Crab + tarragon mezzaluna

Crab + tarragon mezzaluna

By
From
A Lot on Her Plate
Serves
1–2
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

Much to my family’s annoyance, my dad always claimed to be indifferent to pasta. But I like to think if he’d tasted this supple, tarragon-flecked fresh pasta, stuffed with crab meat, cloaked in lemon butter and served with shaved asparagus and Parmesan, he might just have been converted. This one’s for him. These little filled pasta mezzaluna or ‘half moons’ take some effort, but making pasta is so satisfying, and these are very rewarding once you taste them, making for a really impressive starter (I once made them for a Come Dine with Mestyle feature for Grazia magazine). They’re best eaten fresh but do freeze well if you want to make them ahead. Just remove them from the freezer, drop them straight into plenty of very salty boiling water and finish them as below.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

Crab & tarragon mezzaluna

Quantity Ingredient
200g ‘00’ pasta flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch sea salt
large pinch dried tarragon
2 eggs, plus 1 extra for eggwash

Filling

Quantity Ingredient
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
80g ricotta
1 Home-cooked crab meat
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
generous pinch cayenne pepper or, better still, piment d’espelette
generous pinch sea salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated

To finish

Quantity Ingredient
10g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 asparagus spears, woody base removed, shaved thinly with a mandoline or vegetable peeler
parmesan shards, to garnish
lemon zest, grated
freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment

Quantity Ingredient
pasta machine

Method

  1. Dust a work surface with flour. Sift the flour for the pasta into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Sprinkle the salt and tarragon onto the flour and crack the eggs into the well. Using the blade of a table knife, break up the egg yolks and, working outwards in a circular motion, start to draw in and incorporate the flour, using the knife blade to mix it all together until you have clumps. Use your fingers to bring it together into a ball, squidging it against any smaller crumbs to incorporate them.
  2. Once you have a ball, turn it, and any remaining flour, out onto the floured work surface. Knead the dough for 5–10 minutes, pressing and stretching it with the ball of your hand (adding a little more flour if it’s still wet and sticky) until it’s smooth, soft and springs back into form when squashed. Cut the dough in half to make two balls and wrap them in cling film. Chill for 1 hour.
  3. To make the filling, fry the shallot in the butter until soft and then mix with all the remaining filling ingredients in a bowl and season to taste. Set aside.
  4. Once rested, remove the pasta dough from the cling film and place one of the pasta balls on a floured surface. Press it down with the palm of your hand and roll it out with a floured rolling pin, so that it’s thin enough to fit through the thickest setting on the pasta machine and the same width as the pasta machine. Pass the dough through the rollers of the machine on its thickest setting a couple of times, then fold it in half and continue to run it through the pasta machine, gradually reducing the settings to the thinnest setting as you go. Run it through the thinnest setting a couple more times, until it’s so fine that you can see your fingers through it, but not so thin that it’s drying out and breaking. You don’t want to run it through the machine more than 8 times. Lay the sheet of pasta out on the work surface and roll-out the other ball of pasta.
  5. Once all the dough is rolled and both sheets are on the work surface (each one should be 30–40 cm long), use a pasta cutter, cookie cutter or rim of a large wine glass, around 9–10 cm in diameter, to cut out circles (or ‘mezzaluna’) from the sheets of pasta. You should be able to cut 8–10 from each sheet. Spoon the filling in heaped teaspoons onto the centre of the circles. Whisk the egg for the egg wash in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of water. With your fingertips, dab a little egg wash around the edge of the circle of pasta, fold one half over the other and gently press it down around the filling, pushing out any air and sealing tightly. Use the back of the prongs of a fork to seal the mezzaluna. Place on a floured dish or tray and repeat until you’ve used up all the pasta and filling.
  6. For the sauce, melt the butter in a small frying pan and squeeze in the lemon juice. Remove from the heat.
  7. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, and add 2 tablespoons of salt (Italian chefs always say that the water you cook pasta in should be as salty as the sea). Drop the mezzaluna in (allow 4–5 mezzaluna per person for a starter, 8–10 for a main) and cook for 2 minutes, or until they float to the surface. Remove them from the water carefully with a slotted spoon and put them into the melted lemon butter, over a medium heat, gently basting the mezzaluna to coat them. Add the asparagus shavings and shake the frying pan, to coat everything in the lemon butter. Divide between plates and top with Parmesan shards and lemon zest. Grind over some black pepper and enjoy!
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