Friday, 2 September 2011

Pan Handler

Tortellini con Sedano, Sambuca e Olive Nere
Tortellini with Celery, Sambuca and Black Olives

It is almost unbelievable, considering I have been writing this blog for almost 6 months now, that I haven't yet shared one of my "signature dishes" with you. My friends here tend to call it "Tortellini alla Francesco" and it is a big favorite, as it is another sure-fire, "un- messuppable" dishes! And this is the way it goes...

I make my tortellini in any number of variations, but the method that I use on "fresh" kind, is always the same. And no- I didn't make the tortellini- these were store-bought, pork-filled tortellini. I started off by making the finest dice of carrot, onion and celery that I could- a so-called "sofritto", which is the base of almost every sauce or stock used in the Italian cuisine. Being as this dish was going to be celery based, I improvised a little and just used the onion and carrot. You don't need much- maybe a half an onion and half a carrot- either do an ultra-fine dice... or if you can't manage it- grate them. I won't tell!

Fry them at a mild heat with some chopped Pancetta or bacon for 3-4 minutes and then add the tortellini and some celery that has been sliced at an angle, to the dry pan. Add a drizzle of olive oil and turn up the heat, so that they actually begin to brown a little. Now de-glaze the frying pan with a good shot of Sambuca and a glass of white wine... pretty yummy already! Add some crushed garlic and some spring onions, grate with nutmeg, add the olives and a cup or so of water. Season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes. After this time, the liquids will have been absorbed by the tortellini and the starch they give off during the cooking time will make them silky-smooth and delicious. The trick is to try to judge the amount of liquid, so that it all gets absorbed during cooking.

I decided to enjoy mine with no further embellishments than a final light drizzle of olive oil and a sprig of basil as a garnish. But a fine dice of tomato and a little Parmesan or salted Ricotta would also work really well. The subtle anis flavor harmonizes wonderfully with the celery, the bacon adds depth and a smoky, savory component and the olives give the whole dish a strong Mediterranean character and a nice contrast and balance to the round the whole dish off. And all that is left for you to do... is to eat it and enjoy!

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