Before his many restaurants, TV appearances and frozen dinners, Wolfgang Puck was a young boy from southern Austria with little to his name. His mother and grandmother were both cooks, his mother a professional, and they instilled in him a love of the craft from an early age. One of his favorite meals growing up was known as Käse Nudeln, a dish similar to potato and cheese ravioli, common in his region of Austria.
“We grew up very poor and noodle dough is easy to make,” Puck told InsideHook. “We never bought spaghetti. We have done almost everything.
Like the love child of a ravioli and a pierogi, Käse Nudeln was a staple of Puck’s youth. It features the rib qualities one would expect from a home-cooked meal from an Austrian village.
“We almost never had meat. Maybe Sunday we had meat. So whatever we ate had to be solid,” he says. The dish comes in a simple browned butter sauce that helps accentuate the richness of the cheese and the starchy potato filling.
“My stepfather always said ‘put more butter, put more butter’ and we used to make our own cheese by letting the milk sit outside and turn sour,” he adds. “We mainly used this cheese to make Käse Nudeln. We mixed potatoes, eggs, sautéed onions and spices to form ravioli the size of golf balls. Then cook them slowly in water.
It’s one of those dishes that sparks nostalgia for the world-famous chef, which is why some variations of the dish have featured on the menus of his restaurants, from Ospero to Spago.
As we spoke, Puck mentioned how the 40th anniversary of the original Spago in Beverly Hills, an iconic haunt for locals and celebrities, had just passed without him realizing it until a friend in speak. Since its inception, Spago restaurants have spread across the world and, improbably, only recently opened Europe’s first outcrop – in Budapest of all places.
“I like to do things in places I know less. Hungary is right on the border with Austria, but the language and culture are totally different,” he says. “The food is different too. But the city of Budapest is beautiful, just as the Danube flows through the city. I was very excited to open a restaurant in an old palace.
The restaurant, which houses the Käse Nudeln, is located Mathilde Palace, a newly opened hotel housed in a converted palace from the early 1900s. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its beauty and history, an important location during the height of the café culture boom in Eastern Europe. ‘East. The new hotel hopes to create that same kind of watering hole for modern-day creatives, establishing a historic venue like Spago, but complementing it with a strong local wine program.
But Puck’s young ravioli persist on the menu. It’s too important and too delicious to leave out.
In the spirit of keeping the dish alive, Puck shared the recipe with us, which you can find below. Pro tip: The recipe provided by Puck is quite large, and he recommends freezing some of the ravioli before cooking if you don’t have enough friends around to eat the whole outing.
Käse Nudlen from Wolfgang’s mother Puck with brown butter
Recipe courtesy of Wolfgang Puck
Yield: 6 servings
1 pound cooking potatoes (about 2 large potatoes), well washed
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
8 ounces of farmhouse cheese
5 ounces of goat cheese
2 ounces mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chervil leaves
1 egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 recipe pasta dough (see below)
Semolina or all-purpose flour, for dusting
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon of water, for gilding
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Make the filling: Bake the potatoes in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Peel and, still hot, pass through the vegetable mill. In a small sauté pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook until tender. In a medium bowl, combine all the cheeses, herbs and beaten egg. Add the cooked shallots, garlic and hot potato. Stir until combined (being careful not to overmix or the mixture will become mushy). Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Then, with slightly moistened hands, roll into 1/2 ounce balls, the size of a golf ball.
Make the ravioli: Cut the pasta dough into 4 portions and work 1 portion at a time, keeping the rest of the dough covered with plastic wrap. Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Using a pasta maker or rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 20 inches long and 4 inches wide. Brush the pastry with egg wash and arrange 9 to 10 scoops of filling along the bottom third of the pastry’s length, about 1 to 1-1/2 inches apart. Fold over the top half to cover the balls. Press the dough around each ball to seal, making sure they are well sealed. With a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut the ravioli. Dust a tray with flour and arrange the ravioli on the tray, sprinkle with more flour. Repeat with remaining batter, egg wash and filling. Refrigerate, covered, until needed. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook ravioli until al dente, about 3 to 4 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over high heat, cook the butter until it begins to brown. Drain the ravioli and place them on a serving platter. Sprinkle with parmesan and a little pepper. Place the hazelnut butter on top. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
Yield: 6 servings
3 cups flour
8 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons of water
Semolina or all-purpose flour, for dusting
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the flour, egg yolks, salt, olive oil and 2 tablespoons of water. Work until the dough begins to hold together, then stop the machine and pinch the dough to test it. If it’s too dry, add up to 1 tablespoon of water and mix until it forms a wet ball. Turn out onto a smooth, lightly floured work surface and knead by hand until you obtain a smooth ball. Wrap loosely in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Keep the other pieces covered in plastic as you roll out one piece at a time, either by hand with a rolling pin or through the rollers of a pasta machine, stretching the dough to your desired thickness.
If you’re using a pasta maker, set the rollers to the widest opening. Flatten the first piece of dough into a thick strip no wider than the machine, to allow it to pass through the rollers. If necessary, dust the pasta very lightly with flour. Run the pasta through the machine. Fold in three, across, and pass through the machine again. Repeat this procedure two or more times, until the dough is smooth and somewhat elastic. Set the machine to the next smaller opening and pass the dough through the rollers. Continue rolling and stretching the dough, using the smallest opening each time, until the penultimate or last opening is reached, dusting lightly with flour only if necessary. (The strip of dough will be long. If you don’t have enough space on your work table, halfway through the rolling process, cut the strip of dough in half and continue working with each piece separately, keeping unused dough covered.)
Adjust the cutting mechanism to the desired width, cut the noodles and let them dry before cooking. A convenient way to dry pasta is to arrange the cut pasta on a baking sheet dusted with flour, preferably semolina flour. When one layer is complete, sprinkle flour over the noodles, place a piece of parchment paper over it, and continue to layer the noodles and flour. Dry for at least 15-20 minutes.
Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
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