Winter is sitting inside, in a warm place, next to the fireplace, hearty and generous food. Spring is smiling, to the sun, to the green in your dish, to the flowers blooming on the trees and in the fields. Summer is opening up, communicating, lightness in your heart, in your mind, in your kitchen. Autumn is listening.
Have you ever considered how important is listening? We spend most of our day communicating, with our unique voice, with written words, pictures, videos. We are exposed, willing or not, to a constant stream of information. We live into this stream, it builds our world and our imagination. Despite this, we have lost the ability to listen properly. We forget what we are told, we pay only a superficial attention to the words of those around us, we ignore the signals. What’s for? Saving time? No, we are just losing a sheer amount of warm human interactions, especially with the important people in our lives. We lose contact with the passage of time.
Autumn is the right season to start listening again, it seems made for it. Nature’s rhythms slow down, colours get brighter and warmer. The hypnotic buzz of Summer is gradually replaced by other sounds: a tractor in the distance plowing the fields, bringing out a rich chocolate colour, the wind blowing outside, the sound of doors been closed, as you want to keep the warmth inside. But Autumn is most of all the rustle of dry leaves under your feet, a sound so soft that sometimes you have to pay attention to hear it. Those blazing leaves are an antidote to the grayness of certain days, they change the mood and colour of the hours we are living, they bring us back to childhood carefree moments.
Autumn is also the season of nuts, a load of sounds, shells, textures, warm colours, roasted aromas and recipes. Tommaso brought me a basket crammed with wood-scented walnuts, collected by his aunt. I’ve always chosen almonds or hazelnuts rather than walnuts, I thought their taste was easier, more gentle. Burying my hands into a bag full of shelled nuts I changed my mind, I could finally appreciate their noble character, stern yet so rich.
Walnuts have a fascinating story, intertwined with mystery and superstition. In the Middle Ages it was believed that they were a miracle cure for our brain, as the shape of their kernels reminded so clearly our thinking organ. The walnut tree has always been considered a symbol of black magic and witches. They thought that during the darkest nights witches would take shelter into the hollow trunks of a walnut tree. Superstitions and folk beliefs come into scene again when it’s time to pick up green walnuts during St. John’s night. Women in the countryside pick up walnuts in the dark and leave them outside in the farmyard. Thus, the nuts will be covered with the dew of a summer night before being turned into nocino, an Italian liqueur.
I made buckwheat tortelli. This has been my first gluten free fresh pasta, and I am pretty satisfied with the result. Buckwheat gives a nutty taste which pairs walnuts beautifully. If you like a traditional fresh pasta follow this recipe, but be sure to add 50 g of buckwheat flour to the dough, as this tortelli are best when kept on the rustic side.
Buckwheat tortelli with walnuts and ricotta
Ingredients for the tortelli dough
- 50 g 1/3 cup of rice flour
- 150 g 1 and 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of boiling water
Ingredients for the filling
- 180 g 3/4 cup of fresh ricotta
- 2 generous handfuls of walnuts
- 2 tablespoons of grated pecorino romano
- 1 pinch of salt
Ingredients for the sauce
- 50 g 3 tablespoons of ricotta
- 4 tablespoons of grated pecorino romano
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
- Some walnut
- Make the fresh pasta. Mix the flours with a pinch of salt, the lightly beaten eggs and two tablespoons of boiling water. Mix with a fork until you have crumbles, then knead until you can shape your dough into a smooth ball. Wrap the dough in plastic film and prepare the filling.
- Chop finely the walnuts with a knife. Big pieces of walnuts can pierce the dough of your tortelli. Combine the chopped walnuts with the ricotta and the pecorino romano, then season with a pinch of salt. Your filling is ready.
- Cut the dough into 6 parts and roll out one at a time with a rolling pin and a good dusting of flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your table.
- Arrange small balls of filling onto the first sheet of pasta: use a teaspoon to have always the same amount of filling. Cover the filling with another sheet of dough and cut the tortelli with a pasta cutter.
- Cook the tortelli in boiling salted water. While they are cooking, quickly make the dressing by melting the grated pecorino romano in a non stick pan with the ricotta and one or two tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Drain the ravioli and put them in a serving bowl. Scoop over the ricotta and pecorino sauce and sprinkle with fresh time leaves. Break some walnuts with your hands and scatter over the tortelli. Now you can bring this glorious meal to the table.
This won’t be the last recipe with walnuts, as I am finishing to write this post I am already weighing some ingredients to bake a batch of biscotti. But I’ll tell you more about the cookies next time! How to you like your walnuts? Do you have family recipes to share with me? I loved my walnut mustard, now I’m eager to try a proper cake.
Two years ago…
A slice of pound cake with apples and cinnamon relaxes the soul and makes everyone happier. And then, the next day, you have your breakfast ready, so it is double worth the time it takes… not to mention the cozy smell that will put you to bed.
But now the cake, which is essential in its simplicity, moist inside thank to the soft apples, light and comforting.
It is Autumn knocking at your door, open and let in a gust of fresh air and yellow leaves. A slice of apple pound cake and a cup of orange and cinnamon tea will warm you up.