A couple weeks ago I posted a picture on Instagram of a ravioli dinner my husband and I had before a training run. A short time later, my mother-in-law told me that they had seen the picture and my father-in-law was bugging her to make a ravioli dinner for them. Here’s the problem, my MIL doesn’t eat cheese! And, in a cruel twist of fate, neither does our daughter! Many a time food has gone back to the kitchen at restaurants because a shred of cheese dared to touch the plate! This is a big deal people.
As it turns out, it is near impossible to find a prepackaged ravioli from a grocery store that does not contain cheese-tortellini, yes-but not ravioli. Of course, in another cruel twist of fate, my FIL loves cheese, and since they have been married for 50+ years, they obviously have figured out how to deal with this issue! In an attempt to be helpful, I brilliantly said “I will make you some ravioli with and without cheese!”
And then my quest began. It has been, at least, 5 years since I attempted to make fresh pasta, and it wasn’t a huge success at that time. I did learn a few things however. For example, the pasta should be rolled as thin as possible, but not too thin that the filling will burst out. I also figured out that even fresh pasta noodles need time to dry before going into the water. Oh, and not vigorously boiling water either! I had the best results, all those years ago, when I brought the water to a heavy boil and then lowered the heat before adding the noodles. I finally settled on a plan of action: I would prepare the filling first then work on the pasta dough, that way I could split up the work into more manageable chunks and troubleshoot along the way.
The filling. I wanted to use a meat filling because half the ravioli batch would not have cheese and I felt it needed some heft to it. Perhaps in the future I can work on a vegetarian option, but for now I wanted to stick with what I know. I looked at a number of recipes and settled on a chicken and pork combination. I browned 3/4 pounds of ground chicken and 3/4 of a pound of ground pork in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Each batch of meat was drained and split between two bowls.
I then sautéed 1/2 of a yellow onion, 2 garlic cloves, spinach and sage. This mixture was also divided.
One bowl was selected for the addition of goat cheese and gruyere. Now is the time for salt and pepper. The cheese mixture received 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and I added 2 teaspoons of salt (since there was not addititonal salt from the cheese) and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper to the non cheese combo.
I next passed both filling preparations through a food processor so that the filling could be placed into the ravioli. I was careful to process the non cheese filling first, so there would be no chance of “cheese contamination” to the non cheese mixture.
The fillings were covered and stored in the refrigerator for later assembly with the pasta.
The pasta. I prefer the taste of pasta made with semolina flour, although all purpose and 00 flour work well too, if you can find it. Generally, pasta is made by creating a well in the flour and salt mixture followed by the addition of eggs, water and oil to the middle of the well. A fork is used to slowly bring the sides of the flour into the center. This is done to give the flour time to adsorb the moisture. Once a ragged dough forms you begin kneading the dough by hand until it is a soft, smooth ball.
This works fine, but it does make a huge mess. I decided I would let my mixer do some of the work for me. I added the flour and salt into a the mixing bowl and used the dough hook attachment to stir on low speed. A well was naturally created, I poured the eggs, water and oil into the well and mixed on low speed until the flour was slowly incorporated into a loose ball. Then I placed the ball onto the counter, with the reserve flour and continued kneading by hand.
The kneading incorporated an additional 1/2 cup of all purpose flour and took about 12 minutes. The result was a smooth and soft ball of dough that needs, at least 30 minutes of bench rest to allow the gluten to relax. I covered the dough and let it rest for 1 1/2 hours.
I worked with 1/4 of the ball at a time, making sure to keep the rest of the dough covered. I have a very simple, hand crank system for pasta making.
I think I bought this from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It clamps to the bench top and has 7 settings. I began on the widest setting (7 on my machine), taking care that both the pasta rollers and the dough were heavily floured. The dough was passed through the rollers, floured, folded into thirds and passed through again. This helps to further knead the dough and helps to form the rectangle shape. I then lowered the width of the rollers and passed the dough through several times. The dough no longer should be folded at this point. Just keep passing the dough through the thinner setting (to about settings 3 or 4) until the desired consistency is acheived.
I used an inexpensive ravioli mold, small rolling pin and pasta cutter to form the ravioli.
I laid one sheet over the mold, filled the depressions with ~1 teaspoon of either filling, covered with a second thin pasta sheet and rolled to cut the dough with the small rolling pin. I had to go over the mold several times with the rolling pin and make the final cuts with the pasta cutter. It took awhile to get this down, but once I had practiced with a couple dozen I figured out a system that worked for me.
Then I just had to repeat this for a total of 10 dozen ravioli! I laid them in a single layer (or they will stick together!) on a parchment lined sheet pan to dry for an hour or so. After that you can cook them or freeze them. I put the single layer sheet pan in the freezer for an hour, after that they can go into a bag without sticking together.
The next day was the taste test! I decided to pair this with a simple tomato based sauce.
Now to taste it!
It was actually pretty good! Could it be better? Always! I would suggest adding some red pepper flakes for some heat, or maybe some apple cider vinegar to brighten it up a bit. I will try that next time. The good news is that I have plenty in the freezer to continue experimenting and combining flavors. Do give this a try with your favorite fillings and let me know! I will be taking both versions to my in laws next week to see if they like them, I hope they do!
His and Hers Ravioli
Fresh pasta from semolina flour provides the perfect canvas for your family's favorite flavors. This recipe is extremely versatile and the extra steps are well worth the effort!
For the Filling:
-2 Tablespoons olive oil
-3/4 pound ground chicken
-3/4 pound ground pork
-1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2 cups fresh spinach
-2 teaspoons sage, chopped
-2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
-3 oz. gruyere, grated
For the Pasta:
-2 1/2 cups semolina flour
-1/2 cup all purpose flour plus more for dusting
-1 teaspoon kosher salt
-4 Tablespoons water
-4 Tablespoons olive oil
-1egg, broken up for an egg wash
For the Sauce:
-1 pint each red and yellow grape tomatoes
-1 Tablespoon olive oil
-2 ears of cooked corn with corn removed from the cob
-4 oz. fresh arugula
-3 oz. pine nuts, toasted
-2 Tablespoons capers
-Zest of 1 lemon
-2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
-2 Tablespoons of basil, chopped
- Prepare filling. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a cast iron, or heavy bottom pan. Brown the chicken and the pork until no longer pink in the center. Break up large chunks as you stir. Drain and divide equally into two medium sized bowls.
- Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the spinach and sage and heat until wilted. Divide equally between the bowls.
- To one bowl add: goat cheese, gruyere, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. To the other add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
- Process the mixtures separately in a food processor until a finely ground consistency is achieved, cover and refrigerate. Make the ravioli.
Prepare the pasta:
- Place flour and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer and, using a dough hook, mix on low until a well appears in the flour. While this is happening, beat the eggs, water and oil in a liquid measuring cup with a pour spout.
- With the mixer on low, pour the liquid into the center of the well and allow the dough hook to slowly incorporate the flour into a ball.
- Turn the slightly sticky dough out onto a well floured counter and continued kneading by hand. Incorporate the additional 1/2 cup of flour as you knead to achieve a smooth and soft dough. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes to an hour.
- After the dough has relaxed, pass 1/4 of the dough through a pasta maker or roll out by hand. Continue rolling until a thin sheet of pasta has been achieved. You will need to move from the widest setting for the rollers to one of the lower settings (not the lowest). Do not make the pasta too thin or it will tear due to the filling.
- Lay one sheet over the ravioli mold pan, if using, and fill the pockets with ~1 teaspoon of filling. Lightly brush the pasta with the egg wash then lay another pasta sheet over the filled pockets. Press the two sheets together to remove any air bubbles.
- Place finished ravioli on a parchment lined pan, in a single layer for, at least 1 hour, to dry. Cook immediately or place in freezer for 1 hour, then transfer to a freezer bag for longer storage.
For the Sauce:
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottom sauce pan. Slice the tomatoes in half, lengthwise and heat in the oil. Add the corn and cook for a few minutes.
- At the same time, heat a large pot of water for the ravioli. Be sure to use enough water for the amount of pasta you are planning to cook, and salt the water heavily.
- Lower the heat on the tomatoes and add the pine nuts, and capers. When the water for the pasta begins to boil, lower the heat and add the frozen ravioli. They will take between 5 to 8 minutes to cook.
- When the ravioli are done add them to the sauce and add the lemon juice, lemon zest, pine nuts and fresh basil, toss gently to coat the ravioli.