So the recipe was selected, Lovely easy caramelle with ricotta, basil and black olives, care of Cook with Jamie, by Jamie Oliver. There was no turning back, I had no choice but to roll up my sleeves and get elbow deep in flour......I confess I have made pasta once before, without much success, it was about 3 times too thick and an official disaster. So when Mr Hooper announced the recipe, I was filled with dread. But I was determined to get it right, I got into the Italian Mama zone and started cracking eggs.
I found Jamie Olivers' recipe for pasta very good, and easy to follow, I think its best you go straight to the link for instructions from a pro. They are based on using a machine, and I used my arms, so my one tip is to roll, roll and roll some more, you want to be able to read a newspaper through the sheet, especially for pasta that is to be made into a parcel. I broke the dough into small lumps, as I was using my large wooden chopping board, so was limited on space. I also found this blog on Ciao Chow Linda really useful and very detailed.
The filling was delicious, and really easy to make.
To make 4-6 serves you will need...
250g RICOTTA (the recipe calls for buffalo, but my supermarket didn't have this)
a large bunch of BASIL, leaves picked
1/4 of a NUTMEG, grated (1/4 tsp of nutmeg powder would suffice or to taste)
a small handful of BLACK OLIVES pitted and chopped (about 10)
2 handfuls of PARMESAN CHEESE, grated
SALT and BLACK PEPPER to taste
extra virgin OLIVE OIL
Finely chop the basil leaves, reserving the small delicate leaves for garnishing. Put half this chopped basil into a bowl with the ricotta, nutmeg, olives and half the Parmesan. Season to taste and add a splash of evoo (I have been watching way too much Rachel Ray!), and the filling is done.
Now you are ready to fill your parcels. Cut the pasta into 10cm x 6cm rectangles. Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle and brush the edges lightly with water. Roll up and pinch hard at each end to secure. Keep on a flour-dusted tray in the fridge until you need them. Cook as fresh as possible. We guessed that Caramelle means it looks like a lolly in a wrapper, and it does...Italian Candy apparently.
So now its time for the sauce. You will need...
2 knobs of BUTTER
2 cloves of GARLIC, peeled and finely sliced
400g of the ripest TOMATOES, halved, deseeded and roughly chopped
the rest of the chopped BASIL
Gently heat the butter with a splash of olive oil in a saucepan. When the butter gets foamy, add the garlic and the remaining chopped basil, wait a minute and then throw in the tomatoes. Bring them to the brink of boiling and then turn down to a gently simmer for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes have softened. Taste and season, add a dash of balsamic vinegar. The sauce is good to go, it will smell so splendid, nobody will be able to resist salivating in anticipation.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the caramelle gently, cook for 2-3 minutes. They should all be floating. Scoop them out carefully with a slotted spoon, I was too scared to use a colander for fear of dismantling my wonderful little packages. Put the pasta into the sauce and gently toss about, throw in the last handful of parmesan cheese, give it one more gentle shake and pop on the lid. By the time you have filled up the wine glasses and grabbed some plates the meal is ready to serve. Sprinkle with the little basil leaves for delicious perfection.
I don't have a photo of the finished product, my photos of food once the sun has gone down, look horrendous, so I don't want to put you off. But take me word for it, this was delicious.
If you have a spare afternoon, I think everyone should have a crack at pasta, it is not as hard as you think its going to be, and my under arm dangle is way less dangley because of it.