Every once in a while, you've gotta pull out all the stops. You've got to roll your own pasta and spend an afternoon carefully folding it around spoonfuls of creamy cheese while gazing out the window and listening to This American Life. Then you have to serve this handmade tortellini as its very own course at an extra-special dinner party. And serve it simply — not buried in a rich ragu, but with a few ladles of good Parmesan-infused broth so everyone can taste how amazing these little pasta dumplings truly are. Trust me on this one. It's worth it.
Think of this dish as a first course. A small plate. Rather than filling you up, it's meant to set the stage for the rest of the meal still to come. This is one that I like to plate in the kitchen and the carry to the table to place before each guest. The aroma of the warm Parmesan broth drifts up from each bowl and never fails to elicit a deep and heartfelt, "Ahhhh!"
This is actually a surprisingly un-fussy dish to make for a dinner party. The tortellini can be made several days (or even up to three months) ahead and frozen. The broth just needs to simmer for about a half an hour and then you cook the tortellini right in the infused broth.
Because this dish is so simple, I think it's important to use good ingredients. If you have some containers of homemade stock in the back of your fridge, now is the time to bring them out. If you're buying broth, make sure it's a brand that you like and that you think tastes good on its own. Likewise, if you buy tortellini (which is totally acceptable!), spring for the good stuff, especially if you have a local business making good handmade pasta.
A simple pasta dish, but one with big impact. I think that you — and your guests — will love this one as much as I do.
Three-Cheese Tortellini in Parmesan Broth
Makes about 1 pound tortellini, serves 8
- For the tortellini (or substitute 1 pound prepared tortellini):
(1 cup) ricotta cheese
(about 1/2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
(about 1/2 cup) grated asiago cheese
Homemade Pasta (See Recipe Notes)
- For the broth:
chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
Parmesan cheese rinds (1"x3"x1/4" each or equivalent size and thickness)
garlic cloves, smashed
salt, to taste
chopped parsley, to garnish
For the tortellini, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, asiago, parsley, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside. Fill a small bowl with water and set it near your work space.
Divide the pasta dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, run the dough through a pasta roller on progressively thinner settings until you have a sheet of paper-thin pasta. (Setting #6 on a KitchenAide pasta roller attachment.) Cut the sheet into rounds using a 3" round cutter, spacing the rounds as close together as possible. Gather the scraps into a ball and put them with the remaining pieces of dough to re-roll later.
Place 1 teaspoon of ricotta filling in the middle of each round of pasta. Dip your finger in the bowl of water and run it along the edge of the round to moisten. Fold the dough over to form a half moon, then draw the two corners together to form a rounded bonnet-shape. Press tightly to seal. Toss with flour, set aside on well-floured baking sheet, and cover. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough, re-rolling the scraps. Makes about 50-55 tortellinis.
→ For a more detailed descriptions and pictures of shaping the tortellini, see How to Make Homemade Tortellini.
To make the broth, bring the stock to a rapid boil in a 4-quart pot or larger. Add the cheese rinds, garlic cloves, and bay leaf. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Pour the broth through a strainer into a large bowl to remove the solids and then return the strained broth to the pot. Taste the broth and add a teaspoon of salt if desired.
Set the broth over medium-high heat and bring to a low boil. Lower the tortellini into the broth a few at a time. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the tortellini are floating on top of the broth. Scoop them out of the broth with a slotted spoon and divide between serving bowls. Pour a few ladles of broth into each bowl and top with a sprinkle of parsley. Serve immediately.
This recipe only uses a half batch of our usual 3-egg pasta recipe. You can either make a full batch of dough and freeze the unused portion, or you can double the amount of filling and make a double batch of tortellini to eat now or freeze for later, as described below. (Frozen balls of pasta dough should be thawed overnight in the fridge before rolling.)
The tortellini can be made up to three months ahead. Freeze them on a sheet pan and transfer to a freezer-safe container once solid. Cook directly from the freezer, but increase the cooking time by a minute or two.
Substitute 1 pound of prepared pasta for the homemade tortellini in this recipe.
(Images: Emma Christensen)