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Dalmatian Shellfish and Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Broth

by Florian
Croatian Cuisine - Dalmatian Shellfish and Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Broth

In my recent review of Zagreb’s finer dining options, one of the dishes I tried at Vinodol was the cottage cheese ravioli with smoked mussels, Adriatic shrimp, and cherry tomato sauce (which looked more like a broth). In addition to being well-executed, with a variety of textures and a tight flavor profile, this recipe exhibits many facets of Croatian cuisine: the Italian influence with the pasta, the ubiquitous seafood from the Adriatic, and the cheese culture mostly from the central and northern regions. In other words, it’s the perfect dish to reverse-engineer on this blog!

Overall, I’ve remained quite faithful to the original. The ravioli became tortellini because the latter don’t look as flat on the plate, and I’ve added basil because it goes so well with the other flavors in the dish, but everything else is left more or less unchanged. I just had to come up with recipes for the pasta’s cheese filling and the tomato sauce/broth.

Back when I worked at David Bouley’s Danube restaurant, we used to make cheese ravioli (served with smoked mushrooms, spinach, and corn purée), and I’ve kept similar ingredient proportions. Only the cheeses are different, and even if it’d be possible to find actual Croatian cheeses abroad, I’ve selected a blend of cheeses (farmer cheese, fresh goat cheese, and hard sheep’s milk cheese) that have Croatian equivalents (see my assessment of the dairy department at the Dolac Market). As for the tomato broth, the tomato water I’m using is a darling of many high-end restaurants, and combined with oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, it packs an impressive amount of tomato flavor – perhaps even more than the original!

Croatian Cuisine - Dalmatian Shellfish and Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Broth

Pasta dough
Yields 21 tortellini (3 servings)

145 g flour (sometimes slightly more; see below)
1.5 g salt
50 g (about 1) egg
15 g (about 1) egg yolk
10 g olive oil

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, place half of the flour, plus the salt, egg, and egg yolk. Mix over low speed until homogeneous, scraping down the sides with a spatula. Add the rest of the flour and the olive oil, then mix again until it forms a smooth paste.
  • Transfer to a floured surface, and knead with your hands for about 3 minutes. If necessary, add a little bit more flour until the dough doesn’t stick. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
Croatian Cuisine - Dalmatian Shellfish and Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Broth

Cheese filling
Yields 3 servings (21 tortellini)

110 g fresh goat cheese
100 g farmer cheese
50 g aged hard sheep’s milk cheese (such as Manchego), grated
25 g (about 1/2) egg
25 g shallots, brunoise
2 g peeled garlic clove, minced
10 g butter
4 g basil, finely chopped
black pepper, ground

  • In a bowl, combine the goat cheese, farmer cheese, sheep’s milk cheese, and egg.
  • In a small saucepan, sauté the shallots and garlic in the butter until soft. Add them to the bowl with the cheese. Add the basil, then season with salt (unless the cheese mixture is already salty enough) and pepper. Mix with a spatula and reserve.
Croatian Cuisine - Dalmatian Shellfish and Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Broth

Cheese tortellini
Yields 3 servings (21 tortellini)

pasta dough
cheese filling
1 egg, beaten

  • Divide the dough into two batches, and proceed with one batch at a time through the following steps, keeping the rest of the dough covered with plastic wrap (this prevents the dough from drying and breaking when you shape the tortellini).
  • Using a pasta machine, roll the dough to the thinnest setting, and keep on a floured surface. Use a ring mold to cut into discs of 8 cm diameter.
Croatian Cuisine - Dalmatian Shellfish and Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Broth
  • Brush each disc with some egg and place about 12 g of cheese filling near the center. Fold over, and seal the edges with your fingers — now you’ve got half-moons. Join the two tips and pinch them together. Keep on a sheet tray dusted with flour.
  • The tortellini can be transferred to a freezer bag and frozen. (The scraps of dough can be reused: gather into a ball, optionally vacuum-seal in a sous-vide pouch and let rest 30 minutes, then roll in the pasta machine and make long noodles for another dish.)
Croatian Cuisine - Dalmatian Shellfish and Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Broth

Tomato water
Yields about 300 g (3 servings)

550 g overripe tomatoes, quartered
3.5 g basil
5 g red wine vinegar
1.5 g salt

  • Put the tomatoes, basil, vinegar, and salt in a blender, and process until smooth.
  • Transfer to a saucepan, bring to boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Pass the liquid through a chinois and reserve.

Smoked mussels
Yields 3 servings

900 g mussels
50 g white wine
2 g basil leaves, chopped
1 peeled garlic clove, smashed

  • Place the mussels, white wine, basil, and garlic in a pot. Cover and cook over high heat until all the mussels are open, shaking the pot vigorously every once in a while.
  • Take the mussels out of their shells, and debeard. Smell each and every one for freshness (I find that this is necessary for most of the mussels I buy). If some of the mussels are still closed, save them for last and cook them an extra minute. Pass the cooking liquid through a chinois, and reserve.
  • Place the cleaned mussels in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, then insert a smoking gun under the wrap and fill the bowl with applewood smoke until fully opaque. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Croatian Cuisine - Dalmatian Shellfish and Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Broth

Oven-roasted cherry tomatoes
Yields 3 servings

300 g cherry tomatoes
15 g olive oil
black pepper, ground

  • Place the cherry tomatoes in an oven-proof dish. If the tomatoes came with stems, add the stems as well. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss.
  • Roast in a 200 C / 400 F oven for 30 minutes, shaking the dish around midtime to roll the tomatoes onto different sides. Reserve.
Croatian Cuisine - Dalmatian Shellfish and Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Broth

Yields 3 servings

cheese tortellini
30 g butter
300 g small peeled shrimp
piment d’espelette
25 g olive oil
300 g tomato water
150 g mussel liquid
oven-roasted cherry tomatoes
smoked mussels
about 2 g basil, chiffonade

  • Bring a pot of salted boiling water to a boil, and cook the tortellini al dente. Drain, transfer to a bowl, toss in the butter, and reserve.
  • Season the shrimp with salt and piment d’espelette. Heat the olive oil in a sautoir pan over high heat, and sauté the shrimp just long enough to give them some color. Remove the shrimp and reserve.
  • Pour the tomato water and mussel liquid into the sautoir and bring to a simmer. Add the tortellini and simmer over low heat for 2 minutes. Mix in the roasted cherry tomatoes, smoked mussels, and shrimp. Divide into bowls, top with some basil chiffonade, and serve immediately.
Croatian Cuisine - Dalmatian Shellfish and Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Broth

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Martina Korkmaz December 25, 2020 - 14:54

This looks amazing 🙂 Wow!

Florian December 27, 2020 - 21:37

Thank you!

Frank Yeh April 16, 2021 - 12:32

😂 When I saw “Dalmatian” I was expecting something white with black spots. I guess the dog breed had to come from somewhere. That does look excellent!!!


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