Do you also have the feeling that spring is never coming? I start to be spring-obsessed around the first 10 days of March. By then, I am so ready with winter that I can’t take another grey day. Somewhat I forget that we will have to endure at least one more month of bad weather during which I fret about all I could do if it was sunny and warm rather than cold and damp.
Every year, when the B&B season ends after olive harvest, I think I have time to rest, get myself in shape, go on book tour to the US, revise our website, write another cookbook, develop new recipes and start all the wonderful new projects I have been longing to put together if there were 3 of me and days were of 48 hours.
Then one day, when one has almost lost hope, nature turns on the technicolor. The trees are covered in brand new leaves, so green you’d think someone has dipped them in mint syrup. The dandelions are blooming like there’s no tomorrow, draping the fields in all shades of golden. It is suddenly sunny, warm and as pretty as it gets.
And like every year, it falls on me that our guests arrive next week. And it’s been raining too much so the garden is a mess. It’s too cold to plant anything. I can forget about personal time and new projects. We spend the days running errands and also cleaning, repairing, washing, ironing, painting. Thre is so much to do!
All this has actually happened 2 weeks ago. We have had a string of lovely guest. It’s been especially emotion to meet a couple returning to see us after 15 years. We have hosted a small group on a custom-designed wine, food and pottery tour. We are preparing for one of our major events of the year, the Porchetta Tour.
If you have my book or you have visited Italy, you know that porchetta is an iconic street food of central Italy made from a whole pig stuffed with herbs and black pepper and slowly roasted in a wood fired oven. The participants to the Porchetta experience get to taste various versions of the delicious roast at the Porchettiamo festival held in San Terenziano, about 1 hour South West from us in Assisi.
This is one of Umbria’s best festivals, made lively by a cheerful crowd enjoying samplings of porchetta from all over Italy and a variety of both traditional as well as novel pork-inspired treats and streetfoods.
In case you were wondering about drinks, there is plenty wine on offer and a robust flow of craft beer provided by stands which are strategically placed along the tasting route in the medieval village.
Most of my winter’s grand plans are left as “dreams in the drawer” as we call them in Italy. However, I did manage to develop a recipe for mezzelune, a type of ravioli which in this case I have filled with porchetta. Mezzelune are ravioli cut in a half moon shape using a round ravioli stamp. However, you can use the recipe to make square ravioli as explained in so many of my recipes, for example here and here.
This recipe is great to use pork roast leftovers especially if you have ventured in the preparation of a whole porchetta as explained in my book. However, you can use leftovers pork roast or BBQ as long as the meat is not too wet from sauces. If the meat you have it’s too dry you can add a bit more guanciale to soften it up. In Umbria we have lots of wild fennel which is intensely aromatic, but you can use fronds of cultivated fennel as well.
For the mezzelune:
- 2 large organic eggs
- 200 g (2 scant cups) Italian 00 flour
- 100 g (3 oz) Swiss chard, cleaned
- 200 g (1/2 lb) porchetta or leftover pork roast, diced
- 70 g (2.5 oz) guanciale diced very finely
- 6 tab grated Parmigiano
For the sauce:
- 4 teaspoon butter
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- a handful fennel fronds
- 4 tablespoon parmigiano
Fill a pan with 1 cm (1/2 inch) water, add Swiss chard, cover and bring to the boil quickly. Steam until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Squeeze as much moisture as possible from the chard and chop roughly. You will obtain about one handful of cooked chard.
In a food processor, blend chard, porchetta, guanciale, parmigiano and a sprinkle of black pepper.
Prepare the pasta sheets with 00 flour and eggs using my basic pasta recipe . Divide the pasta into pieces of the size of a golf ball. Using a pasta machine roll them out into long thin strips and place them on a lightly floured worktop.
Using a small teaspoon, place the porchetta filling about 5 cm (2 inches) apart on the sheet, then make a “parcel” by folding over the pasta sheet. Using a pasta cutter seal each parcel in a half moon shape. Roll the leftover pasta into a new sheet again immediately, before it becomes to dry. Dust a large tray or your worktop with flour and carefully place the mezzelune on it, taking care that they do not overlap.
Cook in salted boiling water until al dente, about 3 min. Meanwhile chop the fennel fronds reserving a few for decoration. Melt the butter in a pan large enough to hold all the pasta, add the juniper berries and keep it warm. Drain and toss ravioli in the juniper butter, add the chopped fennel fronds, parmigiano and a ladleful of pasta water. Stir over meadium heat to incorporate and absorb the pasta water. Plate arranging the additional fennel fronds for decoration and serve immediately.
Makes 40 ravioli. Serves 2-3