Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Fagottini
I initially discovered this unusual and unique filled pasta shape not in Italy but in England. You might have read the story about my love for all filled pastas in this post on beet green ravioli. It was in the Sainsbury's supermarket in London where I encountered these dumpling-like little packages. The first time I saw the pyramid shapes in the refrigerated section of the store, I was mesmerized. Since then I've looked for fagottini everywhere but have yet to find them here in the states. So, I decided to replicate the pasta from scratch.
I tried to create a recipe very similar to the pasta I had enjoyed while studying abroad. For me, the flavors of wild mushrooms and goat cheese of the store-brand package could not be beat. For my filling I used the Italian cremini and the Asian shitake mushroooms, but you can use any blend of mushrooms that you like. I happened to use what was available in the market. The more wild the variety, the better the flavor. Both cremini and shitake are now cultivated, so they are not that wild any longer. But their earthy flavors and musty smells still engender images of the dark forest.
Also included in the filling is the famous cheese of Rome, Pecorino Romano. Made of sheep's milk, its sharp and salty flavor nicely complements many boldly flavored pasta dishes. You will commonly find it grated over pasta all'amatriciana, which has guanciale (salt-cured pig's jowl) as its featured ingredient. Here the cheese works harmoniously with the goat cheese in the filling and, along with a drizzle of olive oil, becomes the simple finishing topping.
Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Fagottini
For the pasta dough:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
For the filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
8 ounces shitake mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
1 8-ounce log goat cheese
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg white
To make the dough, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Create a well in the center and add the eggs and egg yolk. Using a fork, beat the eggs while mixing in the flour a little at a time. Once the dough has come together, if it is too dry and crumbly, a little water can be added.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Form into a ball and knead until the dough takes on a smooth surface, about 10 minutes.
Form the dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let it rest for about 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature.
To make the filling, heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and shallot; cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add thyme and mushrooms. Cook, stirring constantly, until all moisture is lost, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Once slightly cooled, add the mushrooms to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Turn out into a medium bowl. Add goat cheese and Pecorino; season with salt and pepper. Add egg white and stir to combine.
To make the pasta, cut the disk into about 4 to 6 pieces. Work with only one piece at a time and keep the remaining pieces wrapped in plastic wrap. Form the piece into a flat disk, lightly flour, and feed it into the machine starting with the largest setting. Fold the dough in half and roll it through again. Now start moving onto the next setting and so on until the next-to-last setting is reached. The pasta should be silky smooth and less than 1/16-inch in thickness.
Lay the long sheet of pasta on a lightly floured work surface. Cut off the rounded ends. Using a decorative pastry cutter or a sharp knife, cut the sheet into small squares of equal size.
Using a teaspoon, drop balls of filling onto each square. Brush around the filling with a bit of water. Take the square in hand and bring all the corners together, firmly pressing the edges to seal the dough while removing as much air as possible. Place onto a lightly floured tray or towel. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Scraps of dough can also be reformed and rerolled on the machine.
Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a rapid boil. Add the fagottini in small batches and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. Stir now and then to prevent sticking. Serve drizzled with olive oil and grated Pecorino. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.