Ever since I very possibly made this shape up, I’ve been wanting to use it in a dish I’d long imagined as spaghetti al limone in stuffed pasta form. I’d been workshopping it for weeks at Misi but couldn’t get it quite right. From here, the story is a familiar one to anyone who’s worked in a kitchen: We had bottarga in for a salad I’d been creating, and I figured what the hell, I’ll shave it over the top of this dish as if it were parmigiano and see if it works.
To anyone acquainted with bottarga, and I hope you are, the combination of cured fish roe and ricotta, both staples of the Italian south, might sound like an error in judgment. But pairing fish and cheese is not a sin in the south, and here, I thought, is one good reason why. The tang and richness of ricotta combined with the minerally, briny bitterness of the bottarga kicked up with lemon has become one of my favorite combinations.
Sheep’s Milk Ricotta–Filled Occhi with Lemon and Bottarga Recipe
The secret to Misi’s famous occhi is in the sauce. The ricotta-stuffed pillows of pasta are doused in butter and dressed in lemon zest and shaved bottarga. Each bite is creamy, salty, buttery, and bright. Here’s how to recreate the dish at home.#pasta #italianfood #pastarecipe #misi feat. from @kimdaisykim & @_mcork♬ Sunshine - WIRA
348g / 1½ cups sheep’s milk ricotta
348g / 1½ cups cow’s milk ricotta
1 batch egg dough (see below)
75g / 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cubed
Peel of 1 lemon, pith removed and peel finely chopped
About ¼ lobe bottarga, or q.b.
Step 1: To make the filling, put the sheep’s milk ricotta and cow’s milk ricotta in a food processor and pulse just until they are as smooth as cake frosting and have a sheen, being careful not to process the mixture longer or it will break. Transfer to a bowl.
Step 2: Season the ricotta mixture with salt q.b. It should taste well seasoned. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Step 3: To finish, following the instructions for occhi on page 98, make 90 pieces with the pasta dough and filling.
Step 4: Prepare your selected egg-based dough (see below).
Step 5: Lightly dust a wooden work surface with 00 flour. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust with semolina.
Step 6: Lay your sheet(s) of pasta on the work surface. Use a knife to cut 18-inch-long sheets, removing the scraps from the unclean edges (save them for soup). Cover the sheets with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel.
Step 7: Lay one pasta sheet on your work surface. Spoon your filling into a pastry bag. Cut a 1-inch hole in the tip of your pastry bag and pipe small circles of filling about 1½ inches wide and ½ inch high evenly across your sheet, spacing them about 1½ inches apart.
Step 8: Evaluate your dough. If it feels moderately tacky, you can eliminate this next step. If the pasta feels a bit dry, hold your spray bottle 8 to 10 inches above the work surface and spray the pasta. This will enable the second sheet to stick.
Step 9: Lay a second sheet of pasta gently over the first, making sure the edges line up and there aren’t any wrinkles.
Step 10: Using your two index fingers, gently press around each circle of filling to eliminate any air pockets. For extra insurance, flip your #30 (1⅛-inch) plain round cutter to the dull side and press over each dollop again to express any excess air and make an even circle.
Step 11: Using your #40 (1½-inch) plain round cutter, press down around the first occhio with the palm of your hand flat on top of the cutter. After you have pressed down, gently move the cutter clockwise while still pressing, to ensure a full cut. This pasta will have a very small border around the edge when sealed.
Step 12: Gently remove the scraps surrounding the occhi by lifting the sheets from one end. Discard the excess dough or reserve for use in soup.
Step 13: Place the finished pasta in a single layer on the prepared sheet pan. Give the pan an extra dusting of semolina to prevent sticking.
Step 14: Repeat with the remaining sheets.
Step 15: Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water.
Step 16: Add the occhi to the water and turn down the heat to bring the water to a gentle simmer instead of a rolling boil. The shape and filling are very delicate and will break if cooked over high heat. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until tender at the thickest closure point and the filling is warm and oozes when you cut into it.
Step 17: While the pasta is cooking, place a large sauté pan over very low heat. Add the butter and 2 to 3 ladles (115 to 170g / ½ to ¾ cup) pasta cooking water. Swirl the contents of the pan to emulsify.
Step 18: Using a spider or pasta basket, remove the pasta from the pot and transfer to the sauté pan. Swirl the pasta in the sauce for 30 to 45 seconds to marry, using a spoon to gently turn the pasta over and coat all sides. If the sauce begins to tighten, add a splash of pasta cooking water to loosen and continue swirllng to marry. When the pasta is properly married, it will cling to the sauce and have a glossy sheen.
Step 19: Transfer the pasta to a large serving platter or divide onto plates in a single layer. Add a few drops of pasta water to the sauté pan to loosen the sauce and drizzle over the platter or plates. Garnish with the lemon peel and, using your Microplane, a generous grating of bottarga.
Egg Dough Recipe
500g tipo 00 flour, plus more for kneading q.b.
454g (24 to 26) egg yolks
To begin, place the flour on your wooden work surface and create a barricade with a center sanctuary for your yolks that is 5 to 6 inches in diameter but not more. If you create too much space, your barricade won’t be strong enough to hold the yolks as you begin to incorporate the flour. To avoid any additional risk to your barricade, mix, but do not beat, your yolks before adding them to the well. Kick off by adding half of the yolks to the well and use a fork to incorporate the inner layer of flour, stirring in a continuous motion around the circumference to combine. Continue adding the rest of the yolks, incorporating the flour as you go. If you bust through your barricade, not to worry. Use your bench scraper to catch the egg mixture and fold it back into the flour, doing this at every edge until you have a mixture that is thick enough to contain itself. Set your tools aside, roll up your sleeves, and get to work kneading. The dough will be sticky at first, so as you work it, continue to remove the dough that clings to your hands and return it to the mass.
The dough will begin to firm up as the gluten is activated by kneading, but if it feels a touch too dry and is not integrating (this can happen when the environment is drier, such as during the winter or when you’re working in an arid climate), gradually add about 1 tablespoon room-temperature water to loosen it. The kneading motion is simple, but it does take some time to get the rhythm right. You essentially want to fold the dough in on itself, pressing down and away from your body with the heel of your dominant hand, relying on the weight of your body to do so. (You can hold the edge of the dough closest to you with your other hand to keep it in place as you stretch it away from you.) Rotate it 180 degrees, fold, and press again. Repeat this rotating, folding, and pressing motion until the dough is smooth and relatively firm to the touch, 8 to 10 minutes. Use your bench scraper to clean off any pieces of dough that clump and stick as you’re kneading. Lightly dust the board with flour if needed; be careful not to add too much, as it will dry out the dough.
When properly kneaded, the dough should resemble the texture of Play-Doh and should spring back just slightly when poked. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set it aside for at least 30 minutes. This allows the dough to become more pliable. If you’re not forming pasta until the evening or the next day, place the dough in the refrigerator and remove it 20 minutes before you plan to roll it out so it returns to room temperature. Use the dough within 24 hours.
Reprinted with permission from Pasta by Missy Robbins and Talia Baiocchi copyright © 2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Disclosure: Talia Baiocchi is the editor-in-chief of Punch, a property of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media.