Anyone who has visited Trattoria Quattro Leoni in Florence will be familiar with the pear fiocchetti served in a taleggio sauce with asparagus tips. It really is so delicious and as much as I want to try their other dishes I can’t go there without ordering it.
This month I was invited to join the Our Growing Edge link up party by Genie from Bunny Eats Design. The idea is to enter a food related challenge that you have been meaning to have a go at. Its a way to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. Whenever I pull out my pasta machine I think of those little pear parcels in Florence and how I might recreate them, so Genie has offered me the perfect excuse to finally have a go!
I came across a few recipes online for pear ravioli and fiocchetti with various types of cheeses, but the closest I could find to Quattro Leoni’s was on thekitchn.com (recipe here). Clearly I’m not the only one who has dreams about this pasta. My version is loosely based on this recipe. I think chopped walnuts are a nice addition to the filling, although they are not in the original version and can be easily left out. I was so keen to make this yesterday and didn’t have time to get to a big supermarket for taleggio or ricotta. I went to the two closest villages in search of a soft cheese that might work, with no success and then to a nearby farmshop, again no success. This 15 minute ricotta mission turned into a 45 minute cheeseless disaster and an afternoon replacing two tyres and vowing to never eat ricotta again. Luckily we had 1/4 cup of ricotta in the fridge and a pot of creme fraiche that worked a dream. So despite all the faff the dish came together really well in the end!
Serves 6 as a starter or 4 as a main
For the Pasta:
300 g pasta flour
3 medium eggs
Pinch of salt (if you are rolling with a rolling pin. My pasta machine doesn’t like it when you add salt to the dough.)
For the Filling:
450g (about 2 cups) of grated pear (peeled first)
80 g parmesan
2 tbsp finely chopped walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup of ricotta/creme fresh (I only had a little ricotta so substituted the rest with creme fraiche)
pinch of fresh nutmeg
generous pinch of salt and pepper
For the Sauce:
1 tbsp plain flour
1 cup/200ml of milk
1/2 cup/100 ml of double cream
1/2 cup/100ml of creme fraiche
40g parmesan, grated
about 3 asparagus per person, sliced lengthways and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup of fresh peas
Start by making the pasta dough. Sift the flour onto a clean surface and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well and start to combine with a fork and your hands. When it is consistent either kneed it through your machine or by hand for about 5-10 minutes. Wrap it in cling-film or a teatowel and set the dough aside.
For the filling, mix together the grated pear, grated parmesan, walnuts, ricotta/creme fraiche, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a mixing bowl until everything is just combined.
Cut the pasta dough into 4 parts and begin rolling out the first one (keep the others in the cling-film or under the tea towel so they don’t dry out). On my Atlas pasta machine I rolled it out until setting 7. Place the rolled out dough onto a floured surface and cut out rounds about 10cm in diameter. We had to use the top of a mug until I eventually found the pastry cutters. Any size glass or mug will work, you’ll just have to adjust how much filling goes in.
Once all the rounds are cut from that piece of dough start to spoon 1 tsp of filling into the center each one and then bring the edges up and pinch them together to make a little parcel. If its not sticking very well wet your finger a little and dap the edges of the circle before closing it.
Do the same for the remaining 3 pieces of dough.
Take out two medium saucepans and fill one with water and a tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil. In the other make the sauce by melting the butter on a medium-low heat then adding the flour. Stir until the flour is combined and let it continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the milk, cream and creme fraiche (its best if these aren’t straight from the fridge but already at room temperature). Use a whisk to stir the sauce until it starts to thicken. Bring the temperature down before adding the parmesan and seasoning.
In the boiling water first cook the asparagus and peas for a couple of minutes and then remove the greens with a slotted spoon into cold water.
Add the fiocchetti to the boiling water a few at a time. They will float to the surface after 3 or 4 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon draining as much water as possible and place them straight into a dish with the sauce and greens. Season with some more black pepper.