Sunday, March 6, 2011

Peas & Cheese Tortellini

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – June 22, 2010
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published in Every Day with Rachel Ray, May 2008.

Cook’s Thesaurus describes tortellini as “circles of pasta that are stuffed with meat or cheese and then folded into little hats.”  That description aside, who doesn’t love tortellini?  Those little tiny pockets of dough filled with ooey-gooey cheese.  Mmmmmm… 

One of the best things about tortellini is that it doesn’t need a heavy sauce.  The sauce for this dish consists of a little skim milk, peas and a little Parmesan cheese.  I wanted to make it because it’s a vegetarian meal that allows one of my favorite pastas to really shine by not drowning it in sauce.

My finished product:

© You Want Me to Cook?

Picture published with recipe:

© Every Day with Rachel Ray

Clearly Rachel Ray’s recipe writers have no idea about the difference of grated and shredded Parmesan cheese.  I used shredded because it is what I had on hand, but the recipe clearly states grated.  No matter, the dish turned out delicious and I didn’t wonder if my selection of cheese was going to hurt the dish.

As a side note:  I’ve often thought about writing in to Rachel Ray, but if there is one thing I noticed in reading her magazine, when someone questions her or complains, she’s kind of nasty.  For example, someone once wrote in and asked why she didn’t include nutritional information with her recipe.  Her response (or the editor’s response – who really knows) was curt and rude with a “we believe you have to moderate your food intake.”  What she fails to understand is that with moderation, you have to understand what you are taking in.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessEH – minimal and easy chopping with everything made in one dish (with the exception of cooking the tortellini – which doesn’t make that much of a mess).  It has minimal chance for spilling all over the counter too since you add the tortellini back to the sauce pan.

Start-to-Finish Time: WELL UNDER AN HOUR – if you get your pasta water started before beginning to assemble and prep your ingredients, you should be done within 30 to 45 minutes.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – The big trick with the prep work for this recipe is the peas.  Not that you have to chop, grate, purée them… no, you have to let them defrost.  The only other think you need to do is chop the scallions and get the milk ready to pour.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – True it is only cooking pasta and making a sauce, but when you are thickening your sauce with a roux (equal parts flour & fat), it can get a little tricky.  The key?  Make sure your flour and liquid are ready to go before starting.  Not having your ingredients prepped for use will turn your roux base into a disaster.

OverallYUMMY – it was light and refreshing.  At first I wasn’t sure we were going to like it since it didn’t have a lot of sauce, but the tortellini stood on its own with the sauce being a fantastic compliment.  I’ve made this more than once, and since I have a pile of about 3000 recipes that are in the “can’t wait to try” pile, that’s impressive.

Recipe Information:
Time estimates are from the original publisher of the recipe, not the length of time it took me to create it.  Look for my comments below.  Nutritional Information is based on original recipe.  Any changes I make to reduce the caloric, fat, cholesterol or sodium content are not reflected in the Nutritional Information.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

Nutritional Information

Huh – and I just mentioned the “moderation speech” given by “Rachel” herself above.  Yeah, I agree with her on one thing, you can enjoy all good things in moderation, but if you don’t know what you’re eating, you can’t really moderate, it.  Right?  Personally, I think it is a cover for having fairly unhealthy recipes, so I try not to make multiple RR recipes a week.

As for the cooking times, you can definitely get your ingredients prepped and equipment assembled in 10 minutes – maybe less – but make sure you take out the peas beforehand to thaw.  The sauce can easily be finished in 15 minutes, but I’m not sure if you’ll get the pasta finished in that time.  Start the water boiling before you start prepping the ingredients so you can time the pasta being done around the same time your sauce is.

As you can see from the picture, Rachel Ray served the pasta with crusty bread.  I’d throw a large salad with that, and then you can stretch the servings to 6.

Changes denoted by red text

1 pound frozen cheese tortellini
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons butter
5 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced separately
2 tablespoons flour
1 2/3 cups skim milk
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

Ingredient Notes:
Cheese Tortellini – I used Buitoni which is “fresh” in the refrigerated section.  Frozen, as stated in the recipe, works too.  They recently started making a Whole Wheat tortellini, that will give you more fiber, but it won’t cut your calories, fat or cholesterol content.

Peas – you can use any kind of peas you have on hand.  I used regular, but I often keep petite in my freezer.  They would have worked just as well.

Skim Milk – when I make a roux, I’ve never had an issue with using skim milk.  It saves you almost half the calories, all the fat and almost all the cholesterol.

Parmesan Cheese – I had shredded on hand (that’s usually all I have) and obviously that’s what Rachel had on hand as well.  It works fine and melts nicely in the sauce.

Equipment Needed:
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Extra Large saucepan
Large saucepan
Wooden spoon
Large spoon

Equipment Notes:
Extra Large Saucepan – it is going to need to accommodate one pound of tortellini and several quarts of cooking water.

Before assembling your equipment and prepping your ingredients, start the pasta water boiling.  By the time you are ready to start, hopefully, the water will be boiling and ready to cook the tortellini.

(1)  In a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until al dente; drain.

(2)  Meanwhile, add the peas, butter and scallion whites to another large saucepan and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.

If you haven’t already, (and if you haven’t – for shame), make sure the flour and milk are ready to go so you can add and stir the flour and milk constantly.

(3)  Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

(4)  Gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

(5)  Stir in the scallion greens and season with salt and pepper.

(6)  Stir the tortellini and 1/3 cup cheese into the sauce.

(7)  Divide the pasta among 4 serving bowls and sprinkle with more cheese.

There isn’t much I’d change about this dish, other than trying out the new wheat tortellini.  Without the bread and salad, this is a filling lunch, but it makes a nice dinner too.

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