This recipe comes from The River Café in London. I rediscovered it during “La Quarantina” of Covid-19. It’s comforting and easy to make if you don’t mind making your own pasta, which is something I love to do. A Tuscan recipe with spinach and fresh ricotta; it has the flair of a Florentine Renaissance banquet, yet simple enough to make at home when you have cooked two meals a day for 50 days. Do the math. Digging through the archives for inspiration becomes a favorite pastime.
The filling could be made ahead, but I like to make my pasta on the spot. It does need to rest for 20 minutes though.
For the fresh pasta:
350g (12oz) 00 pasta flour or plain white flour, plus a little extra for dusting
¼ tsp sea salt
2 large eggs, plus 4 large egg yolks
approx 50g (1¾oz) medium semolina flour, for dusting
For the filling:
20g (¾oz) butter
½ red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 handful fresh marjoram
800g (1lb 12oz) fresh spinach, blanched and chopped
65g (2oz) dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm to hot water for 15-20 minutes
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
225g (8oz) field mushrooms, coarsely sliced
approx 350g (12oz) fresh ricotta cheese
65g (2oz) parmesan, freshly grated
freshly grated nutmeg
For the sage butter:
225g (8oz) unsalted butter
1 bunch sage, leaves only
extra grated parmigiano reggiano
Put the flour and salt in a mixer or processor and add the eggs and yolks. (you are also welcome to do it by hand). Pulse until the dough begins to come together into a loose ball. Knead until smooth – about three minutes – on a surface lightly dusted with the semolina and a little extra flour. If the dough is very stiff and difficult to knead, put it back in the processor and blend in another whole egg. Knead into a ball, set aside under a dampish cloth for at least 20 minutes and up to two hours.
For the filling, heat the butter and fry the onion until soft, then add the marjoram and spinach. Stir, season, then cool. Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid. Wash to remove grit. Heat the oil and fry the garlic gently for a few minutes. Add the field mushrooms, stirring, and cook fast for five minutes. Add the porcini and fry gently for 20 minutes, occasionally adding a little of the porcini liquid to make the mushrooms moist, but not wet. Season and cool. When cold, chop roughly.
Put the ricotta in a large bowl, break it up lightly with a fork, then add the spinach mixture, parmesan and a generous amount of nutmeg. Season if necessary. Set aside.
On a work surface dusted with semolina flour, roll the pasta by hand into a large sheet, as thin as possible – it does not matter if there are a few holes or tears. Cut the edges to straighten. You should have a piece about 30cm (12in) square.
Spoon the mushroom mixture along the edge of the pasta nearest to you, in a line about 3cm (1¼in) wide. Cover the rest of the pasta with the spinach and ricotta mixture to a thickness of about 0.5-1cm (¼-½in). Starting with the mushroom edge, gently roll the pasta into a large sausage.
Place the roll on a large clean tea towel or cheese cloth and wrap as tightly as you can, so it looks like a tootsie roll. Secure with string on each end.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to the boil. Add salt and the pasta roll, cover and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, according to the thickness of the roll – ours are usually 6-7cm (2½-2¾in) in diameter.
For the sage butter, heat the butter gently so that it separates. Pour out the clarified butter, return it to the heat and, when very hot, add the sage for a second or two. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Unwrap the tea towel, place the pasta on a board and cut into 1cm (½in) slices. Serve with extra grated parmesan and some sage butter.