Pecorino Balanzoni with Brown Butter and Spices
For the dough...
Blanch ~5 ounces of fresh or frozen tender greens of choice (I used fresh spinach) in lightly salted boiling water until wilted and vibrant in color, about 20 seconds. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Transfer the greens to a blender with enough water so the blender runs smoothly and a very smooth, loose puree emerges. Weigh out 75 grams (~⅓ cup) of the puree and 100 grams of whole eggs (~2 whole eggs) and whisk together until smooth. Combine this mixture with 275 grams '00' flour and 25 grams semola flour—or 300 grams '00' flour—according to your preferred pasta dough method. Knead vigorously until smooth, wrap tightly and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
For the filling...
Combine 16 ounces of whole milk ricotta (with any excess liquid drained/patted dry), ~1 cup finely grated pecorino romano, and ~2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until thick, smooth, and creamy. Season to taste with salt, maybe a squeeze of lemon juice, and adjust pecorino/pepper quantities to your liking. Pulse again to combine. Transfer to a bowl or piping bag and refrigerate until use.
Time to shape...
Balanzoni are simply a type of tortelli made with a spinach-based dough. For a breakdown of folding tortelli, check out this post, or head to the Pasta Social Club instagram page for some video demonstrations. In terms of sizing, traditional tortellini are approximately ¾-inch squares, with just a dot of filling in the center (any more will leak out quickly), the pictured tortelloni are about 2-inch squares, and the tortellacci are 3½-inch squares. After folding into a triangle, be sure to pinch the bottom corners to create little "tails" in order to get the proper shape.
For the sauce...
This sauce is a play on an 'aromi misti' recipe by chef Evan Funke, and is a great way to incorporate spices and herbs you may already have into a quick, flavorful pasta condiment. I was skeptical about this combination of flavors at first, but I assure you it's magical!
You can use an assortment of warm spices and herbs based on your preferences, but here's what I used:
½ cup salted butter, cut into pieces
1 cinnamon stick, split in half
3-4 whole cloves
4-5 medium sage leaves
4-5 basil leaves
A small handful of mint
A pinch of nutmeg, ideally freshly grated
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Melt the butter in a medium-large saute pan over medium heat, and stir frequently until frothy and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. (Make sure to keep the milk solids from sticking to the bottom of the pan so they don't burn.) Add the cinnamon, cloves, thyme, and sage to the butter and continue stirring for about 20 seconds. Follow with remaining herbs and nutmeg and stir for another 20 seconds. Remove from heat (the butter should be nicely browned and nutty at this point). Once water is boiling, salt generously and return the butter sauce to medium heat. Add the pasta to the water and, after 1-2 minutes, ladle a small amount of pasta water into the butter and stir vigorously to combine. When the pasta is cooked (if cooking fresh, this shouldn't take more than ~3 minutes), transfer with a slotted spoon directly to the butter and spices and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately, being careful to avoid the whole spices, topped with more sauce and parmigiano reggiano. Enjoy!