My current favorite Italian place in New York is Porsena. The chef, Sara Jenkins makes the most delicious pastas modeled after the simple restaurants from her time living in Tuscany and Rome. Every time I have friends in town I bring them there and I just had a big client dinner there last week. Everyone loved it. My favorite pasta from Porsena is the ring shaped pasta with spicy lamb sausage and mustard greens. I don't like spicy food and this dish made me actually like a little kick in my food. The pasta is a large ring shape that almost looks like a calamari. The flavors are married together beautifully and it's finished with just a hint of cream.
This dish gave me the inspiration to try and interpret on my own but with my twist. For a while I've wanted to make homemade raviolis or tortellinis but never had the right inspiration beyond spinach and ricotta which didn't seem unique at all. But lamb would be something unique and with kale and ricotta, I thought I would have something yummy.
I've seen a lot of chefs use wonton wrappers for stuffed pasta dishes so I used them for my tortelloni (tortelloni is just larger sized tortellini and usually filled with a leafy green) because I wanted a light and thin pasta and the fresh pasta noodles at Whole Foods seemed a little too heavy.
I used ground lamb and seasoned it with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, flavors that I've seen in pasticcio, a Greek lasagna made with lamb, bechamel and noodles. As for the kale, well I have a new love for it. It's good for me and has a mild taste and wouldn't compete with the lamb.
I'm going to be honest and say this was a time-consuming thing to make. Most of my recipes are relatively easy and quick to make and while I don't think there's a high degree of difficulty with this tortelloni recipe, it takes time. But the good news is that the recipe will yield about 3 dozen tortelloni and you can freeze them. Just add an extra minute or two in cooking time and you'll have fresh pasta any night of the week.
Here's what you'll need:
One large bunch of kale
3/4 pound of ground lamb
1 15 ounce container of part-skim ricotta cheese
1-2 packages of wonton wrappers
2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 large yellow onion diced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
organic chicken broth
Wash and dry the kale leaves and remove the leaves from the tough stems. Steam for about 10 minutes until cooked through and cool. Then squeeze out the water by placing handfuls of the kale in paper towels. Chop it finely.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the garlic and onion. Sautee for 5 minutes until softened and add the ground lamb. Break the lamb apart with a large wooden spoon to ensure that the meat browns evenly. Add the oregano, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Once cooked through, drain the lamb over a few paper towels so that it absorbs the fat. Set the lamb aside to cool and in a large bowl, beat one egg and add the ricotta and kale. Mix well and then add the lamb.
Now take a small spoonful of the mixture and place it in the middle of the wonton sheet. Take the second egg and beat it lightly, adding a splash of water. This will be your egg wash to seal the edges of the tortelloni so that the filling doesn't leak.
Brush the egg wash along all four edges, folding over once diagonally to make a triangle. Then take the two corners and fold over each other, using egg wash to seal them tightly. The tortelloni should look like a little bishop hats.
Boil these in water for about 2-3 minutes. The tortelloni are done cooking when they float to the top of the pot. In the meantime, heat a little chicken broth (about 1/4 cup per serving) in a pan and add the tortelloni. Finish with a dollop of creme fraiche and stir to combine and make a creamy sauce.
If you don't like creamy sauces, a tomato one would be lovely as well. Mangia!