Tortellini, also known as “Pelmeni” in Russian and “Chuchvara” in Uzbek, is an amazingly delicious dish. I love two types of tortellini: one filled with meat and the other type filled with different greens and herbs. They are fairly easy to make. Once you get used to rolling the dough, you can easily make them every other day :) I make them at least once a week, because my two boys are in love with them.
You can find Tortellinis in many kitchens like Italian, Tatar, Uzbek, Kazakh, Uighur, Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish under different names. Although each version slightly differs from one another, the basic concept remains the same. The reason why I prefer the Uzbek way of making Tortellini (Chuchvara) is because the dough is softer, thinner, easier for digestion and tastier :)
Chuchvara a.k.a. Tortellini can be served in a soup or plain dry, topped with sour cream and tomato sauce.
Yield: 4 serving
Ingredients for the dough:
- 2 cups of all purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup warm water
Ingredients for the meat filling:
- 1/2 lb minced/ground beef (80% lean)
- 1 large onion
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt (alter the salt according to your own taste. Be advised that too little salt will affect the final result)
Directions for the dough:
In a medium bowl mix together the dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the warm water and crack 1 egg:
If you have a standing mixer or a machine to make the dough, utilize it. If you do not, just mix everything well and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes. Kneading the dough well is important. The longer and better you knead, the easier it will be to roll the dough later. Cover the ready dough with a plastic wrap or a bowl. Let it rest for 10-20 minutes, depending on how soft or hard you made the dough. The ideal dough should be not too soft or too hard to work with.
Preparing the meat filling:
Chop or grind the onion. In a small bowl mix ready onion, beef and the spices. Mix everything extremely well by hand, making sure the ingredients are well-incorporated. Place into the refrigerator until further use.
When the dough is well-rested, start getting it ready to be rolled. I have a smaller rolling pin. In order to have a nice, thin tortellini wraps, I cut the dough in two and roll them separately. Wrap the unused part until further use. The part that you are going be working on, needs to be flattened with your fingers and knuckles. Use flour as much as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. If you have a dough maker/presser, you can also use it. Roll a thin dough measuring 1-2 mm in thickness.
Fold the dough and make 2 inch-wide cuts with your knife. Now you should have separate ribbons. It might take a little longer to fold the tortellini if you are trying to do so for the first time. You need to make sure that the dough is not sticky (or way too soft that the layers may stick together). If you think that’s the case, sprinkle some flour between the layers to prevent them from sticking.
Put ribbons one on top of another evenly, one by one, and cut the dough leaving 2 inches between every cut.
Prepare a cookie sheet with a towel on top. Ready tortellini will be placed on top of the towel. This way, tortellini will not stick on the bottom of the sheet and will be easier to remove later. Also, remember to keep the dough under another towel to prevent from drying out.
Place a bigger than pea-size filling in the middle of each cubed dough. Fold the dough in two and slightly pinching the folded corners, connect and stick them together.
If you are enjoying tortellini just plain, boil some water (approx. 4 cups) add 1/2 TBSP of salt and drop the tortellini. At first, they will sink to the bottom, in a minute or less they will rise to the surface. Once they do, stir them gently with a spoon a couple of times and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook for 15 minutes and serve!
These freeze well, too. If you have excess tortellini or want to make extra for some occasion, put the tortellini into the freezer together with the cookie sheet. 30 minutes later, take the cookie sheet out, empty tortellini in a zip-lock bag and stick the bag back into the freezer. When needed, take the bag out and dump the tortellini/> into the boiling water. There is no need to defrost them. It will just take a little longer to cook.