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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Buon Appetito from Eat Little, Eat Big, Foodbuzz, and Barilla Tortellini

Clockwise from top left:  Prosciutto Wrapped Pesto Tortellini with
Asparagus; Shaved Asparagus with Tangy Vinaigrette, Parmesan and Pine Nuts; 
Tortelloni Frittata; Crema Moka with Crispy Tortellini.

La Specialita' della Casa:
  • Prosciutto wrapped pesto tortellini with asparagus
  • Shaved asparagus dressed with a tangy vinaigrette, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts
  • Tortelloni frittata with sausage and spinach, topped with marinara sauce and basil
  • Crema moka-layers of chocolate and coffee flavors with a crunchy tortellini surprise

I recently got an email telling me that I was a finalist in the Foodbuzz Barilla "Trip To Italy" recipe contest based on my appetizer of Prosciutto Wrapped Pesto Tortellini with Asparagus.  I was so excited as was Mr. ELEB, who has never been to Italy.  So now the pressure is on (create a three course Italian meal using Barilla tortellini), the competition fierce (five talented bloggers), and the stakes high (the hubby and I REALLY want to go to Italy).  Just the type of situation I love!  

Not long after the email, Foodbuzz and Barilla sent a package full of bags of Three Cheese Tortellini/Tortelloni and Cheese and Spinach Tortellini/Tortelloni all ready and waiting for my ideas.  Here are my creations, detailed recipes included.

The rules don't require tortellini as an ingredient in each course and since I've already created a tasty appetizer using tortellini in round one, I'm making a first course without them for this meal, using flavors that remind me of Italy and springtime: asparagus, lemon, basil, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese.  Shaving the raw asparagus is a wonderful way to prepare this popular veggie. Oh, the vinaigrette!  The flavors go together so beautifully and really complement the shaved asparagus.

For the main course, I used Barilla Spinach and Cheese Tortelloni (larger than tortellini) along with Italian sausage, fresh spinach, eggs, Parmesan cheese, and Barilla Marinara Sauce to make a frittata.  I tried several versions before landing on the final recipe.  I was leaning towards a stuffed frittata with the sauce, spinach, and sausage in the middle of two layers of tortelloni, egg, and cheese.  It turned out fine but was a very thick, heavy serving. Perfect for winter, not for spring.

Stuffed frittata; another meal, another season.

Instead I've decided to prepare a single layer frittata which fits better with this springtime meal.  Plus I want to save room for dessert!

Dessert...using tortellini... I don't have to use them in dessert but, as I said, I love a challenge.  I spent many days mulling over the possibilities.  The quintessential Italian dessert to me is tiramisu so I have used that as inspiration for my Crema Moka. 

As tasty as the three cheese tortellini are, they need a little help to be able to replace the lady fingers used in tiramisu.  Crisping them in browned butter, coffee liqueur, and brown sugar does the trick.  

This dessert isn't too sweet which works perfectly with the cheese tortellini. The chocolate flavored ricotta cheese and the coffee flavored mascarpone cheese provide rich and creamy layers full of flavor.  The crisp tortellini layer tucked between the two provides a nice surprise.

Clockwise from top left: chocolate ricotta; coffee mascarpone;
tortellini cooking in butter and liqueur; crispy sweet tortellini.

With no further delay, here are the recipes and directions with printable pages included.  Buon appetito!

    Shaved Asparagus with Tangy Vinaigrette, Parmesan and Pine Nuts
    Yield: 4 servings
    Time: 20 minutes
    24 thick stems of fresh asparagus
    1 rounded TBSP toasted pine nuts, plus 4 tsp for serving
    1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
    1/4 cup (packed) fresh asparagus tops (from first ingredient)
    1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
    3/4 tsp kosher salt
    1 1/2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
    1/3 cup olive oil
    Freshly ground black pepper and additional salt to taste
    Aged Parmesan cheese for serving


    • Remove woody bottom part of stems from asparagus and discard.
    • Cut off tops of asparagus and reserve 1/4 cup for this recipe.  Save remainder for soup or salad.
    • Shave asparagus stems thinly with sharp vegetable peeler.
    • Place the 1 TBSP pine nuts, basil, asparagus tops, nutmeg, salt, and lemon juice in food processor.
    • Pulse to combine and roughly chop.
    • Turn processor on and drizzle in olive oil.
    • Process for 45 seconds, until well combined.
    • Taste and add additional seasoning if needed.
    • About 20-30 minutes prior to serving, combine dressing and shaved asparagus (you may not need all the dressing).
    • To serve, place dressed asparagus on four plates and top with pine nuts and thin shavings of Parmesan cheese.
    Shaved Asparagus with Tangy Vinaigrette,
    Parmesan and Pine Nuts

    Tortelloni Frittata with Sausage, Spinach, and Marinara Sauce
    Yield: 6 servings
    Time: 45 minutes
    1 8 oz. package Barilla Spinach and Cheese Tortelloni
    12 oz. mild Italian sausage, removed from casing if using links
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    3 cups (packed) fresh spinach, washed and dried, long stems removed
    4 TBSP unsalted butter, divided
    1 cup (packed) freshly grated aged Parmesan cheese, divided
    8 whole eggs, beaten
    1 24 oz. jar Barilla marinara sauce
    Fresh basil leaves for serving

    • Cook the tortelloni per package directions until al dente.
    • While the tortelloni cook, cook sausage and garlic over med-high heat for 10 minutes until browned.
    • Remove sausage and garlic from pan, place in paper towel lined bowl, wipe pan out and add spinach.
    • Wilt spinach over medium heat for 2 minutes then add to bowl with sausage.
    • When tortelloni are ready, drain and then return to pan and add 2 TBSP butter and 1/2 cup (packed) Parmesan cheese. 
    • Cool for 5 minutes.
    • While tortelloni cool, heat a broiler proof pan over med-high heat, add 2 TBSP butter, and turn broiler on to preheat.
    • Add the beaten eggs to the tortelloni.
    • Stir in sausage and spinach.  Mix gently to combine.
    • Pour mixture into hot broiler proof pan and cook undisturbed on med-high for 4 minutes then reduce heat to medium for 6 additional minutes.
    • Sprinkle 1/2 cup (packed) Parmesan cheese over the top of frittata.
    • Place frittata under broiler and cook for 5 minutes or until nicely browned and set.
    • Carefully remove pan and let cool for 5 minutes.
    • While frittata cools, heat Barilla marinara sauce and prepare basil leaves for serving.
    • Carefully run a spatula around and under the edges of the frittata to loosen.  Pan will still be very hot.
    • Shake and tilt frittata out on to serving platter.
    • Cut into 6 portions.  Serve with marinara sauce and basil.
    Printable recipe

    Clockwise from top left: tortelloni with butter, cheese, and eggs; frittata cooking on stove top;
    frittata ready for broiler; frittata under broiler.

    Tortelloni Frittata with Sausage,
    Spinach, and Marinara Sauce.

    Crema Moka
    Yield: 4 servings
    Time: 25 minutes
    4 oz. Barilla Three Cheese Tortellini
    1 cup part skim milk ricotta cheese
    2 TBSP plain non-fat Greek yogurt
    2 tsp Dutch process cocoa powder
    2 tsp + 1 1/2 TBSP light brown sugar, divided
    8 oz. mascarpone cheese
    1 tsp instant espresso powder, plus more for serving
    3 TBSP 1 % milk
    3 TBSP unsalted butter
    1 1/2 TBSP coffee flavored liqueur

    • Cook the tortellini per package directions.  When cooked, drain and spread out on parchment or non-stick surface to dry.
    • While the tortellini cook, mix ricotta, yogurt, cocoa, and 2 tsp light brown sugar together in a bowl.  Refrigerate.
    • Using a food processor, mix together the mascarpone, espresso powder, and milk until smooth and well combined. Refrigerate.
    • Cook butter over med-high heat until browning (be careful not to burn it).
    • Add the tortellini to the browned butter and cook for 4 minutes stirring once.
    • Add liqueur and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring once.  The tortellini should be nicely browned and crisp.
    • Remove the tortellini from pan and toss with 1 1/2 TBSP light brown sugar.
    • Allow to cool and if not serving within an hour (depending on the humidity of your kitchen), place in an airtight container.
    • Remove ricotta mixture and mascarpone mixture from fridge about 30 minutes prior to assembly to have chill removed for easier layering.
    • To assemble, in each of 4 individual serving dishes layer ricotta, mascarpone, browned tortellini, another layer of ricotta, and another layer of mascarpone.
    • Sprinkle top with a few grains of espresso powder.
    • Put a dollop of ricotta mixture in the middle and top with 3 browned tortellini.
    • Serve immediately.
    Printable recipe

    Crema Moka

    Let me know if this meal transports you (if only in spirit) to Italy.  I'm hoping it will transport us there, in person!   Best of luck to my fellow blogging competitors-can't wait to see what you have created.

    *I was eligible for this contest and received free Barilla tortellini as part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher Tastemaker program.*

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