Claire's Tortellini Portofino from Dragonfly in Amber For New Year's Eve
When Geillis Duncan had been condemned as a witch, Jamie had said to me, "Dinna grieve for her, Sassenach; she's a wicked woman." And whether she had been wicked or mad, it had made little difference at the time. Should I not have left well enough alone, and left her to find her own fate? Still, I thought, she had once saved my life. In spite of what she was -- would be -- did I owe it to her to try to save her life? And thus perhaps doom Roger? What right did I have to meddle any further?
It isna a matter of right, Sassenach, I heard Jamie's voice saying, with a tinge of impatience. It's a question of duty. Of honor.
"Honor, is it?" I said aloud. "And what's that?" The waiter with my plate of tortellini Portofino looked startled.
"Eh?" he said.
"Never mind," I said, too distracted to care much what he thought of me. "Perhaps you'd better bring the rest of the bottle."
I finished my meal surrounded by ghosts. Finally, fortified by food and wine, I pushed my empty plate aside, and opened Gillian Edgar's gray notebook.
Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber (Chapter 48)
A bit of a melancholy scene from which to suggest a romantic New Year's dinner for 2?
Perhaps, but these delicious little shrimp-filled pillows tossed in a classic Alfredo sauce more than make up for Claire's tortured self reflections -- don't forget it's an empty plate she pushes aside, so her internal struggles don't seem to have affected her appetite -- and, as for turning self reflection into a plan of action, that probably happens more on New Year's Eve than any other day of the year, so, although it's a strange fit, it's a fit after all. Or so says the head cook... ;)
As for the dish itself, Portofino is a traditional fishing village turned tourist resort in north-west Italy. That the tortellini's filling has to be from the sea is a no brainer. And when one of my Google searches turned up Tortellini Portofino with Alfredo Sauce on the dinner menu from a restaurant in Phoenix, the old writer's adage "write what you know" came to mind. Is it possible that Herself was inspired to include Tortellini Portofino in DIA because she enjoyed it at a restaurant close to home?
Possible -- and certainly a good place to start when creating a recipe!
Credit for the tortellini dough goes to Alton Brown from the Food Network. The olive oil in the recipe gives the dough a little stretch, making it easier to fill and fold. My friend Alton also claims that you can roll this dough out by hand -- I have never tried it (I use the pasta roller attachment on my Kitchen Aid), but if you're keen for a go, check out his directions.
The filling is purely my own. The shrimp and green onion are fresh, uncomplicated flavours that match well with the slight tang and creaminess of the Alfredo.
Although I've suggested this as a romantic New Year's Eve dinner for 2, you'll notice that the recipe actually serves 4. If you're going to the trouble to make homemade tortellini, it doesn't make sense to only make enough for 2. Freeze half of the uncooked tortellini for another dinner down the line (see the tips below the recipe) -- or have an Outlander-obsessed friend and her partner over to make it a party!
And, finally, don't write this recipe off as too much work. If you want to make things easier and avoid the pasta making, check out the tips below the recipe.
Claire's Tortellini Portofino
Light as a cloud, shrimp-filled tortellini tossed with an authentic, rich and lemony Alfredo Sauce. Just like I imagine Avanti Restaurant makes in Phoenix.
Serves 4 as a Main Course
For the Pasta Dough:
- All-Purpose Flour - 3 Cups
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Eggs - 2 Large
- Water - 3 Tble
- Olive Oil - 1 tsp
For the Filling:
- Raw Shrimp - ¾ lb (350g)
- Green Onions, white & light green only, chopped - ¼ Cup
- Parsley, stems removed, chopped - 2 Tble
- Egg Yolk - 1 Large
- Bread Crumbs - ½ Cup
- Lemon Zest, grated - 1 tsp
- Salt - ¼ tsp
- White Pepper - ¼ tsp
- Whipping Cream - 2-3 Tble
- Egg White - 1 (for egg wash)
For the Alfredo Sauce:
- Whipping Cream - 1¼ Cups, divided
- Fresh Lemon Juice - 3 Tble (1-2 lemons)
- Unsalted Butter - 6 Tble
- Parmesan Cheese, grated - 1 Cup
- Lemon Zest, grated - 1 tsp
- Salt & White Pepper - to taste
- Nutmeg, freshly grated - pinch (optional)
Make the pasta dough: Pulse the flour and salt together in a food processor 2 to 3 times to combine. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, water and oil. Pour this mixture down the chute in a continuous stream while pulsing the machine. Continue pulsing until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Form into a ball, then flatten into a 1” thick disk and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour to rest.
Make the filling: Combine all of the filling ingredients except the whipping cream and egg white in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not mushy. Scrape the filling into the bowl, then stir in whipping cream. Cover and refrigerate.
Form the tortellini: Divide the dough into quarters. Use a pasta roller to roll out one piece at a time, as if you were making sheets of lasagna. Follow the roller instructions to roll each sheet out on the thinnest setting. Dust sheet very lightly with flour, then cover with plastic wrap while you roll out the other pieces. Cut 4” rounds or squares from the sheets.
Whisk the egg white with 1 teaspoon cold water to make an egg wash. Place ½ teaspoon filling into the center of each round, then use a pastry brush or your fingertip to spread egg wash on the bottom half of the round or square. Fold the top half over to form a half moon or triangle, and seal the edges with your fingertips, making sure you squeeze out all of the air pockets. Fold around your baby finger and press the corners together,then fold down the top to form the collar of the tortellini.
Work quickly to prevent the dough from drying out (this is a great project for 2) - Wrap the finished tortellini well and refrigerate until just before serving.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapidly boil. Cook the tortellini in 2 batches, for 3 to 5 minutes each, or until they float to the surface. Drain, then cover to keep hot.
Make the Alfredo sauce: While the tortellini cook, stir 1 cup of the whipping cream and lemon juice together in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted, and the cream is just bubbling, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the cooked tortellini and toss gently. Add the remaining ¼ cup cream, Parmesan, lemon zest and nutmeg, if using. Toss until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 more minutes. Taste, season with salt & pepper and serve with some garlic bread and a green salad on the side.
- Can’t deal with making pasta? Want less work? Use store-bought wonton wrappers instead -- then you just have to make the filling and sauce!
- Recipes with simple flavours like this one shine when you use the best ingredients you can find: we used side-stripe shrimp from right here in the Pacific Northwest and real Parmigiano Reggiano straight from Italy -- Kraft powdered Parmesan won’t work here.
- Once the tortellini are folded, they can be wrapped tightly and frozen for up to 2 weeks.
- I make a full recipe of pasta and filling, which serves 4, then freeze half for another night. Do not thaw before cooking -- boil straight from frozen.
- The sauce recipe also feeds 4. Half it if you are cooking for 2. It does not reheat well.
- I specified white pepper to keep black specks from spoiling the smooth pale sheen of the Alfredo sauce. If you don’t want to buy white pepper especially, use fresh cracked black pepper at the table instead.