The world knows Italy as the home of pasta, but it's origins stretch across the Mediterranean. In Greece, pasta also plays a starring role in the food culture, with significant regional diversity displayed in the variety of shapes and dishes on offer.
This recipe is my twist on a traditional dish called 'Latzania' which comes from Astypalia - an island in the Dodecanese archipelago. Latzania are a cheese filled pasta and custom calls for them to be served on the last weekend before lent.
The traditional shape of the Latzania is an unusual 'lolly wrapper/bow tie' style where the two ends are twisted. I opted to skip the large bow ties and went instead for a simple round shape. However, I've kept the traditional filling of goat cheese and saffron.
Mizithra and saffron filled pasta in broth
For the pasta
3 - 3 & 1/2 cups of flour
2 large eggs
1/2 - 1 cup water
For the filling
1 cup of well drained homemade mizithra cheese (see the recipe here)
1/2 cup very finely grated ladotyiri cheese
Pinch of Greek 'Krokos Kozanis' saffron threads, toasted and crumbled
1 teaspoon of ground allspice
Salt and pepper to taste
To cook the pasta and serve
1.5 litres of homemade chicken stock (you can find the recipe here)
1. Place the flour in a medium mixing bowl and create a deep well in the middle of the flour. Crack the eggs into the well. Whisk the eggs with the fork to combine. As you whisk the eggs, begin gradually pulling in flour from the bottom and sides of the bowl. Once enough flour has been added, it will start forming a very soft dough.
2. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter, that has been dusted with flour. Begin kneading gently and add more flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter. Keep kneading until the dough forms into a smooth elastic ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and rest for at least 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile make the filling. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl: blend the cheeses, saffron, allspice and add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Return to the dough. Divide into around 6-8 pieces. Keep each piece covered in plastic wrap and work one at a time, rolling each through a pasta machine (according to the instructions for the machine). Roll out pieces as thin as possible.
5. Continuing to work with dough one piece at a time (eg. roll out one sheet and fill one sheet, then move onto the next), take the pasta sheet and put heaping teaspoons of filling about an inch and a half apart and an inch and a half from the edge of the sheet. Brush a little water (or some beaten egg yolk) onto the pasta sheet around the filling. Then carefully fold the pasta over the filling and then push down on the pasta around the balls of filling with your finger, pressing hard to make sure there are no air bubbles and that the pasta adheres so it won’t come apart while cooking. Then cut the individual pasta and filling shapes free, using a round cutter or serrated pasta wheel. Set the finished pasta to dry on a lightly floured cloth and repeat the process, continuing until all the stuffing is used up.
6. Bring the stock to a rolling boil in a large pot and add the pasta. Cook briefly and remove as soon as pasta floats to the surface. Serve immediately in soup bowls with some of the broth.