Manti

These enchanting little parcels are both pretty to look at and pretty damn tasty too! Although they look rather tricky to make and you might think, ‘I can’t do that’. I promise that once you get going on filling, folding and pinching you’ll find yourself in a trance like state so focused on trying to achieve symmetrical stuffed envelopes of pasta.

You can make any filling you like, it simply depends what you are in the mood for and what road of foodie influence you want to travel down: I’ve previously made both Middle Eastern and Italian influenced versions. Whatever you decide upon, all are equally as delicious and work well served with a butter sauce or sat atop a swathe of cooling yoghurt spiked with chilli and fresh herbs.

This recipe uses braised Savoy cabbage, sweet and caramelised laced with lemon zest, crushed fennel seeds and green peppercorns – served in a quick butter, herb and chilli sauce to coat the Manti.

Ingredients
  • Flour – 2 cups of (1 fine semolina flour/ 1 ’00’ extra fine pasta flour)
  • Extra virgin Olive Oil – 1/2 Tbsp
  • 2 Medium to Large eggs
  • A couple of generous pinches of salt & grinds of pepper
  • One Savoy Cabbage (remove the core and any thick ribs) – finely shredded
  • Fennel seeds – 1 Tbsp
  • Green peppercorns – 1/2 Tbsp
  • Lemon zest – 1 Tbsp
  • Butter
  • Soft herbs – a good handful (any that you like – I love a mix of parsley and dill)
  • Red chilli flakes – 1 Tsp
Steps
  1. Start off with the filling as this needs time to braise in order to allow the beautiful caramelised sweetness of the cabbage to develop, it also then needs time to cool otherwise your dumplings will disintegrate as you try to form them – definitely not a way to find zen like utopia!
  2. Pop a large sauté pan on a medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp of butter to coat the bottom of the pan before adding the cabbage and a pinch of sea salt. Toss the cabbage, turn the heat down a little then lid the pan to encourage steam to develop as don’t want the tender shredded leaves to char – simply cook down at this stage. Check the cabbage at around 5 minutes. You’ll see that its softened, become tender and slightly translucent. Its at this stage you can take the lid off, give it a good stir, and whilst keeping the heat low (add a little water if you need to loosen slightly – this will cook off) throw in the crushed fennel seeds and green peppercorns.
  3. Keeping a watchful eye on the braising cabbage, its time to start making the dough. I really like the convenience of using either a food processor or a stand mixer with the hook attachment to do the hard work here!
  4. Add the flour, olive oil and a pinch of salt to the bowl of the processor/ mixer and pour in the eggs with the motor running until the dough begins to form. The quantities here are a good, regular ratio that I use however you may need to add a little more flour/ water depending on if the dough appears to be on the wet or dry side.
  5. Check the cabbage, it should have taken on a Carmel hue and filled your kitchen with the most fantastic fragrant perfume. Turn off the low heat and set the pan aside to allow the filling to cool before adding in the lemon zest and season with some salt and pepper.
  6. In your machine of choice, the dough should have now come together and the hard work has been done for you, tip this out onto a floured counter and give it a kneed for 5-10 minutes until you have a smooth dough ball that springs back when prodded. The great thing about pasta dough is that you can be pretty heavy handed at this stage to get it to the ‘prod/ spring’ before then wrapping it in cling film or a damp tea-towel to let it rest. Its later on when you roll it out will you begin to see the more delicate side of the pummelled flour and egg amalgamation.
  7. This bit is why I love this recipe – have a tidy away of anything you’ve used and then have a rest, glass of wine, go for a walk or simply relax for half an hour or so…
  8. Rolling your dough. Take the dough from the fridge and divide the ball into quarters, setting aside the ones you aren’t using covered with the cling film or slightly damp tea towel. With the piece you are using, flatten it out on a lightly floured work-surface into rough rectangle before passing through your pasta machine’s widest setting a couple of times.
  9. Lay the piece of dough on the counter and fold each end over to meet in the middle, then flatten with your hand. Pass back through on the widest setting again for a couple of runs. Don’t forget to lightly flour the pasta sheet if you feel its getting a little tacky to the touch… I’ve fallen foul a few times of neglecting this as the dough sheet can get stuck to the machine and snag. Keep passing through each incrementally smaller setting 3 or 4 times, but stop short of the absolute last setting as the beautiful sheet can become too thin to work with. I’d say see how you feel but usually for Manti, I’d be inclined to see how I feel 3rd notch from the end.
  10. Using a 2 1/2 or 3 inch pastry cutter, cut out discs from the sheet then place a small heaped teaspoon of the braised cabbage in the centre of each. Fold the disc in half and lightly dot the centre of the arc with water or some egg wash to help it stick before then bringing in the sides (helped with your index finger in the middle of the opening) to join the already joined top. Pinch the seams together to seal and create the envelope like stuffed parcels.
  11. Repeat with the discs, a new sheet and all of the filling until complete. I admit it can be tricky at first but persevere and you’ll find your rhythm of filling, folding and pinching. Put the finished Manti as you go on a semolina flour dusted baking sheet or tray, covered so they don’t dry out too much and run the risk of cracking.
  12. Put a large pan of salted water on and bring to the boil whilst you make the sauce by melting 3 Tbsp of butter in your sauté pan until beginning to foam. Turn the heat down low whilst the first lot of the Manti are boiling, add in 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water, 1/2 a cup of finely grated parmesan and whisk vigorously to emulsify before throwing the chopped herbs and pinch or chilli flakes in. You should end up with a velvety smooth buttery sauce flecked with green and red.
  13. Granted there’s a lot going on it may seem at this stage so have another glass of wine to hand as you’ll be working fairly quickly at this stage as the Manti take only 3-4 minutes to cook. Depending on how many you are in the mood to eat will need to be cooked in batches before being transferred to a serving dish or individual bowls with a slotted spoon.
  14. Pour the butter sauce over the Manti and gently toss to coat before tucking in and enjoying these delicious flavour packed pasta parcels.

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