From the moment we decided to go to Venice, Mark insisted on an excursion to the island of Torcello out in the Venetian lagoon.
This little island is still little known or visited by the tourist throngs, though its ancient cathedral features some perfectly intact 12th-century Byzantine mosaics. Only the few cognoscenti would be there with us; we anticipated having the place to ourselves.
About a month after we bought our tickets to Italy, though, the New York Times ran an article about Torcello, its churches, and mosaics. He was crushed, fearing it would be overrun with tourists now.
Nonetheless, once in Venice, we boarded the Vaporetto from the Fondamenta Nuova one morning and set out for Torcello.
To our delight, the island wasn't crowded. I suppose that most tourists who are in Venice for their day or two wouldn't take the time to go that far for one church, when Venice itself had hundreds and possibly thousands of churches with sumptuous paintings, sculpture and mosaics to see without spending 45-minutes on a boat.
We had a wonderful leisurely late-morning visit among a scant number of other visitors, walking the near-ghost town and looking into its two ancient churches and at the ancient sculptures displayed in the village’s sleepy weed-grown piazza. By the time we were finished looking around, we were just a little hungry and decided to take advantage of one of the several eateries on the island.
|Santa Maria Assunta, Torcello - Photo: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam|
Locanda Cipriani, started by the respected and revered owner of Harry's Bar, was a possibility recommended by some friends in Tucson. But Mark had read that the Ristorante Villa '600 (just across the canal from Cipriani) was really quite good, and very reasonably priced. And, he was right in both courts.
We generally don't go to a restaurant when they have someone out front telling you how good it is, and urging you to enter. Our internal "tourist trap" alarms sound, and we move on.
Even though there was an old man out at the path doing just this, we had to admit that he seemed to really know the food, and be very proud of it. Perhaps he was the owner? We went in.
We were seated in the large, tented side room - one of maybe four occupied tables among an optimistic two dozen tables. A group of retired professors from Great Britain were beside us. A young German family with two children were two tables away, and an elderly couple were just beyond them. It seemed empty with so few tables filled.
We ordered, not in any particular hurry, and settled in to enjoy the afternoon before boating to Burano.
|I think I would like whoever lives here... aprons upon aprons! Must be a good cook!|
The pastas were absolute perfection. Mark ordered taglioline with branzino (sea bass), butter, lemon and bottarga (dried, grated grey mullet roe). I ordered the ravioli bicolori - pillows of red and golden pasta stuffed with robiola cheese and arugula, with salmon in butter and wine, topped with pistachios. We finished with a mixed green salad.
|The colorful houses of Burano|
We asked our server about the pasta - was it colored with beets? No, he said, it was made with tomato. Only tomato and flour. The golden pasta was flour and egg. I got just enough information to come home and make it for us... and share with you!
I made the pasta in the food processor, but it is just as easy to make it by hand. Yes, this dish takes a little more time than some others, but the ravioli can be made ahead and frozen in airtight bags until you are ready to serve the dish. Oh, and the Robiola cheese we get here is nopthing like the fresh Robiola available in Italy. I used a high-quality ricotta and mixed it with a little cream to approximate the texture and flavor of this delicate cheese.
Hope you enjoy this third of my Venezia Series! One more to go - a specialty of Venice: cicchetti!
Ravioli Bicolori al Salmone e Pistacchi
Golden Pasta Dough
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the egg and process for 30-60 seconds until the dough comes together into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or waxed paper and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
Red Pasta Dough
2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
1/4 cup tomato paste
Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the tomato paste and process for 30-60 seconds until the dough comes together into a ball. If it is too wet or sticky, add more flour (1 tablespoon at a time) and process again. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or waxed paper and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
Filling for the Ravioli
3/4 cup best-quality whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg, separated
1 tablespoon heavy cream
small handful of arugula or parsley leaves
freshly ground pepper
Blend the ricotta, egg yolk and cream together in a small bowl. Finely chop the arugula or parsley and add it to the cheese mixture, incorporating thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.
Assembling the Ravioli
Roll out both colors of pasta dough into wide flat pieces. (I use an Atlas pasta machine and start at level 1 and roll to a thin level 6.) Cut each long piece into a 12-inch length and stack gold and red in separate piles, with waxed paper between each layer; cover each pile of pasta with a damp towel.
Whisk the egg white in a small bowl to break it up.
Take one layer of golden pasta and place over a ravioli mold, and place the white form on top to make indentations. (If you don’t have a mold, separate directions follow in blue.)
Place a teaspoonful of filling in each indentation. Using a pastry brush, paint the egg white around all the edges and between each lump of filling. Cover with the red dough and, using a rolling pin, roll over the mold to seal and cut off edges. Turn over the mold to release ravioli onto a sheet on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Repeat process until you have 30 ravioli. Place baking sheet in the freezer while you make the sauce.
If you don’t have a mold, simply place a sheet of dough on the counter that has been dusted with flour. (The truth? I used the mold because I saw it in the pantry the other day – I usually just make then on the counter!)
Neatly place filling, a teaspoon at a time, on your gold dough in two rows of five. Using a pastry brush, paint the egg white around all the edges and between each lump of filling. Cover with the red dough. Start by pressing down with your thumb in the spaces between the lumps of filling to meet and seal the lower layer of dough, then press edges, doing your best to eliminate any air pockets without squishing the filling.
Using a pastry crimper, pizza wheel, or a long sharp knife, trim edges, then cut between each raviolo to make ten 2-inch square ravioli. Place trimmed ravioli on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Repeat twice more until you have 30 ravioli. Place the baking sheet in the freezer while you make the sauce.
Salmon and Pistachio Sauce
8 ounces salmon (with or without skin)
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shelled and blanched unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
Once you have placed the ravioli dough in the freezer, preheat the oven to 400°F. Place salmon in a small baking dish skin side down, and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 10-12 minutes. You want the salmon undercooked.
Place white wine in a medium-size skillet. Shred undercooked salmon into the wine and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for a few minutes to finish cooking the salmon, and to reduce the wine a little. Set aside.
Putting the Dish Together
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water once it is boiling and take ravioli from the freezer and gently place into the boiling water. Cook for 3-4 minutes. While pasta is cooking, reheat the salmon and stir in the butter to emulsify the sauce, being careful not to purée the salmon. Using a slotted spoon, gently lift and drain the ravioli and gently place them on heated serving plates, placing half the ravioli golden side up, and the other half red side up. Spoon some of the sauce over each plate and top with chopped pistachios. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 (makes 30 ravioli).
Note: Leftover pasta dough and trimmings can be rolled, cut into any shape you like, and frozen for future use.
Labels: bicolor ravioli, egg pasta dough, food processor pasta dough, pistachios, red pasta dough, salmon, torcello, venetian lagoon