12-inch skillet, add the heavy cream and stir to incorporate over medium-low heat, 2 to 3 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

Drain the pansotti, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and toss them with the sauce. If the sauce seems too dry, add the cooking water 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time. Serve immediately.

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