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Spinach and Ricotta Agnolotti with Butter-Sage Sauce

Agnolotti, meaning "priest hats" in Italian, are small ravioli made by folding pasta dough over a filling, typically with meat or vegetables inside. They are associated with the Piedmont region. They're usually served simply, either in a butter sauce or fried in a pan and garnished. This pasta dough from The French Laundry Cookbook, by Thomas Keller (Artisan 1999). The filling is from a recipe in Italian Cooking & Living Magazine.

Makes 8 first-course servings or 4 main-course servings


1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour

6 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon milk


1 cup cooked fresh spinach

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced


Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup ricotta

Egg Wash

1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water


1 bunch fresh sage, washed, leaves only

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, cut into cubes

Make dough: Mound flour on a board or other surface and create a well in the center, pushing the flour to all sides to make a ring with sides about 1-inch wide. Make sure that the well is wide enough to hold all the eggs without spilling.

Pour the egg yolks, egg, oil and milk into the well. Use your fingers to break the eggs up. Still using your fingers, begin turning the eggs in a circular motion, keeping them within the well and not allowing them to spill over the sides. This circular motion allows the eggs to gradually pull in flour from the sides of the well; it is important that the flour not be incorporated too rapidly, or dough will be lumpy. Keep moving the eggs while slowly incorporating the flour. Using a pastry scraper, occasionally push the flour toward the eggs; the flour should be moved only enough to maintain the gradual incorporation of the flour, and the eggs should continue to be contained within the well. The mixture will thicken and eventually get too tight to keep turning with your fingers.

When the dough begins thickening and starts lifting itself from the board, begin incorporating the remaining flour with the pastry scraper by lifting the flour up and over the dough that's beginning to form and cutting it into the dough. When the remaining flour from the sides of the well has been cut into the dough, the dough will still look shaggy. Bring the dough together with the palms of your hands and form it into a ball. It will look flaky but will hold together.

Knead the dough by pressing it, bit by bit, in a forward motion with the heels of your hands rather than folding it over on itself as you would with a bread dough. Re-form the dough into a ball and repeat the process several times. The dough should feel moist but not sticky. Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you clean the work surface.

Dust the clean work surface with a little flour. Knead the dough by pushing against it in a forward motion with the heels of your hands. Form the dough into a ball again and knead it again. Keep kneading in this forward motion until the dough becomes silky smooth. The dough is ready when you can pull your finger through it and the dough wants to snap back into place. The kneading process can take from 10 to 15 minutes.

Even if you think you are finished kneading, knead it for an extra 10 minutes; you cannot overknead this dough. It is important to work the dough long enough to pass the pull test; otherwise, when it rests, it will collapse.

Double-wrap the dough in plastic wrap to ensure that it does not dry out. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before rolling it through a pasta machine. The dough can be made a day ahead, wrapped and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before proceeding.

To form sheets for agnolotti: Use 1/2 recipe pasta dough, divided into two or three pieces. Run the dough through a pasta machine as for ravioli, but make the sheets wider. The size will vary according to the pasta machine used, but the sheets should be at least 5 inches wide. It is important that your pasta sheet be thin enough so that you can see your fingers through it, but not so thin that it's translucent. Keep the pasta sheets covered, as they dry out quickly, and proceed with filling the agnolotti.

Make filling: Drain cooked fresh spinach and squeeze to remove any excess water. Heat oul in a large sauté pan. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant but not burned. Add the spinach, season with grated nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sauté about 5 minutes. Remove into a bowl and let cool. Combine with the ricotta and mix until incorporated. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Form agnolotti: With a pastry bag or teaspoon, mound little heaps of filling about 1 inch apart in 2 rows. Brush around mounds with egg wash. Cut the pasta sheet in half between the rows, lengthwise. Fold the dough over filling and squeeze dough together between mounds. With a serrated pasta cutter, cut agnolotti. Cut away excess dough lengthwise; there should be no more than ¼ inch around the edges. Cut individual agnolotti and pinch to seal.

Cook agnolotti: Depending on the thickness of your pasta, it should be boiled for between 5 and 10 minutes. Test at regular intervals, by sampling a dumpling.

Make the sage-butter sauce: Roll sage leaves and cut into chiffonade. Cube the butter and set aside. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the cubed butter and let cook until the butter begins to foam, being careful not to burn. Add the sage and lightly sauté and continue to cook until the butter turns a light brown. Spoon over the cooked ravioli and serve hot.

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