Late last year I was in a few episodes of a reality tv cooking show that aired earlier this year in Australia. I probably shouldn’t mention the name of the show however there are three judges on it called George, Gary and Matt. The top 50 audition was pretty memorable for me in that whilst at the cooking station and in front of the cameras and the audience, I started singing the song “Volare” whilst I was rolling pasta. I don’t know what came over me – it was purely spontaneous. I had a ball at the audition – though they edited my singing out. I think they liked my cooking better than my singing!
There was a one hour time limit for the audition dish. In planning the dish I considered what technique might impress the judges and I felt that making pasta demonstrated my focus on Italian cooking. The recipe was agnolotti (pronounced ah-gno-loh-tee) stuffed with peas and crispy pancetta served in a chicken brodo (broth). The challenge of the one hour dish was making the pasta and making the chicken broth. Making pasta was relatively easy – throw the ingredients into a blender, whizz them up, knead it a bit then let it rest for 20 minutes before putting it through a pasta machine to make sheets of pasta. I made simple agnolotti (circles folded in half) rather than slightly trickier tortellini (which are in some of the photos), which would have taken more time. Having only one hour to make chicken broth was more of a challenge. Campbell’s store bought stock would never do, so I got a container from the chicken shop at the Prahran market, then added some chicken wings, a carrot and a stick of celery. I let that simmer for about half an hour and it was a good alternative for when you don’t have time to make it from scratch (my usual recipe for brodo is below – recipe from the Silver Spoon).
The agnolotti filling I made was bright green – baby peas cooked with garlic then mashed up, a bit of crispy pancetta added and lots of grated parmigiano cheese. That did not take take too long and after all, I was only making one serving for the judges to taste. Well – they liked it and put me in the top 50. I am sure you will like the recipe as well – it will take a bit longer than an hour to make the four portions as per the recipe below. Please feel free to sing in the comfort of your kitchen while cooking!
Agnolotti with peas and pancetta in chicken broth
300g flour 00 type (plus more for pasta rolling)
3 small eggs
1 clove garlic, crushed
150g frozen baby peas
50g mild pancetta, in one thick slice, diced
1 small egg beaten lightly
50g Parmigiano cheese, grated
Handful or fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for cooking
1 whole organic chicken, cut into 8 pieces and skin and visible fat removed
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 stick celery, washed and cut into chunks
Start by making the stock: place all ingredients in a large pot with a lid and bring to the boil. Simmer for at least 2 hours, covered, skimming off the fat every now and then. Strain the broth through a wire mesh, allow to cool and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, you will see that a layer of fat has solidified over the top. Remove and discard this. The boiled chicken is perfect for salads (the meat will fall off the bones). I occasionally make the broth in a pressure cooker on high for 45 minutes then let the steam out on on slow release.
Pasta: place flour, eggs, salt and olive oil in a small blender and blend until dough comes together. Lightly flour a working surface and turn out dough. Knead until it is homogenous. Place in plastic wrap and set aside for at least 20 minutes.
Filling: Add dash of olive oil to a medium sized frying pan and when warm, add diced pancetta. Cook uncovered on low heat until slightly browned and crispy (about 10 minutes). Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, add garlic (and some more olive oil if needed) and cook until fragrant. Do not allow it to brown. Add peas and once they are warmed through, add ¼ cup of chicken stock. Cover, reduce heat and simmer checking every few minutes and adding more stock if needed. Total cooking time is around 10 minutes.
When the peas are cooked, add them to a small blender. Pulse until pureed. In a medium bowl, place the pureed peas and the crispy pancetta. When the mixture cools slightly, fold in the parmesan cheese, the half egg and the chopped parsley. Adjust for salt and add a few grinds of black pepper. Set aside.
Divide the pasta in two, keeping the half you are not using in plastic wrap. Lightly flour a working surface. Using a rolling pin, stretch out the half of the pasta until it is of a thickness that will allow it to go through the widest setting in a pasta machine. Roll through the dough, dust with flour, fold and roll through on the same setting. Repeat this 5-6 times until the pasta is smooth. Reduce the setting of the machine so that the pasta rolls through a thinner setting each time. The pasta should be 1mm – 1.5 mm thick at the last setting.
Using a 7-8cm diameter cookie cutter, cut the pasta sheet into rounds (with scalloped borders if you like). Place teaspoons of filling in the centre of one half of the pasta rounds. Place a glass of water nearby and dip your finger in the water. Run your finger around the edge of each pasta round with the filling and fold over so that you have a half circle, pressing down and making sure no air is trapped inside the agnolotto. Repeat for all the pasta rounds. Dust with flour and cover with a clean tea towel while you repeat the process with the rest of the pasta.
Heat up the 4 cups of chicken broth in a large saucepan. When it comes to the boil, gently tip the agnolotti in using a tea towel to transport then from the bench to the stove. Cook the agnolotti for around 4 minutes. Remove agnolotti with a slotted spoon, and place in individual soup bowls. Spoon over chicken broth and scatter some grated parmigiano cheese and finely chopped fresh parsley. Buon appetito!