Recipes by Wolfgang Puck

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My Fresh Pasta Rounds with Spinach-Ricotta Mousse recipe will make any pasta lover look at the old favorite with fresh new interest.

Just about everybody loves pasta and eats it regularly nowadays.

Certainly, pasta dishes -- from tagliatelle ribbons in cream sauce, to plump little agnolotti filled with pureed squash or sweet corn, to the fluffy potato-and-ricotta dumplings called gnocchi -- remain perennial favorites among our guests at Spago and my other restaurants.

But, when I talk to my friends about what they cook at home, it seems that many people are in a pasta rut. Time and time again, they wind up making spaghetti or fettuccine with tomato sauce or Bolognese or cheese sauce. And they begin to get a little bit, well, bored with that popular dish they swear they love.

So please let me shake up your home pasta routine with this Fresh Pasta Rounds with Spinach-Ricotta Mousse recipe I share here, while also adding a generous portion of the green vegetables we all should be eating more of (along with a pleasing and calcium-packed share of fluffy ricotta, creamy mascarpone, and gooey mozzarella cheeses).

I think many people shy away from filled and baked pasta recipes because, as the familiar words you see on the boxes of complicated children's toys, there is "some assembly required." But this dish is a lot easier to put together than a child's plaything -- and you can do some of the work in advance, not to mention the fact that you get to eat the delicious results.

This Fresh Pasta Rounds with Spinach-Ricotta Mousse recipe starts with sheets of freshly made pasta, for which I include an easy recipe. But you can also find ready-to-use fresh pasta sheets in some Italian delis. (Ask for pasta sheets if you don't see it on display; they may have them in the back, displaying only already-cut noodles for purchase.) If you like, you can mix the filling, fill and cut the pasta rounds, and put them into the individual-serving tart pans up to several hours in advance; just cover each pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until baking time.

For the filling, bags of prewashed baby spinach leaves make preparation extra easy. Feel free to embellish the vegetable mixture, including some sauteed mushrooms, for example, or slivers of sun-dried tomato. It's OK to use reduced-fat ricotta and mozzarella, too.

The tomato-garlic-basil sauce that accompanies the pasta rounds may also be prepared ahead of time, awaiting gentle reheating and stirring in of the fresh basil strips shortly before serving time. But here's another convenient tip: If you don't want to go to the effort of making that part of the recipe, feel free simply to heat up your own favorite, good-quality bottled brand of tomato-based pasta sauce instead.

It can be that easy.

Fresh Pasta Rounds Recipe with Spinach-Ricotta Mousse

    Prep Time: 25 minutes

    Cook time: 35 minutes

    Yield: Serves 8

Fresh Pasta Rounds Recipe with Spinach-Ricotta Mousse Ingredients

    Serves 8

    1 pound ricotta

    8 ounces mascarpone

    1/2 pound organic baby spinach leaves

    3 tablespoons unsalted butter

    1/4 cup pine nuts

    3/4 pound shredded mozzarella

    1 large cage-free egg, lightly beaten

    1 teaspoon salt

    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan

    Fresh Pasta Dough (recipe follows)

    All-purpose flour, for dusting

    Tomato-Garlic Basil Sauce (recipe follows)

Fresh Pasta Rounds Recipe with Spinach-Ricotta Mousse Instructions

    Put the ricotta, mascarpone, and half the spinach in a food processor. Pulse on and off until pureed. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

    In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the remaining spinach and saute until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.

    Chop coarsely and set aside.

    In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts until light golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Fold the mozzarella, egg, salt, pepper, nuts, spinach, and half the Parmesan into the cheese mixture. Set aside.

    Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 piece to a 20-by-4-inch rectangle; trim as needed. Evenly spread a fourth of the filling over the lower two thirds of the rectangle's length.

    Starting at the filled edge, roll up lengthwise, forming a 20-by-1-inch cylinder. Cut crosswise into 20 equal pieces. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

    Melt the remaining butter and brush the insides of 8 individual 4-inch tart pans.

    Inside each, arrange 10 pasta slices, cut side up; it will be a tight squeeze. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

    Place on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

    Using a potholder, invert each pan onto the tray and lift off to unmold the pasta.

    Continue baking until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

    To serve, spoon some sauce onto 8 warmed plates. With a wide spatula, transfer the pasta to the plates. Pass the remaining sauce on the side.

Pasta Dough Recipe

    Makes about 1-1/2 pounds

    3 cups all-purpose flour

    8 large cage-free egg yolks

    1 teaspoon salt

    1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

    2 to 3 tablespoons water

    All-purpose flour, for dusting

    In a food processor, combine the flour, yolks, salt, oil, and 2 tablespoons water. Process until the dough begins to hold together. Stop the machine and pinch the dough; if it feels too dry, pulse in up to 1 more tablespoon to form a moist ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand into a smooth ball. Loosely wrap in plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour before preparing as directed.

Tomato-Garlic-Basil Sauce Recipe

    Makes about 2-1/2 cups

    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    1 small onion, minced

    3 garlic cloves, minced

    1 tablespoon tomato paste

    2 pounds Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

    1 cup good-quality canned chicken broth, heated

    6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips


    Freshly ground black pepper

    In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute longer. Stir in the tomato paste and then the tomatoes; saute 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.

Homemade Pasta, Fresh Pasta Rounds, Wolfgang Puck


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