What could say comfort food in the cold, dark days of winter more than pasta?
Chef-owner Jimmy Liang of Everett’s Capers + Olives restaurant includes seasonal items such as sage, hazelnuts and delicata squash in this recipe of homemade agnolotti pasta stuffed with ricotta and topped with Parmesan cheese.
Liang calls it one of his favorite dishes. “It’s like eating dumplings,” he said. “It’s definitely comforting.”
Liang, 46, opened Capers + Olives at 2933 Colby Ave. in downtown Everett in July.
His previous experience includes working at several area Italian restaurants, including Serafina in Seattle, before taking on the chef’s duties at the Asian fusion restaurant Terracotta Red on Hewitt Avenue.
Even though the Capers + Olives dinner menu has such staples as coho salmon, prime steak, pork chops and chicken, Liang seems to take special delight — and pride — in the fresh pastas he makes for customers.
Without the cornucopia of summer’s fresh fruits and vegetables to use in his kitchen, he said you’ve got to be more creative during the fall and winter.
Liang said he especially likes making agnolotti pasta, in part because it holds its shape so well. Ravioli doesn’t present as well on plates, he said.
Asked if this is something people can try at home, he responded “Absolutely!”
The necessary equipment includes a pasta maker, a pastry bag, a small pastry tip and pasta wheel cutter.
“It’s really easy to duplicate,” he said. “To make this pasta, you pretty much can make any stuffed pasta.”
Agnolotti pasta — ravioli’s smaller, squarer cousin — is made with delicata squash, hazelnuts, and Parmesan and ricotta cheeses.
To make this, you’ll need a pasta machine, a large cutting board, a sharp chef’s knife, a small pastry bag with a small tip, and a pasta wheel cutter.
For the pasta:
1 batch fresh egg pasta
2 cups semolina flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tablespoons water
For the ricotta filling:
1 cup ricotta
¼ cup shaved Parmesan
Zest from 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the pasta topping:
½ cup delicata squash, cut in ¼-inch-thick half moons
5 sage leaves
¼ cup chopped hazelnuts
Parmesan for garnish
Put all dry ingredients into a bowl and make a hole in the center, into which the cracked eggs are added. Work the eggs into the flour with a fork until mixed. Knead with the pasta machine. Instead of extensively kneading the fresh pasta dough, fold it and run it through the pasta machine on one of the thicker settings.
Fold the pasta sheet over on itself and run it through the pasta machine again. Repeat 8 to 10 times, then cover the pasta with cling wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Unwrap the pasta and run it through the pasta machine on the highest or second-highest setting.
As the sheet of pasta comes off the pasta machine, lay it on a floured board and cut it into rectangular sheets about 12 inches long. Sprinkle flour lightly on each sheet after you cut it and continue stacking sheets on top of each other.
Mix the ingredients for the ricotta filling. Stuff it into the piping bag.
Pull one sheet of pasta off the top of the stack. Pipe a straight line of filling lengthwise onto the pasta sheet, leaving enough pasta at the top to fold over the filling.
Fold the pasta top over the filling. Press firmly to seal. You can moisten the tip of your finger and run it along the seam if it doesn’t want to stick together.
With a wheeled pasta cutter or a sharp knife, cut the filled tube of pasta away from the rest of the sheet, making sure to keep the sealed strip intact.
Make and cut the agnolotti pockets. Use the tips of your fingers to pinch the tube of pasta into equally sized sections, creating a seal between pockets of filling. Use the wheeled pasta cutter or a sharp knife to separate the sections. Quickly cut through each, leaning the tube of pasta in the direction you’re cutting. You should be left with small, individual pockets of filled pasta. Place the finished agnolotti in a tray of coarse cornmeal.
Repeat until all of the pasta sheets and filling have been used.
Bring a pot of water to boil, then add a big pinch of salt.
Drop in the agnolotti and cook for 3 minutes until it floats up.
Meanwhile, heat a saucepan until hot, add a tablespoon of olive oil, sear delicata squash until brown on one side and flip over and brown the other side. Add 1 tablespoon butter, cook until lightly brown, and add the hazelnuts and sage.
Add pasta to the squash mixture, season to taste, toss and add a splash of lemon juice and plate.
Garnish with shaved Parmesan.