Spoja lorda (sfoglia lorda), which literally means dirty pasta sheet, is a fresh stuffed pasta typical of Romagna.
The recipe is traditionally served in broth. From hence its second name: minestra imbottita (stuffed minestra). It is born as a dish to use leftover filling from other preparations. Here is the reason for the adjective dirty (lorda): there was little filling, enough only to dirty the pasta sheet.
Since I started making pasta dough one or more times a week, I often make spoja lorda.
It is the easiest and quickest to make among the different types of filled pasta.
After rolling out the pasta sheet and spreading the filling on one half, I fold it over on itself and make small squares that the same pasta cutter seals as it cuts.
What the sfoglia means to me
I am tired.
The clock on the wall stopped for at least a year at the same hour, which seems to tell me it is late. For a moment, I think to desist.
The thought of how I will feel later, certainly better than now, observes me silent and not encouraging at the other end of the large wooden table.
I understand that it has no intention of encouraging me, and with a sigh, I prepare the cutting board, a wooden board that weighs little and is cheap, and the rolling pin that belonged to other women in my family before me. This wood is my magic wand.
I open the bag of flour and look at how many eggs I have, few.
So I opt for two eggs spoja lorda.
I weigh the flour and break the eggs.
Then I turn the flour over in the center of the cutting board, but I think I have to change it because it is too small. I shape a volcano and then its crater. In the middle, I slowly turn over the eggs. I break them with a fork. And since I have parsley, after I have chopped it with a knife, I chuck a handful of it into the volcano.
The silence attracts Lillo, who comes to check what I am doing. He faces the threshold of the kitchen. Then he lies down and stays there watching me. I smile at my puppy because, like me, he loves the round taste of fresh pasta. Then I return to my work.
I clean the fork with my fingers and start kneading. I can’t stand the crumb pasta dough step. It seems like ruling a band of brats that don’t want to go in the same direction. For me, the pasta dough begins when it turns from a shapeless blob into an elastic ball. I also like its color that changes with the seasons.
It depends from eggs.
The color of winter eggs is dull, while summer eggs give the dough an ear of corn-yellow intensity the day before the threshing. Thoughts float suspended in the air between ears of corn and poppies as red as the sauce I could use to season the pasta. Suddenly I feel that the dough is like a pongo, ready to be molded. But I do not give in to temptation.
I let it rest while waiting for the gluten mesh to form, the best friend of anyone about to sling a rolling pin. I arrange the flour I’ll need shortly and think about the filling for a spoja lorda to serve without broth.
Parmigiano and ham, maybe, I don’t know. Stracchino cheese and lemon zest.
I am more intrigued but remain undecided. In the end, I will choose a filling of smoked ham and stracchino, two ingredients I have in the refrigerator.
The pasta dough
I dust the cutting board with flour. I spread the dough with my hands, and I start rolling and rotating, rolling and rotating.
The sheet of dough enlarges. I dust it with more flour and touch it with one hand. It is still thick and so moist that it feels like caressing a dewy morning. The air around me smells as good as the laundry room on washing day. A precise and equally indefinable scent materializes on the tip of my tongue in a concentration of umami that makes me hungry before the pasta sheet is even ready and that from smell and then taste now becomes sound, that of the voices and laughter of those who are gone but are always with me.
I know the pasta dough is ready when I brush a thin, rough parchment.
I search for the thickest points with my fingers. I need to smooth them out as thoughts.
I look contentedly at the shape of my obsession. Pasta dough is my comfort and arkē (from the old Greek: archē, literally, origin and beginning).
And like every beginning, the pasta dough is open to different shapes and possibilities.
I let the tinkling spronella (pasta cutter) imprint the form. There is time for the sauce.
The pasta dough is the most handy form of happiness I know.
Nonna Sara often would dirty the pasta sheet with what remained of the tortellini filling.
Sometimes she would present the spoja lorda without broth, seasoned with butter and sage and, if there was any, a couple of finely chopped shallots. The filling was always related to recycling some ingredients.
If you want to make a traditional version, use soft stracchino-type cheese for the filling, mixed with ricotta and Parmesan. Otherwise, use your imagination or what have you!
The important thing is to spread a thin layer of filling so that after folding the pastry over itself, the pastry cutter wheel can seal the edges of the squares by cutting them off.
Let the spoja lorda rest before cooking or putting it in the freezer.
Butter and sage spoja lorda recipe
List of the Ingredients
200g all purpose flour
150 g smoked cooked ham
130 g soft cheese
to season: butter to taste, 10 cleaned and dried sage leaves
Coarsely chop prosciutto with a knife and chop finely in a blender.
Mix stracchino cheese and chopped prosciutto. Add a tablespoon of milk or water to soften the stracchino if you need it to make it smoother.
Place the filling in the refrigerator.
Place the flour on the cutting board, and create a space in the center where you put chopped parsley and eggs.
Break eggs with a fork, slowly incorporate flour from the sides and mix with eggs.
When the dough is too solid for your fork, continue kneading with your hands until the dough is smooth, not too hard or soft.
Let the dough rest covered, out of the refrigerator, for about 30 minutes.
Roll out a thin sheet using the rolling pin or the pasta machine.
Spread the filling on half the pastry sheet and fold it over itself.
With a pasta cutter wheel, cut out strips equal in width, vertically and horizontally, making many squares about the same size.
As you cut, the pasta cutter wheel seals the squares.
Place the fresh pasta squares on a lightly floured cloth or tray and allow them to dry before cooking or storing them in the freezer.
Cook the spoja lorda in boiling salted water. Meanwhile, melt the butter with a dozen or so sage leaves in a large pan.
Drain the pasta with a slotted spoon and season directly into the pan.