Papa al pomodoro is a Tuscan peasant dish, designed to use up stale bread. It’s essentially a tomato sauce/soup, into which stale bread is added, which soaks up the sauce, taking on all its flavour. When blitzed to near-smooth consistency, it makes a really delicious vegan filling for pasta. In the absence of cheese to sprinkle over the top, I find Aleppo chilli brings a really nice kick to the dish, but you could use crunchy pangrattato or just black pepper. I wouldn’t recommend a really strong sauce with these, as I prefer to let the filling stand out as the star of this dish.
If you’re not vegan, and you’d like to make it with egg pasta, use 200g “00” flour and 2 beaten eggs, then follow the same instructions as for the vegan dough, below.
Papa al pomodoro ravioli
- 180g “00” flour
- 50g fine semolina, plus extra for dusting
- Pinch table salt
- 1tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 90ml water
- 1 small red onion
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 200g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 60g sourdough, roughly torn
- 1-2 tsp Aleppo chilli flakes
- Salt and black pepper
- To make the dough, mix the flour, semolina and salt together in a bowl and whisk to combine, then use a fork (or a dough hook in a mixer if not making it by hand) to mix in the oil and water, bringing it together to a shaggy dough. Use your hands now to knead the dough really vigorously for about 5 minutes, until it’s really smooth and firm to the touch – it should be quite stiff, not at all sticky. Depending on the humidity and your ingredients, you may need to add a touch more flour or water to achieve this consistency, but do so in very small increments, as it’s easy to over-correct.
- Wrap it in cling film, or simply up-end the bowl you used to mix it over the top of it to cover it, and let it rest on the side at room temperature for at least 1 hour, whilst you make the filling.
- Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft and translucent, then add the tomato puree and tinned tomatoes, season well, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add the torn bread, stir and continue cooking for a few minutes further until the bread has soaked up the majority of the sauce. Allow to cool a little then blitz, not entirely to a smooth puree, just enough to ensure there are no big lumps remaining. Taste and check seasoning. Transfer to a cold wide dish to cool it quickly.
- Roll out the pasta dough using either a pasta machine, or a rolling pin, to a thickness of 1 mm – use plenty of semolina to dust the surface of the dough, and also the work surface, to avoid sticking.
- In order to make tortelloni (the right hand picture above), cut the dough into 7cm rounds using a cookie cutter. Either use a piping bag, or two teaspoons to place a roughly grape-sized blob of filling into the centre of each round, then seal it into a semi-circle; depending on the humidity where you are working, you may need to very lightly brush the tops of the rounds with water to make it stick, but I find in the UK it’s not usually necessary. Once you have a semi-circle, gently bring the two corners together and pinch to seal them around your finger.
- Alternatively, to make ravioli as per the picture above on the left, simply pipe grape-sized blobs of filling at approximately 1 inch intervals along the length of your pasta sheet, then fold the rest of the sheet over it, and press down with your fingers to seal the pasta around each bit of filling, taking care not to trap any air inside. Use a knife or fluted pastry wheel to divide them once sealed. You can re-roll any trimmings.
- Set the finished shapes onto a tray dusted with semolina, then cook in plenty of salted boiling water for just a few minutes, as they cook very quickly.
- Carefully lift them out of the water when cooked, and divide between your plates. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil all over the top, then sprinkle with Aleppo chilli flakes and serve immediately.