Tortellini Straw and Hay - A Family Favorite

Posted by Katie Novak on

 
Tortellini Straw and Hay
It may be a family favorite but I would highly recommend this for a date night just the same. It's silky richness and complexity of flavors is sure to wow your date or significant other. It's seriously romantic.
This recipe has taken on many amalgamations and I've tweaked it several times over the years. I finally recorded the recipe some time ago and just unearthed this masterpiece for the first time in quite a while. 

Get your kids in the Kitchen

The boys are just learning basic knife skills and how not to cut yourself on the box grater. (I'm still learning that one myself) With adult supervision, the boys love helping create special dinners; and with some good cooking knowledge under their belts, they can make this for their dates in 7-10 years.  

This was a great time to discuss proper handwashing and how to not cross contaminate our prepped food as well. There's things we just do completely out of habit and don't think about. It's amazing that having children really makes you stop and think about every detail of your day. 

Learning knife skills
Learning about he box grater

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound Fresh Tortellini (any flavor)
  • 1 Pound Bacon
  • 1 Cup Diced or Cubed Ham
  • 4 TBSP Butter
  • 5 Cloves Minced Garlic
  • 8 oz. Portobello Mushrooms Sliced in bite sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 Cup Frozen Peas
  • 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Half and Half
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Romano or Parmesan Cheese 
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • Black Pepper to taste

How to Make

Prep everything first. 

Dice the Bacon

Cube the Ham if not purchased already diced or cubed

Mince your garlic

Slice your mushrooms

Grate your cheese (We used a 50/50 blend of Romano and Parmesan)

4 TBSP of Butter is 1/2 stick, cut your stick in half

Get water boiling for the pasta

Preheat a Chef's pan or other large deep pan to Medium/High

Measure your frozen peas

Measure your Whipping Cream and Half and Half

Measuring cream
Add your diced bacon to the hot chef's pan and fry until almost crispy. 
Cooking Bacon
Add the half a stick of butter (4 TBSP)
Butter and Bacon
Move the butter around the pan until completely melted. Add the mushrooms and evenly distribute to encourage some browning of the mushrooms.
Browning mushrooms with bacon and butter
Mushrooms are like sponges and tend to absorb fat and liquid they are in. They will release some of this as they cook. When the mushrooms are slightly browned and soft, add the minced garlic.
Add garlic to pan

As you can see, I sliced my garlic vs. mincing it. The smaller the garlic is cut, the more surface area and the stronger the garlic flavor released will be. To me, slicing results in a sweeter garlic and it comes down to preference and the garlic used. 

Garlic cooks very quickly and easily burns. Incorporate the garlic and after 30 secs - 1 minute add the ham. 

Cooked and Browned
Get that ham in there

Mix the ham into your browned goodness. The moisture from the ham will loosen any brown bits on the bottom of your pan. This is where flavor comes from. Let your food brown!

The ham really only needs to heat through. 2 Minutes tops.

Pour the Cream and Half and Half in and stir.

Cream and Half and Half

It will almost immediately begin to simmer. This is perfect. We want the milk fats to naturally thicken the sauce. Stir every 30 seconds or so to see how it's thickening. You'll notice the brown bits coming away from the sides of your pan as well. NOW IS A PERFECT TIME TO BOIL YOUR PASTA - Remember to salt your water

 

Sauce is thickening and cleaning sides of pan
Most fresh tortellini's instructions will say 4 minutes. I used to abide by the "when it floats it's done" and it was always too al dente. Mine floated immediately after plunging them into the boiling water. They definitely need the 4 minutes.  
Don't trust the float
The sauce will only take around 5 minutes to reach optimal silky viscosity. It will coat the back of a spoon. Add the peas, nutmeg and black pepper. 
Peas in the pot
 
Season the pot

Mix peas and seasoning to incorporate

Now for all of that cheese. Turn off the burner and add the cheese. Mix immediately to melt and evenly coat everything in the sauce. 

Smiling faces in the kitchen
Pour that cheese in
Cheese is in the pot
Velvety and luscious sauce

If after you "fold" in the cheese, it seems a little thicker than you like, ladle 1/4 cup of boiling pasta water and mix to loosen up the sauce. Repeat if necessary.

Now you have a decision to make. You can mix the tortellini into the sauce (my preferred method) or pour sauce over the pasta. There's no wrong way, it comes down to your desired pasta to sauce ratio. Either way, drain your pasta well.  

Mixing Pasta into the Sauce
This is certainly not a low calorie meal but it is definitely a guilty pleasure. Dish up a big bowl and enjoy!

Until Next Time

Love,
The Three Little Men