I grew up around the corner from an artisanal pasta shop. Friday nights were often pasta nights and I loved heading to the shop to grab the noodles with my dad and younger sister. The terracotta colours and the smell of freshly cooked bread and simmering tomato sauce was such a comfort. It was such a thrill to watch the fresh dough pass through the press, a perfect, flat sheet, gently falling apart into spaghetti pieces. Somehow, so beautiful.
We would always get two bags — the “grownup” pasta for my parents (plain and spinach linguine), and the kids’ pasta (plain flour spaghetti). All I needed was a plateful of spaghetti, a pad of butter, some canned tomato sauce, and lots of parmesan cheese, and I was in bliss. I was also a mess, but that’s another issue.
At some point during my childhood, the shop changed owners and stopped offering fresh-cut pasta. Instead, they offered pre-prepared pasta, sauces, and other dishes. My palette “matured” and I found a new favourite: spinach, ricotta tortellini with a basil tomato sauce. *finger kiss* Delish! The full, savoury flavour of the spinach, paired with the tangy ricotta, and washed over with the sweetly acidic tomato sauce practically made my tastebuds dance. (Can you tell I like to eat?)
I never like to say goodbye to a good thing, so I’ve spent much of my vegan journey trying to create vegan cheeses to solve all my taste cravings. Happily, I’ve been able to recreate an equally delicious vegan version of my preteen pasta fave — the spinach ricotta tortellini! I decided that this recipe was too good not to share, so here it is.
**Before we begin, I feel I should warn you that this is a fairly labour intensive recipe. None of the aspects are difficult, but they are involved. There are, of course, shortcuts, but it will decrease the quality. Cut corners at your own risk! (I would cut corners for the sauce, though.) My recommendation is to make each part in its own time to assemble at a later date, and DEFINITELY do not be assembling your pasta while you’re already hungry. If you are anything like the hangry woman I am, you will end up making enough tortellini for one, then just eating the filling. Don’t be an Erin. Plan ahead.
Remember in my pierogi post I mentioned I loooove this dough recipe and want to make a million things from it? Well, I made tortellini/tortelloni and it is just as amazing in this form as I thought it would be. Seriously, it is the only pasta, pierogi, dumpling dough recipe you should ever try. It is fail proof and utterly delicious in any form. The only difference in this dough versus the pierogi version is that you need to roll the dough out a bit thinner for the pasta.
There are three parts to making the tortellini, not including the sauce. I will give you my recipe for the sauce, as well, but — let’s be real — the star of this post is the pasta; make whatever sauce you want, or canned. N.B.D.
Pasta = dough, spinach sauté, ricotta… then assemble and cook.
The dough is very simple. I will include the recipe below and my version of it, but the recipe is from @raspberryjello on Food.com/ Genius Kitchen.
The filling comes from the sautéed spinach and the vegan ricotta. The spinach is easy and straightforward. Using either (washed) spinach or baby spinach, sauté in an oiled pan with minced garlic until wilted. I make spinach this way constantly, and I never measure, but simply eyeball and taste test. I will give you my best estimation of the recipe, but please feel encouraged to taste along the way and adjust to your preferences.
The ricotta is TIME CONSUMING. However, I did it the ridiculously DIY way. What I mean is that it is possible to buy almonds that are already blanched and peeled, but I decided to do this myself. Yes, I peeled each almond. I don’t recommend it unless you are looking for a way to induce sleep at the same time as straining your ever-more-pruned fingers. Still, I feel compelled to show you my painstaking effort. So, behold my almond peeling.
If you want to follow my example, soak 2 cups of raw (organic) almonds in boiling water for 30 minutes until they have softened. Drain and peel! Apply a bit of pressure to the skins and they should slide off (or, pop). Once you have peeled all your almonds, rinse them and pile them in your blender. If you want to avoid the hassle, purchase blanched, peeled almonds and measure out 2 cups.
The recipe for the ricotta is adapted from Yup… It’s Vegan‘s Baked Almond Feta. It’s basically the same, but without shallots or yogurt, with additional water, not drained, and cooked hotter. The result is closer to ricotta than feta and perfect for this tortellini.
Finally, the rosé sauce… If you are making your tortellini from start to finish in the same day you plan to eat it, then just buy some sauce. Truly. This is usually what I do, but always dress it up a bit. I very rarely eat a purchased pasta sauce without doctoring it somehow, and usually the treatment is a couple splashes of cooking wine, a pinch of cane sugar, liberal shakes of onion/garlic powder, and a dash of nutritional yeast (and usually some chopped spinach).
You can create my rosé sauce in much the same manner to any pre-purchased tomato sauce by doing the above, but leaving out the spinach and adding some nondairy milk to lighten. I will give you the full recipe, all the same. Happy cooking, vegan fam!
Vegan Spinach Ricotta Tortellini
This recipe will yield around 40 tortellinis, depending on how you size them, but enough for 4 servings. As stated above, this is an intensive recipe and takes a bit of time, but is worth it. If you are short on time, or patience, you can certainly purchased pre-made vegan dumpling wrappers and/or processed vegan cheese. It won’t be the same result, flavour-wise, but will still yield a delightful result.
Cook time: 45 minutes
(Ricotta at 30 minutes + Spinach at 10 minutes + Tortellini at 5 minutes)
Prep time: 2 hours 10 minutes or* 1 hour 15 minutes
(Ricotta at 1 hour for soaking and peeling or *5 minutes for pre-peeled + Spinach at 5 minutes + Dough at 5 minutes for mixing, 30 minutes for resting, 30+ minutes for assembling)
- 2 cups of flour (I always use organic, unbleached flour as non-organic wheat products are rife with toxic, carcinogenic pesticides)
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbs of warm water
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I’ve used grape seed oil, olive oil, and avocado oil, and any are good)
- 1 tsp salt
** From this dough recipe
Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl and knead until a smooth, sticky dough has formed. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes to allow the gluten to elasticize.
Vegan Ricotta Ingredients
- 2 cups peeled, raw/blanched almonds, organic (non-organic almonds also have high levels of glyphosates)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tbs lemon juice
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2-4 tbs water, for blending
**Adapted from this recipe
Vegan Ricotta Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
If you are starting with raw almonds with the peel on, start with 2 cups rinsed almonds and let soak in boiled water for 30 minutes until softened.
Once the almonds have softened, they should be easy to peel. Peel them all, and then rinse and add to your blender. (You can use the peels in different recipes, as suggested by the recipe originator.)
If you are starting with peeled almonds, skip the above, and add 2 cups to your blender.
Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until fully processed. You may need to add more water to get everything blended, but try not to add more than you need.
Line a baking dish with parchment paper and spread the mixture out in it. The more surface area, the faster the cheese will dehydrate, so the larger the dish, the better. You don’t need to strain out the water, as it will cook out, and you don’t want it too dry.
Bake for 30 minutes, but rotate the mixture every 10 with a fork. You want the ricotta to have areas of browning and to take on the texture of ricotta (dry, but soft).
Remove to a mixing bowl and let cool.
Spinach Sauté Ingredients
- 1/2 tbs olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced/grated
- 6 cups baby spinach (thoroughly washed), chopped
- 2 tsp nutritional yeast
- salt and pepper, to taste
Spinach Sauté Directions
In a large pan, or pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat and add the garlic to lightly cook.
Add in the spinach in stages. Unless you have a pan big enough for all the spinach at once, you will have to add more to the pan as it wilts. You can either add the spinach without first chopping, and chop after it’s all cooked, or chop it before cooking. In either case, you will want to have it in small pieces to evenly distribute.
Add the nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper once all the spinach is in the pan. Cook until bright green and wilted.
Cool in a sieve/strainer and allow the excess liquid to drain. If you did not chop the spinach before cooking, chop it once drained and mostly cooled.
Add to the ricotta and mix together evenly. Taste, and adjust for salt and tang.
Assembling the Tortellini
Separate dough into quarters or halves (depending on your counter space) and roll out on a lightly floured surface. The dough should be a few millimetres thick (quite thin, but not enough to tear). Cut into circles, smaller for tortellini, larger for tortelloni. I used a 3″ cookie cutter and found it was a bit large for tortellini.
Alternatively, you can also make ravioli, with a press/mold, or by cutting in rectangles, and folding flat over the filling.
Add about a teaspoon of filling (or more, or less, depending on your circle sizes) in the centre of the round. Fold the dough over the filling in a crescent shape and pinch closed around the edges. If you are having trouble forming the seam, add some water to help the dough adhere to itself. (I didn’t find this necessary, though.) To make the tortellini shape, bring the pointed corners together in the centre and twist under.
The tortellini can be cooked immediately, refrigerated for later, or frozen.
Rosé Sauce Ingredients
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 shallot, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp white miso paste
- 28 oz can tomato puree
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I use soy or almond)
- 2 tbs nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp brown/cane sugar
- salt and pepper, to taste
Rosé Sauce Directions
In a medium pot, over medium heat, warm the oil, then add the shallot, garlic, carrot, oregano, and miso paste. Cook until the shallots start looking translucent and the carrots are softened.
Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir. Bring to a slow boil, give a stir, and then simmer, covered for 20-30 minutes.
Cooking the tortellini is the easiest part of the whole process — besides eating it.
Bring a large pot of water to a steady boil. Salt the water for flavour and add the pasta. The tortellini takes only a few minutes to cook, and is done once all the pieces have floated to the surface of the water.
Drain, and toss with sauce. Add a bit of ground black pepper and some vegan parmesan and enjoy!