This is a dish we first had on our honeymoon in Florence, and I’ve been planning to have a go at recreating it ever since. Homemade tortellini filled with chicken, pork, thyme and nutmeg are served up in a fragrant chicken broth sprinkled with parmesan, for a seriously comforting winter dish. Of course, this one is a little bit more hassle than usual because it requires making your own stock (try my amazing Homemade Chicken Stock) and your own pasta – but I promise that neither is as tricky as it sounds, and it’s all totally, totally worth it. However, if you haven’t got the time to spare, you could substitute a good quality shop-bought chicken stock. Making your own pasta is also much easier than it sounds, and as a bonus, you always end up with spare egg whites which you can use to make a delicious meringue for dessert – so it’s a full Italian feast. Tune in to my blog next week to get my fabulous new meringue recipe.
- For the pasta:
- 2 small eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- 250g strong white flour
- For the filling:
- 2 chicken breasts (about 300g)
- 150g pork mince
- A handful of breadcrumbs
- A good pinch of salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- To serve:
- Homemade chicken stock
- Fresh thyme
Once you’ve made the pasta dough, it needs to rest in the fridge, so it’s best to make it in the morning and then pop it in the fridge ready to make the tortellini later. Start by weighing out the flour. Make a mound on a large plate and then create a well in the centre. Crack the two eggs into the well and add the four egg yolks (don’t forget to keep the egg whites for meringue – make sure you don’t get any egg yolk in them, or the meringue won’t work properly). Use a fork to gradually bring the flour into the centre and mix with the eggs, until you start to get a dough that holds together. Then remove it from the plate and knead on a clean surface until you have a smooth, elastic dough that isn’t sticky. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for a few hours.
When you’re ready to make the pasta, start with the filling. Use a food processor to break down the chicken, and then mix thoroughly with the pork mince, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and thyme.
Next, divide the prepared dough into six pieces. Use a pasta machine to roll out the first piece, moving step by step from the thickest to the thinnest setting. Then cut the sheet of pasta into squares about two inches on a side. Place a small spoonful of filling in the middle of a square, dampen the edges with a finger dipped in water, and then fold over to make a triangle.
Pinch the edges to seal, and then bring the two outside points across the bulge of the filling in the middle and pinch again to seal. Place on a plate dusted with flour (this part is really important, as fresh pasta does like to stick!) and repeat with the rest of the squares, then continue with the rest of the dough – I find it’s best to do the whole process with each piece of dough, rather than making lots of pasta sheets, because otherwise they’ll dry out. Don’t worry about getting the tortellini right the first time – there’s an old proverb from Bologna that says "Il primo tortellino non riesce mai perfetto", or “The first tortellino is never perfect” (so even the Italians get it wrong sometimes).
Before you start cooking the tortellini, pour your homemade chicken broth into a saucepan, add a good pinch of salt and a handful of fresh thyme, and warm slowly on a medium heat, until the surface of the liquid starts to seethe, then cover and turn the heat down. To cook the tortellini, half-fill a large saucepan with water, salt well, and bring to the boil. Drop the tortellini into the boiling water and cook for about five minutes. Drain and divide between pasta bowls, then ladle the fragrant broth over and top with a few more sprigs of fresh thyme and some grated parmesan.