Just before the New Year, I went to the market to pick up a few items. My sister-in-law was in town and we planned a night of munchies for New Year’s Eve. The market I shop at had black-eyed peas on prominent display. I learned from a store associate that black-eyed peas, ham hocks and greens are served as a traditional Southern meal on New Year’s Day. While I didn’t use the peas, I used this traditional meal as inspiration for my Cheddar and Mustard Green Tortelloni with Ham Hock Broth.
One of the things I love about food is that I’m always learning something new. Food tells a story about people, culture and traditions. Traditions like eating black-eyed peas, ham hocks and greens for the New Year have lasted generations and likely so have the family recipes people use to make it. But cooking isn’t static. What’s even more fun about food, is the ability to reinterpret and make something new from “the traditional”.
The ham hock broth is simple enough to make and packs some delicious smoky ham-flavor. Adding some beans, veggies and the meat from the hocks could be the basis of a delicious soup if you wanted to skip the pasta making portion of this recipe. The taste of cheddar isn’t typical of ravioli but works with the smokiness of the ham, and bitterness of the greens. We as Americans often dredge our pasta in tomato sauce. I wouldn’t recommend it with this pasta as the subtle flavors pair well with the light broth but would be muddled by a heavier tomato sauce.
The title of this recipe calls these pasta tortelloni, or large tortellini, but technically these are really cappelleti. The difference is that tortelloni are formed from circles rather than squares. I’m not sure it really matters what you call them as long as they taste great, and they do. Tortelloni en brodo is traditionally served as a primi or first course, but paired with a salad and bread, this could easily be a main course.
- 2 or 3 ham hocks
- 1 carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 1/2 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 quarts cold water
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 bunch mustard greens, cleaned, stalks removed and roughly chopped
- 1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 cup (about 1/3 pound) shredded vintage cheddar cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3 cups flour
- 3 eggs plus one yolk
- Cut the vegetables into large pieces. Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the ham hock is tender and falling apart. Season with salt to taste. Strain off the liquid and skim off any fat. Pull the meat off the hocks and reserve. The yield should be 36-40 ounces of broth.
- Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mustard greens and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 cup of water and cover, cooking for another 5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid is fully evaporated. Set aside to cool and then squeeze out any excess liquid.
- Add the greens and remaining ingredients except the eggs into a food processor. Pulse until the greens are broken down. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the eggs and pulse until incorporated. Refrigerate until use.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Roll out the dough using a pasta machine to one of the thinner settings. For my Kitchen Aid pasta attachment my final setting is #6 for this pasta. Lay the pasta sheets onto a floured surface and cover until use. Cut the dough into 3 inch squares. Top each square with a generous teaspoon of filling. Lightly moisten two edges and fold the corners over to make a triangle, pressing to seal the edges together. Then pull the longer corners around until they come together in a circle and pinch them together (see pictures).
- Boil salted water in a large pot. Cook the pasta in batches for 4 minutes. Divide the pasta between bowls. Laddle hot broth into each bowl. Top with the reserved ham and garnish with green onion.