When I was workshopping this dish for Misi, the premise was simple: turn the classic spinach and ricotta filling on its head, making the greens, not the cheese, the star. Cheese being cheese, it’s hard to replace its texture and flavor and not miss it. But I thought back a few decades to my time with Wayne Nish at March. He used to do a brown butter and spinach puree that tasted like complex creamed spinach. I combine that puree with a fifty-fifty split of ricotta and mascarpone, the latter of which is denser and slightly sweeter.
The dish has become, far and away, the most popular pasta at Misi, finding an addictive intersection of sweet, savory, and salty that always catches people by surprise. In fact, I don’t think anyone means to eat a whole portion themselves, but it happens more often than not. I’ve even seen guests on such a pasta high that they’ve “encored” this dish for dessert.
You’ll need the Fresh Egg Pasta Dough recipe to make the pasta from scratch.
Note: Whipped Ricotta
This is my way to get a smooth, silky texture from the ricotta—to will the chalkiness out of it. The technique is all about bringing new intrigue to a familiar ingredient. To whip it, put the ricotta into a food processor and pulse just until it is as smooth as cake frosting and has a sheen, being careful not to process it longer or it will break. I always recommend processing a batch larger than what I need for a recipe. Spoon the excess into a pastry bag and pipe it onto toast or use it on desserts. I assure you it won’t go to waste.
Spinach and Ricotta-Filled Tortelli with Brown Butter and Ricotta Salata
For the Filling
- 114 grams (4 cups) Swiss chard leaves
- 114 grams (3 cups) loosely packed baby spinach
- 171 grams (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 116 grams (1/2 cup) ricotta, (see whipped ricotta note in headnote)
- 112 grams (1/2 cup) mascarpone
- 45 grams (1/2 cup) finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
- Salt, q.b. (quanto basta "as needed")
- 1 batch Fresh Pasta Egg Dough (see recipe in headnote)
- 28 grams (2 Tbsp) olive oil
- 5 grams (1 clove) garlic, thinly sliced
- 75 grams (5 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 1 small (57 grams / 2 oz) piece ricotta salata
To Make the Spaghetti
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and generously dust with semolina. Follow the recipe for extruded dough.
- When the machine has warmed and the pasta is properly extruding, gently pull on the pasta to ensure that it comes out evenly in a straight line (you want to avoid the pasta curling as it comes out of the extruder) and lightly dust with semolina.
- Use a bench scraper to cut the spaghetti into 18-inch lengths, then curl into a horseshoe shape and place in one layer on the prepared sheet pan.
- Let the pasta dry for 2 to 6 hours, until it has very little give and has semi-hardened. If not using right away, cover the sheet pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 36 hours.
Make the Puttanesca Sauce
- To make the sauce, place a heavy sauce pot or Dutch oven over low heat. Add the olive oil and garlic and gently cook until aromatic but without color,10 to 15 seconds.
- Add the anchovies and stir to incorporate. Cook, stirring, until they start to dissolve into the oil, about 30 seconds.
- Add the chile flakes, followed by the tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, until the oil takes on a reddish hue, 30 to 45 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes and their juice and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat up to medium-low and cook at a slow simmer until the rawness of the tomatoes is cooked out and the flavors have melded, 30 to 45 minutes. You are not looking to reduce the sauce.
- Remove from the heat and add the olives and capers and stir to incorporate. Season with salt q.b. (Go easy, as olives, anchovies, and capers provide a lot of salinity.)
- Measure out 540g / 2¼ cups sauce and set aside. Transfer the remainder to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for another use.
- To finish, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water.
- Add the spaghetti to the water and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, place a large sauté pan over low heat. Add the sauce.
- Using tongs or a pasta basket, remove the pasta from the pot and transfer to the sauté pan. Turn the heat up to medium. Toss for 1 to 2 minutes to marry the pasta and the sauce. If the sauce begins to tighten, add a splash of pasta cooking water to loosen. When the pasta is properly married, it will cling to the sauce and have a glossy sheen.
- Divide the pasta into bowls.