11.16.2013

Into the Venetian Lagoon

From the moment we decided to go to Venice, Mark insisted on an excursion to the island of Torcello out in the Venetian lagoon.

This little island is still little known or visited by the tourist throngs, though its ancient cathedral features some perfectly intact 12th-century Byzantine mosaics. Only the few cognoscenti would be there with us; we anticipated having the place to ourselves.

About a month after we bought our tickets to Italy, though, the New York Times ran an article about Torcello, its churches, and mosaics. He was crushed, fearing it would be overrun with tourists now.

Nonetheless, once in Venice, we boarded the Vaporetto from the Fondamenta Nuova one morning and set out for Torcello.

To our delight, the island wasn't crowded. I suppose that most tourists who are in Venice for their day or two wouldn't take the time to go that far for one church, when Venice itself had hundreds and possibly thousands of churches with sumptuous paintings, sculpture and mosaics to see without spending 45-minutes on a boat.

Santa Maria Assunta, Torcello - Photo: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
We had a wonderful leisurely late-morning visit among a scant number of other visitors, walking the near-ghost town and looking into its two ancient churches and at the ancient sculptures displayed in the village’s sleepy weed-grown piazza. By the time we were finished looking around, we were just a little hungry and decided to take advantage of one of the several eateries on the island.

Locanda Cipriani, started by the respected and revered owner of Harry's Bar, was a possibility recommended by some friends in Tucson. But Mark had read that the Ristorante Villa '600 (just across the canal from Cipriani) was really quite good, and very reasonably priced. And, he was right in both courts.

We generally don't go to a restaurant when they have someone out front telling you how good it is, and urging you to enter. Our internal "tourist trap" alarms sound, and we move on.

Even though there was an old man out at the path doing just this, we had to admit that he seemed to really know the food, and be very proud of it. Perhaps he was the owner? We went in.

We were seated in the large, tented side room - one of maybe four occupied tables among an optimistic two dozen tables. A group of retired professors from Great Britain were beside us. A young German family with two children were two tables away, and an elderly couple were just beyond them. It seemed empty with so few tables filled.

I think I would like whoever lives here... aprons upon aprons! Must be a good cook!
We ordered, not in any particular hurry, and settled in to enjoy the afternoon before boating to Burano.

The colorful houses of Burano
The pastas were absolute perfection. Mark ordered taglioline with branzino (sea bass), butter, lemon and bottarga (dried, grated grey mullet roe). I ordered the ravioli bicolori - pillows of red and golden pasta stuffed with robiola cheese and arugula, with salmon in butter and wine, topped with pistachios. We finished with a mixed green salad.

We asked our server about the pasta - was it colored with beets? No, he said, it was made with tomato. Only tomato and flour. The golden pasta was flour and egg. I got just enough information to come home and make it for us... and share with you!

I made the pasta in the food processor, but it is just as easy to make it by hand. Yes, this dish takes a little more time than some others, but the ravioli can be made ahead and frozen in airtight bags until you are ready to serve the dish. Oh, and the Robiola cheese we get here is nopthing like the fresh Robiola available in Italy. I used a high-quality ricotta and mixed it with a little cream to approximate the texture and flavor of this delicate cheese.

Hope you enjoy this third of my Venezia Series! One more to go - a specialty of Venice: cicchetti!

A presto!

~ David

Ravioli Bicolori al Salmone e Pistacchi

Golden Pasta Dough


2/3 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt
1 large egg


Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the egg and process for 30-60 seconds until the dough comes together into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or waxed paper and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

 

Red Pasta Dough
 

2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
pinch salt
1/4 cup tomato paste


Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the tomato paste and process for 30-60 seconds until the dough comes together into a ball. If it is too wet or sticky, add more flour (1 tablespoon at a time) and process again. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or waxed paper and let rest for 20-30 minutes.


Filling for the Ravioli


3/4 cup best-quality whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg, separated
1 tablespoon heavy cream
small handful of arugula or parsley leaves
pinch salt
freshly ground pepper


Blend the ricotta, egg yolk and cream together in a small bowl. Finely chop the arugula or parsley and add it to the cheese mixture, incorporating thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.


Assembling the Ravioli


Roll out both colors of pasta dough into wide flat pieces. (I use an Atlas pasta machine and start at level 1 and roll to a thin level 6.) Cut each long piece into a 12-inch length and stack gold and red in separate piles, with waxed paper between each layer; cover each pile of pasta with a damp towel.


Whisk the egg white in a small bowl to break it up.


Take one layer of golden pasta and place over a ravioli mold, and place the white form on top to make indentations. (If you don’t have a mold, separate directions follow in blue.)


Place a teaspoonful of filling in each indentation. Using a pastry brush, paint the egg white around all the edges and between each lump of filling. Cover with the red dough and, using a rolling pin, roll over the mold to seal and cut off edges. Turn over the mold to release ravioli onto a sheet on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Repeat process until you have 30 ravioli. Place baking sheet in the freezer while you make the sauce.


If you don’t have a mold, simply place a sheet of dough on the counter that has been dusted with flour. (The truth? I used the mold because I saw it in the pantry the other day – I usually just make then on the counter!)

Neatly place filling, a teaspoon at a time, on your gold dough in two rows of five. Using a pastry brush, paint the egg white around all the edges and between each lump of filling. Cover with the red dough. Start by pressing down with your thumb in the spaces between the lumps of filling to meet and seal the lower layer of dough, then press edges, doing your best to eliminate any air pockets without squishing the filling.


Using a pastry crimper, pizza wheel, or a long sharp knife, trim edges, then cut between each raviolo to make ten 2-inch square ravioli. Place trimmed ravioli on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Repeat twice more until you have 30 ravioli. Place the baking sheet in the freezer while you make the sauce.


Salmon and Pistachio Sauce
 

8 ounces salmon (with or without skin)
extra virgin olive oil
salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shelled and blanched unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped


Once you have placed the ravioli dough in the freezer, preheat the oven to 400°F. Place salmon in a small baking dish skin side down, and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 10-12 minutes. You want the salmon undercooked.


Place white wine in a medium-size skillet. Shred undercooked salmon into the wine and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for a few minutes to finish cooking the salmon, and to reduce the wine a little. Set aside.


Putting the Dish Together


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water once it is boiling and take ravioli from the freezer and gently place into the boiling water. Cook for 3-4 minutes. While pasta is cooking, reheat the salmon and stir in the butter to emulsify the sauce, being careful not to purée the salmon. Using a slotted spoon, gently lift and drain the ravioli and gently place them on heated serving plates, placing half the ravioli golden side up, and the other half red side up. Spoon some of the sauce over each plate and top with chopped pistachios. Serve immediately.


Serves 4 (makes 30 ravioli).


Note: Leftover pasta dough and trimmings can be rolled, cut into any shape you like, and frozen for future use.

28 comments:

  1. Such colourful photo's! I was a little bummed that we didn't get to Torcello when we were there. Especially now that I've read about the restaurants you guys visited. I too am wary of restaurant spruikers and tend to walk on past when I'm trying to be ushered in. Now I'm thinking how many really good places I may have missed out on by not going in!

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    1. Thanks, John! I can't wait to go back when it is sunny! I would love to see Burano with sunlight on all those colorful buildings. You know, even though we did well at this restaurant, I think you and I shoudl keep to our rules about not going into restaurants that have spruikers (new word for this Yankee!) and reek of tourism.

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  2. WONDERFUL write-up which had my mouth watering, even though I had just finished a bountiful Sunday morning breakfast! ...and the photos are the fabulous 'icing' on the blog! Many thanks!!!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by C&L - glad ou had a good breakfast, and that it didn't stop you from enjoying the ravioli! :)

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  3. Yet another place I'll have to add to my "bucket list." I love those small, off the beaten path places full of charm. Beautiful photos and delicious pasta.

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    1. Thanks, Valentina! I hope you do get to Torcello and Burano - such lovely places and obviously the food isn't too bad, either!

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  4. I'm loving all your Italy posts - dont want them to end! :) love the garnish of pistachio , and the clothesline picture is just stunning.

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    1. Thanks, Ahu - I thought there was only going to be one more post but I do have a fifth! Then we move onto New Orleans!

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  5. Dear David, very colorful photography! Venice is quite photogenic and I would not even know where to start taking pictures there...incredible and amazing and breathtaking...making me want to go there once again.
    The ravioli look so very tempting and absolutely wonderful - I have never gone through the trouble of making some myself (just too many of us around the table) but I know that I should because they taste so much better than store bought ones!!!
    Loving your Venice posts - keep them coming, dear friend!
    Einen wundervollen Sonntag wünsche ich euch noch und bis ganz bald, hoffentlich!
    Liebe Grüße aus dem (schon wieder) verregneten und kühlen Bonn,
    Andrea

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    1. Andrea - maybe you and your girls could make a double batch together! It is fun! I am so glad you are enjoying the Venice posts... two more left to go! Then New Orleans... Leider, wir haven kein Regen hier in Tucson!

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  6. Red pasta, how wonderful David! My memories of Venice are great, but Capri was SO crowded it completely diminished the experience! I can understand Mark. It's not just the place or the food, it's the whole package that matters, especially the company! I haven't made fresh pasta in ages.

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    1. Venice was really, really crowded, too - at least until we got to the little side streets where no tourists venture. Also at night, after the tour boats leave, the city kind of empties out. I look forward to returning, crowds or not!

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  7. Fabulous post! You had me with the first photo! I love the story behind your visit to Torcello and ultimately to what sounds like a very pleasant restaurant. The photos reflect the peacefulness of the area and the surprisingly brilliant colors--they are terrific shots. Finally, the recipe and detailed instructions instill enough confidence in me such that I may try to make those ravioli!

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    1. Susan - you really do need to try this. Maybe you should come here and we can do it together! I am so glad you enjoyed the photos of Torcello and Burano!

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  8. Ok! First of all, I love your pics. They make me want to move to Italy, get a job selling flowers barefoot in the village bazaar.
    Second of all, I'm itching to get a pasta machine. Might ask the hubby for one this Xmas.
    You make it look so easy! I love the salmon paired w 'stachios. Going to make this! xo

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    1. You definitely need an Atlas pasta machine, Colette! I use mine all the time. And it is pretty easy! Hey, if a guy can do it... :)

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  9. Hi David! It's taken me forever to get your post but I'm here! The photos are gorgeous and I'm thoroughly enjoying your Italy posts. The ravioli looks amazing! I love a good ravioli and love the pistachio salmon sauce, so different. Also, thank you for leaving the sweetest comment on my blog today. I instantly felt better. It's because of meeting friends like you that I don't stop. Thank you David xx

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    1. Thanks for coming by Nazneen - I know this hasn't been the best time for you! Glad you like the photos and recipes - two more Venice posts and then I am on to a 5-part series of New Orleans!

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    1. Thanks! Until you said that, I hadn't realized that it is a pretty healthy lunch!

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  11. What a beautiful post David. Ah, I'm starting at the end of the series and reading backwards but I'm in love with Venice already... those beautiful, vibrant houses, the old crumbling architecture, those beautiful fresco paintings. I am so glad that you and Mark still managed to avoid the tourist crowds! Thanks for sharing this golden pasta recipe with us too. The beautiful hue makes me think of saffron for some reason. Love that soft, shredded salmon fillet on the top. Definitely want to give this one a try :)

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    1. Thanks, Laura - I am glad you are enjoying the posts, even in reverse! Two more left to go!

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  12. glorious post....scenic snaps and delectable ravioli...perfect pairs...

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  13. What a colorful post...from the buildings to your pasta dish. I like the idea of the salmon and pistachio sauce, it is very different.

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    1. I think I ordered this dish because it WAS so different from anything else I have had.

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