Give pasta and collards to this Italian girl from the
south and this is what she makes!
When Old World Italian roots integrate with a Southern lifestyle and Cooking …
It all began when my Sicilian grandparents sailed to American to live the American dream and made their home in the Mississippi Delta of Greenville, Mississippi. Throughout my childhood and with every meal I was reminded of my strong and enduring Sicilian heritage. I never knew that collard greens weren’t usually cooked with garlic and olive oil and topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese and I always considered capers and olives a childhood treat! When I stumbled upon Chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman’s Collards & Carbonara Cookbook, it was more than a glimpse into my family’s daily culinary routine when I was a child growing up in an Italian family in the South. I believe we were the lucky ones that got to experience the fusion of two cultures, two culinary world’s that nourished our bodies as well as our souls.
Who would have guessed that two Italian boys from Mississippi would inspire and evoke such wonderfully rich memories of growing up Italian with North Delta Mississippi and Louisiana roots!
I’m a really lucky girl! Recently, I actually got to meet Chefs Michael and Andrew at the Nashville Wine Auction’s Pairings 2014 Event! They know that I’m a real Italian girl with Southern roots! I plan to re-create many more of their close-to-heart recipes!
What I once considered the way we cooked was “just the way we cooked ” now has validation. What I knew in my heart is now put into words and recipes that have honored my heritage, now I know for sure “why I am the way I am!”
The hand-made tortellini is stuffed with cooked black-eyed peas that were put into a food processor with smoky house made bacon from Porter Road Butcher, garlic that I roasted, bread crumbs and ricotta with a dash of pepper sauce. We carefully formed each tortellini by hand and got really good at making them! I must admit that I couldn’t have done it without the skills and patience of my sister-in-law, Olivia and my fellow Italian friend and Pasta aficionado, Tom Lazzaro of Lazzaroli’s Pasta Shop here in Nashville. I convinced him to sell me a few sheets of pasta to make the tortellini (so I wouldn’t have to make it!)
This collard greens recipe is so amazing and flavorful; just the way I remembered it when my momma cooked them! Porter Road Butcher smoky ham hocks were cooked in chicken broth until tender. The wonderfully smoky, rich meat fell off the bone and added back to the broth.
If you think you’ve had the best black-eyed peas, just wait until you try this masterpiece.
Believe it or not, I had never made tortellini before! We got the hang of it very quickly and I will be making more!
*Grape Varietal: Trebbiano di Lugana *Floral and fruity white wine from the Lugana region of Italy
Lugana is a region of Italy that you may not be as familiar with as other Italian grapes but this is a wine that is definitely worth tasting! Trebbiano is the grape varietal that fills every sip with delicate floral notes, notable minerality or acidity and you will swear that you tasted a fresh peach or apricot in each drop. This wine is intense, aromatic and balanced with a slightly elevated level of residual sugar making this a perfect wine to pair with the strong flavors of collard greens, smoky ham hocks and that amazing stuffed tortellini!
- For the Southern-style collard greens:
- 2 lb. (1 kg) sturdy collard greens, stems removed and leaves
- torn into fork-size pieces
- 2 ham hocks, preferably Benton’s
- 8 cups (64 fl. oz./2 l) chicken stock
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- For the ham hock brodo:
- Olive oil as needed
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 leek, chopped
- 2 Tbs. roasted garlic (see note below)
- 2 ham hocks, preferably Benton’s
- 8 cups pork stock
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 bunch fresh sage
- 6-oz. (185-g) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
- 8 oz. (250 g) dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 3 bacon slices, preferably Benton’s
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 Tbs. roasted garlic (see note below)
- Chicken stock as needed
- 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) good-quality fresh ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup (1 oz./30 g) dried bread crumbs
- About 2 lb. (1 kg) pasta dough
- Semolina flour for dusting
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving
- To prepare the collard greens, submerge the greens in a large bowl of water and swish them around vigorously to remove the grit. Drain the greens, then repeat 2 more times (collards can be very dirty). In a large pot, combine the ham hocks and stock. Add water if needed to cover the ham hocks. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the meat just starts to pull away from the bone, about 30 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and greens to the pot, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the greens are tender, about 1 hour. You will need 2 cups (6 oz./185 g) cooked greens for the tortellini recipe.
- Meanwhile, prepare the ham hock brodo: In a stockpot over medium-high heat, warm 2 glugs (about 2 Tbs.) olive oil. Add the celery, shallot and leek and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the roasted garlic, then add the ham hocks, stock, thyme, parsley, sage and cheese rind. Add water to cover the ingredients, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the broth is full flavored, at least 1 hour. While the broth simmers, occasionally skim off the foam with a large metal spoon.
- Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the ham hocks. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the hocks in large chunks and reserve. If using the broth immediately, let it stand for a few minutes, then skim off the fat from the surface before using. Or, to store the broth, let it cool completely, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Scrape off the solidified fat from the surface before using. The recipe makes about 2 quarts (2 l) brodo; you will need 3 cups (24 fl. oz./750 ml) for the tortellini recipe.
- Place the black-eyed peas in a large saucepan and add water to cover by 2 inches (5 cm). Bring just to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes, skimming off the foam that forms on the surface. When the peas are fully cooked, season with salt and drain.
- In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until the fat is rendered, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and sauté until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Stir in the black-eyed peas and roasted garlic and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the stock and stir to scrape up the browned bits on the pan bottom, then cook until the ingredients are nice and soft, about 10 minutes. In batches, transfer the contents of the pan to a blender and puree until smooth. Put in a bowl; add the ricotta, bread crumbs and pepper vinegar to taste and mix well.
- Roll the pasta dough through a standard pasta machine to the number 6 setting. Working with 1 sheet of pasta at a time, and keeping the others covered with a damp kitchen towel as you work, use a 2-inch (5-cm) round cutter to cut the sheet into rounds. Spoon about 2 tsp. of the filling into the center of each round, being careful not to add too much. (Alternatively, spoon the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch/12-mm plain tip and pipe the filling onto the rounds.) Dampen a fingertip with water and run it along the edge of half of the round. Fold the other half of the round over the filling to make a half-moon. When all of the half-moons are formed, arrange them on the work surface with the rounded edge facing away from you. Place a finger of your nondominant hand in the center of a half-moon and use the fingers of your other hand to bring the 2 points together over your finger. Pinch the points together to seal the tortellini. Spread out the finished tortellini on a semolina-dusted baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pasta rounds and filling. You will need only half of the pasta shapes for this recipe; freeze the remaining shapes for a future meal.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When the water is boiling, drop in the tortellini and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium-low heat, warm the 2 cups collard greens and 3 cups brodo with the reserved ham hock meat until warmed through. Drain the tortellini and add them to the pan. Toss until well coated.
- Divide the tortellini among warmed wide, shallow bowls, then ladle in the collards, ham hock meat and brodo from the pan. Serve immediately, passing additional pepper vinegar and Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table for diners to add to taste. Serves 4.
- Note: To roast garlic, cut 2 heads of garlic in half crosswise and place, cut side up, in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and roast in a 350°F (180°C) oven until the garlic is soft and golden brown, about 30 minutes. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the soft garlic from the skins.
- Adapted from Collards & Carbonara, by Andrew Ticer & Michael Hudman (Olive Press, 2013).