It’s about time for another savory recipe. This is actually two recipes in one: the pesto and the homemade tortellini. You can definitely just make the pesto and use it for whatever you wish. You could also make the tortellini and serve it with whatever your favorite pasta sauce is. There are so many ways to adapt and change this recipe to fit your schedule, budget, or personal tastes.
The Carrot Top Pesto
I’ve been wanting to talk about carrot top pesto for a while now. My Nana grows carrots in her garden and so we always have an excess of carrot tops. I didn’t even know you could eat the carrot tops until earlier last year but honestly… it has become my new obsession. Carrot top pesto is slightly more bitter and has a stronger flavor than the original basil version, which makes it a perfect pesto to cook with. I looooove putting this stuff in a grilled cheese or making it into pasta sauce!
Feel free to use regular pesto instead, whether it’s homemade or storebought. This recipe will make much more pesto than you need for one batch of sauce. You can halve the recipe if you don’t want extra (but trust me, you’ll want some extra). Save the rest in an airtight container, store in the refrigerator, and use it for about a week.
Making Tortellini from scratch
Here’s what I learned when I made Pumpkin Ravoili: making pasta at home is not as hard as you think. A lot of effort and time? Yes. But hard? Nah. If you want a project or are just interested in the process (like I was), then try it out. It’s actually pretty fun.
You can choose to make your tortellini in any size and filled with anything you want. I chose to use a ricotta-parmesan-spinach mixture that ended up being delicious and working perfectly with the pesto sauce. The ricotta mixture was also reused for the pasta sauce, which is why it makes so much.
My biggest tip for making tortellini at home is to make sure the edges are sealed well. When you bring the two corners together (to give it that iconic tortellini shape), the filling might come close to breaking out. Try to make sure all edges are sealed before chilling. This recipe also requires a chilling time, but it just makes the pasta easier to work with.
I’ve included instructions on how to make the pasta with and without a pasta maker. You can easily roll the pasta out with a rolling pin, but the pasta maker does make the process much easier. After cutting out the tortellini rounds, you can collect the excess dough, re-knead it, and then pass it through the pasta maker one last time. Don’t use it a third time, it’ll probably be too dry by that point.
The Pasta Sauce
I used a mixture of the ricotta filling and the carrot top pesto to make this sauce. I added butter and garlic as well because everything is better with butter and garlic! You can really use whatever type of sauce you want, but I highly recommend adding the pesto in some way. You can also add vegetables or meat to the sauce if you wish. We made chicken to go with the pasta, to help make the dish a little more substantial.
And that’s basically it! You can keep the tortellini in the freezer until you want to cook it, just transfer it to a Ziploc bag once completely frozen. Again, this recipe is actually relatively simple and can be pared down to accommodate your schedule. But if you do end up making all of it, you’ll understand that it really is worth all the effort.
Homemade Cheese Tortellini w/ Carrot Top Pesto
For the carrot top pesto (this will make extra, halve recipe as needed):
- 5 cups carrot tops, chopped
- 1 cup parmesan
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 1 1/2 cup olive oil (plus more)
- 1/4 cup basil, chopped
For the pasta dough:
- 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 beaten egg, for egg wash
For the cheese filling:
- 15 oz ricotta
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/8 tsp garlic salt
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
For the sauce:
- 1 stick butter
- 4-5 cloves garlic, diced
Make the carrot top pesto:
- Place all ingredients into a food processor. You can do it in batches if you can't fit all of the carrot tops (it'll shrink). Pulse until well blended and everything is finely grated. Add more olive oil if mixture seems too thick.
- Place pesto into an airtight container. Pour a layer of olive oil on top to prevent browning. Pesto can be made a couple of days in advance.
Make the pasta dough:
- In a large mixing bowl, or on any clean work surface, make a mound with the flour. Create a well in the center and add the eggs, salt, and olive oil.
- Use a fork to beat the wet ingredients. Begin to incorporate the flour closest to the center, but make sure the well stays intact. Once dough starts to come together, pour about 1/3 cup of water into it. Add more water based on feel: it should be soft and tacky but it shouldn't stick to your fingers.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 3-5 minutes or until soft and smooth.
- Wrap the dough completely in plastic wrap. Refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to rest.
Make the filling:
- In a medium mixing bowl, add all ingredients and mix until well combined. Refrigerate until needed.
Make the pasta:
- Flour your work surface. Take 1/4 of the dough out (keep the rest well covered and in the fridge). Flatten into a small rectangle and lightly coat with flour.
- If using a pasta machine: Set the maker to the widest setting. Run the dough through 2 times. Reduce the setting by one and run the dough through again. Repeat until you get the desired thickness (probably around 3 or 4). You want it to be thin, but you don't want it to be impossible to work with.
- If using a rolling pin: Roll the 1/4 portion of dough until it is as thin as possible, but not too thin that it'll break.
- Use a 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter to cut out circles in the pasta dough. Place each on a non-stick surface (don't stack them or they may stick together!).
- Repeat the whole process with all of the dough.
- Brush half of the edges of the circles with the egg wash. Place about 1/4 tsp of the filling to the center of each. You won't be able to use all of the ricotta but we'll use the leftover for the sauce!
- Fold dough in half to form half-moons. Then, bring the corners around the side or bottom and connect them with egg wash.
- Place the tortellini on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Place in the freezer for about 1 hour, or until completely frozen.
Make the sauce:
- Take four heaping spoonfuls (about 3/4 cup) of carrot top pesto and mix it into the leftover ricotta filling. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan (you will have to cook the tortellini in batches), add the butter and garlic. Cook until garlic is browned.
- Add the pesto ricotta mixture. Mix well until warmed.
Cook the tortellini:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place frozen tortellini and cook until they float to the top, about 6-8 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tortellini to the saucepan with the pesto sauce. You want to transfer some of the pasta water as well, so don't worry about straining it too much.
- Toss the tortellini in the sauce until well coated. Sprinkle with more parmesan and serve warm.