To learn more, read "Here Comes the Braid" in our National edition.
Culurgiones with Brown Butter
Recipe adapted from Adam Leonti, Vetri, Philadelphia, PA
Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
¾ pound (2 cups plus 2½ tablespoons) semolina flour
5 ounces (⅔ cup) water
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch pieces
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
15 mint leaves, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper
Brown Butter Sauce
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
2 ounces Pecorino al Tartufo or Pecorino Romano
1 heaping tablespoon finely minced mint leaves
1. Make the pasta: Combine the semolina flour, water and salt in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low until smooth, for about 7 minutes (if the mixer struggles, stop and mix by hand). Let the dough rest, covered with a damp cloth, for 30 minutes.
2. Cut the dough into thirds and flatten each piece with your hands. Use a pasta machine to roll, starting at the widest setting and moving to a thinner and thinner setting. (Fold the pieces in thirds and start over at the widest setting again. Rolling it through several times, even on the same setting, will make it super smooth.) Once thin, cut the pasta sheets into 3- to 4-inch circles. Keep the circles covered with a damp cloth until ready to fill. (Use the pasta the same day and don't reuse scraps for culurgiones.)
3. Make the filling: Place the potatoes in a steam basket set in a saucepan with an inch of salted water. Bring to a boil, cover and let steam until a fork can easily pierce the potatoes, about 20 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a medium bowl and, while still hot, mash them until smooth. Mix in the Pecorino, olive oil and mint, then mix in the egg. Season with 25 turns of pepper from a peppermill and 2 pinches of salt. Taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Stuff and boil the pasta: Lay out the pasta circles. Place 1 scant tablespoon of filling in the middle of each circle. Place between your thumb and index finger. Fold the pasta sphere around the filling so it looks like a taco. Pinch one end of the "taco" (about a 1-centimeter pinch), then take that fold and push it toward the stuffing and pinch again, then take that fold and switch directions, pushing it towards the other side of the stuffing. Continue until you reach the other end of the pasta taco. For further instructions, watch the video. Alternatively, just make ravioli and crimp the edges together with the tines of a fork.
5. Make the sauce and serve: Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the butter until brown solids form and it smells nutty, about 5 minutes (lower the heat if needed). Remove from heat as soon as the solids are brown. Season with salt and pepper; keep warm. Boil the pasta for 2½ minutes. To serve: Arrange six culurgiones on each plate. Sprinkle the Pecorino over the pasta, drizzle some browned butter over it and top with mint. Serve.