On Master of None, making tortellini, and making television.

Massimo Botturra’s meat tortellini from Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef, finished in sage and brown butter.

Can I take a moment and say how smitten I am with the newest episodes of Master of None? We’re slowly making our way through the season–just one new one a week–and as such I feel like we’re SO behind because the various pop culture blogs I follow have already moved on to a bunch of other shows, like The Handmaid’s Tale and GLOW. (Both are really good, and I’ll be writing about the former in this space relatively soon.) Such is the internet in the age of Peak TV, but I still prefer savoring each episode on its own especially since it’s not clear if we’ll see another season of the show, much less one anytime soon. And given the ambition Aziz Ansari and his team had with this season, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be incessantly asked when the next batch of episodes would be coming because so many people burned through the current set so quickly.

There may be no better metaphor for all of this than the process of making and then eating tortellini, and Ansari must have intended to make the connection since this specific pasta shape is featured so prominently in the first two episodes and he’s really fucking smart. Working by yourself, you can easily spend a few hours bringing the dough together, mixing the filling, and then finally cutting out and filling all of those little tiny morsels of heaven. Cooking, and more importantly eating the little buggers, however, is much faster since all you need is a little boiling water, some good butter, and some chopped sage to finish off the dish. The first time I made a little batch of these for myself I had to stop myself from inhaling them out of my bowl, and I made sure to freeze the rest so I could fish them out for a later date.

Come to think of it, that’s pretty damn similar to spacing out a show in order to enjoy it for longer.

The recipe I used came from Massimo Bottura’s Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef, which is incredibly appropriate given that Dev and Arnold have a world-class meal at Bottura’s restaurant in Modena in episode 2. My tortellini differ a little versus his because I used what meats I could get my hands on in the appropriate quantities, but I made his dough exactly according to specifications and reader, it came out so beautifully: smooth, elastic, and malleable. I turned on some old Top Chef episodes while I started rolling it out, and spent a solid two hours cutting out tiny squares from the flattened piece and filling each one with just the right amount of meat. It went by remarkably fast that first time I made it, maybe because I could just lose myself in the process and not really worry too much about the passage of time. Michael helped me make another batch later in the weekend, and was thoroughly impressed that I had taken this on by myself.

The pasta recipe also helped me fall in love with using the well method of making it–for so long I avoided it, mainly because Michael will be the first to admit that he’s pretty terrible at it and we’ve used our stand mixer every other time. The key, of course, is making the well shallow so it can hold the eggs and that makes it that much more easier to incorporate them and make a dough. I’ve since even doubled it and while that feels like a work in progress, Massimo’s recipe as presented yields the absolute nicest dough I’ve ever worked with, which is important because you roll it out completely by hand and rolling pin rather than by pasta machine.

If you too have been feeling the urge to try your hand at this after watching Master of None, I highly recommend trying this recipe–with a little bit of practice you too will feel like a badass little nonna and your pasta will look more bene than bruto in no time.

Meat Tortellini with Brown Butter and Sage

adapted from Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef

(General note: I measured nearly everything by weight rather than volume this time and it’s been yielding pretty consistent results so I recommend you do the same.)

  • 200 g 00 flour
  • 2 eggs
  • XX g ground veal
  • XX g pancetta, chopped fine
  • XX g prosciutto, chopped fine
  • XX g mortadella, chopped fine
  • XX g Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper (about a teaspoon)
  • Freshly grated nutmeg (about half a teaspoon)

To finish, per 1/2 cup serving of pasta:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter (splurge on some European butter, like Kerrygold)
  • 6 sage leaves, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

To make the pasta: on a wooden board, make a shallow well with the flour and carefully add the eggs to the well. Slowly start to beat them together with a fork while incorporating the flour–this will get messy the first time you try it, but try to keep everything together as much as possible. Work the dough into a smooth ball (you’ll want to knead for about 10 minutes) until it is silky smooth. Wrap with cling and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the meats, the cheese, the pepper, and the nutmeg into a bowl and stir well to combine. Set aside.

When you’re ready to make the pasta, clear out a good size working space to roll out the dough, and lightly dust it with flour. Using a rolling pin work the dough into a sheet that is about 1/8 inch thickness, and then start to cut out squares approximately 1 1/2 inches in size. Take a 1/4-teaspoon-size teaspoon and use that to put a small ball of meat filling in the middle of each square, and then using a little water brush the edges on all sides before folding the dough into triangles and then joining the other two edges to form the tortellini shape. Repeat this until you are out of dough and pasta.

At this point you can freeze them in a single layer until rock-hard and then place them in a bag for storage. If you don’t plan on eating them all in one sitting, definitely do this.

To cook them, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook until the tortellini float, about 5 minutes. Drain, and then in a skillet melt the butter and let it brown before adding the sage and then the pasta. Toss to coat well, and then serve immediately.

 

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