Today we talk about cinema, and the opportunity to speak of this love of mine (I'm saying I want to take a second degree in history of cinema long before taking my first degree … ok, I have a problem) comes from an amazing contest, organised by Patty of Andante con gusto in collaboration with Lagostina. For this contest I was asked to describe a comedy through a recipe.
I had to take up the challenge! And, thinking about a comedy, the first one that came to my mind was Little Miss Sunshine, one of the movies that I loved the most in recent years, a comedy out of the box and with tragicomic tone.
It's an on the road movie (and I love on the road movie) about a wacky family from New Mexico, the Hoovers, on a yellow Volkswagen T2 (and this '70 bus is one of my favorite objects) towards California, to accompany little Olive to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. And I say wacky family, 'cause the Hoovers are: the beauty pageant who is not so beautiful, the father-failed motivational leader, the resigned and busy mother, the nihilistic brother aspiring to enter the Air Force Academy, the gay uncle who attempted suicide and requires costant monitoring and the grandfather, heroin addict, who helps her granddaughter to prepare the dancing performance for the beauty contest.
It's a bittersweet movie, with a series of comic and paradoxical situations (the push-bus, the grandfather, the end, in my opinion one of the funniest scenes of the last decade) alternate with moments of well-calibrated introspection, in a balance between sought or pretended normality and abnormality that, ultimately, the Hoovers are happy to represent, when the normality is represented by beauty pageants for little girls.
This movie, for its individual and overall traits, reminded me of a dish full of little suns stuffed with ricotta, mint and saffron served with a zucchini sauce. In the movie, in fact, there's a background roughness, that you can see in the characters' personal situations, and in the recipe you can find the same roughness in the homemade egg pasta. But the movie is also delicate and fresh, like the ricotta and mint stuffing, and special as a pinch of saffron. The movie plot, then, is as simple as a zucchini sauce, which acts as a binder and never predominate on the dish.
In the recipe I tried to reflect the spirit of the movie: quirky, but balanced and pleasant, in which different flavors and characters marry perfectly and none prevails over the other, allowing to conquer audience and critics. I must say that these little suns achieved the same effect on both audience (my guests) and critics (myself).
LITTLE SUNS STUFFED WITH RICOTTA, MINT AND SAFFRON WITH A ZUCCHINI SAUCE
For the dough
* 500 g all purpose flour
* 3 eggs (with double yolk)
* water (if necessary)
For the stuffing
* 500 g ricotta
* grated Parmigiano Reggiano
* fresh mint, chopped
For the sauce
* a knob of butter
* a clove of garlic
* 4 zucchini
First of all, prepare the dough. In a bowl, mix flour, a pinch of salt and eggs and knead together (if necessary add a little water), until you have a smooth and homogeneous ball: let it rest at least half an hour in a cool, dry place covered with a cloth (or under a bowl turned upside down).
Meanwhile, prepare the stuffing: put ricotta in a bowl and start mixing it with a fork; add saffron, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, mint (I suggest you to taste the stuffing, to judge the right contrast between saffron -which shouldn't be predominant- and mint) and, if necessary, season with salt. Mix until you have a smooth mixture and let it rest in the refrigerator.
Then roll out the dough by hand or with a pasta machine (I used the machine) in order to have very thin pasta sheets (use the machine until the last notch). Arrange small nuts of stuffing along a sheet (far from each other), cover with a second sheet, press the two layers together and then cut with the desired shape. Put the suns on floured tray until you're ready to cook (or keep them in the refrigerator).
With this method (and the of a round shape, in my case) I had a great surplus of pasta: I cut it with a toothed wheel in irregular shapes, obtaining some maltagliati. I placed them on a small tray paper (previously floured) and then in the freezer. As soon as pasta is frozen (it took half an hour), I place it in a sealed bag and stored it in the freezer, ready for winter soups.
After making suns for 3 servings, I made another batch of ravioli (with the super-handy mold), then I placed them in floured trays in the freezer (for half an hour), detached them and then placed them in airtight bags in the freezer, ready to cook.
It's time for the sauce: wash and clean zucchini, cut the ends, then cut them into thin slices (even with a food processor). Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan and sauté a clove of garlic in it. Then add the zucchini and season with salt, sauté for a few minutes, then start adding milk, so that the zucchini will be covered in it. Let the zucchini cook (adding more milk) and then let most of the milk evaporate (for this preparation, the sauce should be quite soft, so don't let all the milk evaporate). Blend with a hand blender until creamy and set it aside: you can heat it later.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil: put your suns into the boiling water and remove them with the help of a skimmer just when they come to the surface. Place them gradually in a bowl, adding (gradually) the sauce, previously heated (so it's easier to mix them, 'cause this pasta is quite delicate). Mix them gently and finish with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.