Orecchiette Pasta and Homemade Sweet Ricotta Calzoni from Matera – European Capital of Culture 2019

Thanks to Riccardo Casarico Photo for this scenic view of Matera – Italy

With this recipe we would like to celebrate the unique and appealing city of Matera, well known as the Stone City, and located in the Basilicata region – Southern Italy. This year Matera was awarded as the European Capital of Culture 2019, thanks to its unique beauty and history. Matera is famous worldwide for its Sassi: stone houses carved out of the caves and cliffs, dating back 7000 years ago. The best way to enjoy this surprising city is to get lost in the many alleys of this ancient part of the town. You will be surprised by the amount of churches, historical buildings and houses carved into the rock.

Thanks Rosanna and her sweet Mamma for giving us this delicious recipe from Matera. Traditionally, this dish is seasoned with a succulent pork meat tomato ragout and it’s prepared to celebrate the Mardi Gras lunch. In our version we made it easier to prepare, but not less tasty, as we seasoned it with a tomato sauce.

orecchiette & calzoni1

INGREDIENTS for 8 servings:

500 g Orecchiette fresh pasta
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

For the calzoni dough:
warm water, around 1 and 1/2 ladle
1 egg + 1 egg white
250 g semola flour
250 g flour
salt

For the filling:
600 g fresh ricotta
1 egg yolk
1 organic lemon zest
2 1\2 tbs sugar
a pinch of salt
grated nutmeg, to taste

For the tomato sauce:
600 gr of tomato puree
1 small onion, finely sliced
3-4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
salt
basil leaves


For the tomato sauce: put the olive oil in a heavy pot and turn on the stove at medium heat. Add the finely sliced onions. Let it sauté for a few minutes while stirring with a wooden spoon, until soften. Add the tomato puree, ½ glass of water and salt. Cover with a lid and let simmer for approximately 15-20 min. All along the process, check if the sauce is too thick or if it is condensing on the bottom. In this case, add a bit of water and stir. If the sauce is a too acid, add a pinch of sugar. When the sauce is ready, add the basil leaves.

For the filling: if the ricotta is watery, put it in a sieve and leave it to drain. In a bowl put the drained ricotta, sugar, egg yolk, salt, lemon zest and grated nutmeg. Squeeze the lemon and with a spoon mix the ingredients all together until obtaining a smooth cream.

For the calzoni dough: on a wooden working surface pour the flours. Make a big hole in the middle of the flour and add the eggs (1 egg and 1 egg white) and salt.  With a fork start mixing the eggs and the flour. Then knead using your hands and add about a ladle of water a little at a time. Continue to knead until the dough starts to be smooth and silky. If the dough is still crumbly, just wet your hands and continue kneading to obtain a soft dough. If the dough is too sticky, then add more flour.

Cut a piece of dough (work with small portions at a time and leave the rest covered with a damp clean tea towel). Flatten the dough out a bit and then roll it out with a pasta maker – machine  until obtaining a thin sheet. Repeat this process until the dough is smooth. Then gradually decrease the setting until you achieve a thickness of about 1.5 mm. Dust your work surface with some flour and lay the sheet on the table.

Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling lengthwise on the rectangle of dough, about 3-5 cm apart on half the sheet of pasta. Repeat every 4 cm. Fold the unfilled half over the filling. With your fingers press the air out of each filling. Make sure to seal the edges of pasta firmly (lightly brush a little water around the filling, before folding the pasta). By using a round pastry cutter (4 cm diameter) cut out the calzoni

With a toothpick make 2 holes on each calzone to press out all of the remaining air.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the salt and then pour the orecchiette into the water. Check the orecchiette package for the cooking time. Three or four minute before the orecchiette are ready, add the calzoni.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the calzoni rise to the surface and are al dente. Drain the pasta and pour it in a bowl. Season with a ladle of the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Pour into serving plates and add more tomato sauce. Serve topped with a handful of grated Parmesan.

Francesca & Marinella

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