Imported from The Infatuated Foodie blog #1
Anyone old enough to remember the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street in the ’80s and ’90s will possibly remember Bakers Cafe.
And anyone who went to Bakers, may well have ordered this dish’s namesake: the Tortellini Meanie. It’s my version of this iconic (for some) dish and the name is just too good to change.
I was first introduced to this conglomeration of tortellini with a feisty, chilli infused, creamy avocado sauce by friends I met while a drama student in Launceston, Tasmania. Hailing from Melbourne and studying in Tasmania, one or other of them often went home for weekend visits and it was mandatory to head to stop by Bakers on the way to the airport to pick up a steaming take away container of the Meanie for the other to enjoy back in Launceston.
I was never privy to this moment of eating ecstasy in Tasmania, however did experience the Meanie a few times in situ at Bakers. But now Bakers is gone, warm avocado is unfashionable and this wonderful little plate of floury carbohydrates and fat is every gluten intolerant-paleo-low-carb-dieter’s nightmare. Except for once in a while. Indulge. It’s really worth it.
Filled pasta is also a great way to use up leftovers. In this version, leftover roast chicken was used, which was great. You can look around the net or through your cookbooks for other fillings if you wish, but for this little post, it’s what I did. For a vegetarian version, just change the chicken into spinach and you have a wonderful veggie filled pasta.
Just a note before I launch into recipe writing mode: the avocado is not cooked, it is just warmed through. I repeat: NEVER allow the avocado to cook – it will be horrible. All it needs is a minute in the sauce to gently warm through before dishing out onto your pillows of filled pasta. It’s also a wonderful sauce for simple poached chicken breasts or any other sort of pasta too.
The following recipe is dedicated to the late Bakers Cafe, Brunswick Street and in honour of ’80s retro food. This recipe serves 2-4 people, depending on how hungry they are. (My husband eats as much as 3 people in a sitting and remains the size of a beanpole, so I made it for the 2 of us.) Enjoy.
Let’s get cooking
For the pasta
225 grams 00 flour
75 grams fine semolina flour
3 lovely free range eggs
generous pinch of sea salt
If you’re a traditionalist, you’ll pop the flour on a bench and make a well in the centre, then break your eggs in before working it all with your hands.
I’m not, so I bunged the flour and salt into my Kitchen Aid’s mixing bowl, made a well in the centre, broke the eggs into the bowl and bought it all together with the magic of electricity and a dough hook. Mix the dough for a few minutes until most of the flour is incorporated, then tip it onto a clean work surface and work the rest of the flour in by hand.
Continue kneading until the dough is fairly smooth – about five minutes. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for half an hour to rest.
For the filling
300 grams leftover roast chicken
200 grams ricotta cheese
60 grams finely grated grana padano
torn flat leaf parsley – about 1/4 cup
freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, to taste
Remove the chicken meat from the bones, tear it up and place into a food processor. Tear the parsley leaves into the processor, then add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until it’s a smooth consistency. If it’s a little dry, just add some more ricotta. Taste and adjust seasoning or add more parmesan to taste.
Place into a bowl and pop into the fridge, covered until ready to fill your pasta.
Roll the pasta
I really must get myself a pasta attachment for my KitchenAid, because it’s tricky rolling pasta on one’s own. But as husband was busy, I managed for a while, then he came and helped. Phew.
Flatten the first piece a little and then start on the thickest setting of the pasta roller. Roll it through. Fold in half and roll again.
Progressively reduce the thickness of the rollers, folding and rolling through at each thickness each time.
The dough will become silky and smooth to the touch, plus strong and flexible.
It’s ready to use when it’s been rolled through the thinnest setting a few times.
Make the Tortellini
Using a scone or dough cutter, press rounds from the pasta and place a little large hazelnut-size ball of filling on top. Dip your finger in water and run around the outside, then fold in half, pressing the edges together to seal. Sort of fold in half again, then turn back on itself and stretch around your finger to form a little hat, pressing together to seal.
Or you could just make ravioli or any sort of filled shape you know how to make.
As each little parcel is made, pop it into a tea towel with a little semolina so it doesn’t stick together, then cover with the towel and spray lightly with water to ensure it doesn’t dry out too much.
You probably don’t need to do this, but it worked for me.
Now place a large pot of water onto the stove with a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.
For the sauce
2 ripe avocados, roughly chopped into 1cm cubes
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 birdseye chillis, sliced into rounds (you could omit the chilli, but it would then be a Tortellini Dreamy, not a meanie)
About 1 tablespoon olive oil (aka a good slosh)
1/2 cup pouring cream*
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
When the water has reached boiling point, start making your sauce. Warm the olive oil in a heavy-based pan and add the garlic and chilli and gently warm through. DO NOT LET THEM BURN! If you brown or burn the garlic, you will need to start again.
Add the cream, season to taste and bring to a gentle simmer. If it starts to reduce too much, just top up with more cream.
Once the water’s boiling rapidly, place your tortellini in and give a good stir. Pop the lid on for a minute or two to help the water return to the boil. Remove the lid and let boil for 5 or so minutes, until the pasta is soft, but still firm. Don’t overcook, it will become rubbery.
Remove from the water and drain well.
Once pasta is cooked, add the chopped avocado to the creamy sauce and stir gently until just warmed through.
Place the servings of tortellini into bowls and cover generously with the sauce.
Top with extra grated parmesan, salt and pepper and serve with a lovely glass of Italian red.
TIP: To have a supply of fresh cheese to hand, I buy large wedges of grana padano, which I blitz in the food processor until really fine, then freeze in tubs. It’s really easy to just shake up and spoon out as you need it.
Alternatively, if you buy from a deli that can finely grate for you, then ask them to do that. (The Mediterranean Wholesalers in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick is one place that will do that for you.)
*I use non-thickened pouring cream that’s available in most supermarkets in a small carton. You could also use thicker dolloping pure cream mixed with milk – about 1/2-1/2. I never buy thickened cream.