About a year ago, my colleagues Dario Melossi and Máximo Sozzo invited me to an academic workshop in Bologna, and I had a fantastic time! We talked about the political economy of punishment and, in the evenings, I took in art films in Piazza Maggiore, the historical town square, enjoyed a superb opera mini-production at the Basilica di San Petronio, perused the wonderful bookstores, and enjoyed the phenomenal university museums (I have especially vivid memories from this terrific exhibit about the colonization of African art.) And, of course, we ate a lot, because Bologna is as much a food town as it is a university town. One of the restaurants near my hotel bore the sign “sempre aperto,” which seemed apt for the entire city–fresh pasta available at any moment. The tortellini, a city specialty, were especially wonderful, though it was quite a challenge to find vegan pasta! I had the good fortune to take two wonderful pasta-making workshops, one with hilarious and energetic restaurateur Antonio and the other with cosmopolitan and compassionate Sara, and could not wait to get home and veganize the recipes.
This took a bit longer than expected, because of kid and job, but today I decided to finally do it. These are not 100% faithful to the traditional recipe. For one thing, they are vegan (the traditional recipe is 100g flour per 1 egg); for another, the fillings are my versions for the tasty treats I ate there. And, importantly, I did not use the recommended “tipo 00” pastry flour, but whole grain einkorn flour.
Forget what you know about horribly-textured whole-wheat pasta; einkorn works wonderfully in this recipe. The flour came from Bluebird Grain Farms. I picked it because it had low gluten content, and therefore would be better in this sort of recipe than as a standalone in a sourdough loaf (I’ll mix it with something more gluten-filled, like rye or bread flour, when I make a loaf.) It turned out fantastic–nutty, complex flavors, fresh and delicious fillings, and lots of leftovers that freeze well. I made two versions – it’s a little more difficult to make the tortellini, but you pick up dexterity as you go along.
I made these as a nice vehicle for the new shiitake mushrooms that are popping out of my mini-farm. I’m growing four different kinds of edible mushrooms in our downstairs bathroom from kits by Far West Fungi and it’s one of the most enjoyable homegrown food projects I’ve done. We’re fascinated by the process and the mushrooms are incredibly fresh and flavorful. This is not a quick thing to make, but it’s very gratifying. Be your own hero and give it a try!
- 300g whole einkorn flour
- 150g water
- 2 1/2 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
Place flour and salt in a large bowl; shape a hill and make a well in the middle. Drizzle the water and olive oil in the middle, gradually pinching in more and more of the flour. When the dry and wet ingredients are mixed, knead for about five minutes. You’ll have a beautiful, smooth, pliable and stretchy ball of dough. Wrap in foil, or in an eco bag, and place in fridge for at least half an hour.
Filling 1: Shiitakes
- 3 cups fresh mushrooms–I used shiitake
- 1/4 white onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp mushroom powder (Trader Joe’s makes a nice product–any brand would do, or you can omit this entirely)
- 1/2 tsp truffle salt
- 2 tbsp Miyoko’s cream cheese (plain) or other nut cheese
Place mushrooms, onion, and garlic in a food processor bowl and process to break into little bits. Heat up olive oil in a pan and add the processed mushroom mixture. Add mushroom powder and truffle salt. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked and the whole thing tastes wonderful. Transfer to mixing bowl and refrigerate. Once it cools, mix with cream cheese.
Filling 2: Kale
- 1 package (approx. 10 large leaves) kale
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp Bitchin’ Sauce or other spicy nut cheese
Remove kale stems and place leaves in food processor bowl. Process to break into tiny bits. Heat up olive oil and sauté garlic for 30 seconds. Add the kale and sauté for 5-7 mins, until soft. Transfer to mixing bowl and refrigerate. Once it cools, mix with Bitchin’ Sauce or any nut cheese you like. If you only have plain, you can season it to taste.
Get dough ball out of the fridge and prepare a large floured surface and a roller pin. Divide ball into two halves. Roll one half very thin and slice into 2 1/2-inch squares. Gently spoon about 1/2 tsp of shiitake filling in the middle, fold diagonally into a triangle and press ends. Now, wrap the two bottom corners of the triangle around your finger, like a ring, and press together. That’s the traditional tortellini shape. Keep going until you’re out of dough/filling.
Now, roll the other half of the dough very thin and, with a regular-sized mason jar, cut circles. Gently spoon 1/2 tsp of kale filling in the middle, fold down the middle into a half circle, press the circumference, and gently press in a fork to create cute ridges. Refrigerate (or freeze).
Boil water in a middle-sized pot. When water reaches a rolling boil, gently place pasta in the water. Allow to cook 3-4 minutes or until the pasta floats, then remove with a slotted spoon. Serve with a light cashew cream sauce, Bitchin’ Sauce, or just olive oil and garlic.