Double Dare Ravioli
January 13, 2008
Fresh off the heels of one kitchen rectification, I’ve already got another one to share with you. It’s been a big couple days for me—as far as conquering kitchen demons go. And while I attribute the caramel success to a very helpful commenter to this blog, I attribute this latest success to a double dare. Practically a double dog dare.
You see, I’ve made it no secret that homemade pasta has been my Achilles heel. And, truth be told, I really had no serious intention of doing anything about it. But, this weekend, we didn’t have much going on and I started to think about it.
While it was still just a teensy, tiny idea in the back of my mind, I mentioned to my friend Brynn (an excellent cook) that it might be time to give it another go. She responded by telling me she had complete confidence in me. Do you know why, dear readers? Oh, because—as she went on to tell me—she used to make it all the time. When she was a little girl. Usually when her parents left her alone with a babysitter. She then proceeded to spout off the perfect ratio of ingredients from memory. So, as I said, I was essentially double dared by the 7-year-old version of my friend to make pasta. In my mind’s eye, she was actually sticking her thumbs in the ears, waggling her fingers, and sticking out her tongue at me.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos and the recipe)
Needless to say, Kevin and I made a trip to Williams-Sonoma to buy a pasta roller. After the last debacle we had with a KitchenAid attachment, I was taking no risks. We were going old school. I’m talking clamp it on the counter, churn it out by hand, no bells and whistles. And, can I just quickly tell you, this pasta roller is already giving my last kitchen crush a run for its money. It’s so retro and utilitarian, with a sassy splash of red. I love it.
Okay—back to the pasta. I’ve carved out several afternoons and evenings in the past to give it a shot. It’s always started the same: mound up flour, form a well in the middle and crack eggs into the well. And, each time, I’ve started to feel confident as my fork pulls the outer edges of the flour-well into the yellow pool of eggs. The dough forms and I get to knead it (an activity I’ve mentioned too many times that I quite enjoy). And I’ve ended up with a perfectly smooth, dense ball of dough tinged with a palest yellow.
But when it comes time to roll out and shape the dough, things begin to fall apart. I’ve ended up with pasta that’s too thick, too thin or just downright weird. But, this time, I had my new roller. And despite the fact that it took well over two hours to make a pound of pasta’s worth of ravioli, I finally had sweet success.
The roller churned out sheets of pasta that were supple, velvety and nearly translucent. Using a fluted cutter, I cut the sheets into ravioli. And I tucked into each ravioli one of two fillings: a combination of spicy Italian sausage, Swiss Chard, ricotta and pecorino for Kevin and an earthy puree of roasted beets and ricotta for myself. Both fillings were delicious. And the pasta was, well, very, very good pasta. The meal was so good it had me excited to make pasta again (the next time I have a spare six hours), trying new shapes, fillings and sauces. Or maybe it’s just that I want to pull out the new pasta roller again. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s Brynn’s double dare still lingering in the back of my head.
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
Mound the flour on a work surface, creating a well in the middle deep enough to hold four eggs. Crack the eggs into the well. Using a fork, begin to lightly beat the eggs and then to gradually pull the inner edges of the flour-well into the eggs. Continue pulling the flour into the eggs until a wet dough forms.
Once a wet dough forms, begin to knead the dough for several minutes on a lightly floured work surface. If the dough is very sticky, add additional flour in very small amounts as necessary. After you have kneaded the dough for a total of about six minutes, you should have a smooth, elastic ball of dough. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 20 minutes.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and very lightly dust with flour. Divide the dough into six even pieces, removing one to work with first. Cover the remaining dough pieces in plastic wrap, to prevent them from drying out. Roll out the piece of dough you are working with on a lightly-floured work surface until it is thin enough to feed through the rollers at their widest setting.
From there, follow your roller’s directions to roll out the piece of dough to the thinnest setting your pasta roller allows. (I ended up with sheets that were about three feet long.) Cut the sheet in half lengthwise. One of half-sheet, use the dull side of a 3-inch fluted cutter to make indentations along the sheet, leaving about a half-inch between indentations. Fill each circle with about a tablespoon of the filling of your choice (see below for recipes). Using a pastry brush lightly moistened with water, brush around each of the circles. Cover the sheet topped with the filling with the un-used half sheet.
Using the dull side of a 2-inch fluted cutter, lightly press the top sheet onto the bottom sheet around each mound of filling. This will help press out all the air and seal the ravioli. Using the sharp side of the 3-inch cutter, cut out each ravioli, centering the filling. If necessary, press the edges to seal the ravioli and transfer them to the lined baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining five sections of dough.
Bring a pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Place the ravioli in the boiling water, being careful not to crowd the pot. Boil for several minutes, until the ravioli become translucent and al dente. Repeat with the remaining ravioli and serve with a sauce of your choice.
Ravioli Genovese Filling
Mario Batali via Food Network’s Web Site
1 pound Italian sausage, without fennel seeds, cooked, crumbled and drained
2 cups Swiss chard, cooked, drained and chopped
1 cup ricotta
1 cup grated Pecorino
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
In a bowl, combine the cooked sausage, chopped chard, ricotta, Pecorino, eggs and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Note: this recipe for filling will yield enough to fill an entire recipe for pasta dough above. If you’re going to use two different fillings, as I did, halve this recipe.
Roasted Beet and Ricotta Ravioli Filling
1 pound beets, trimmed and scrubbed
1 cup ricotta
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet and roast for 40 to 45 minutes, until the beets are as tender as a baked potato. Remove the beets from their wrapping, using tongs and oven mitts, and place in a large bowl. Mash the beets with a potato masher or fork, until they are smooth. Let the beets cool to room temperature. Once the beets have cooled, add the ricotta and season with salt and pepper. Note: this recipe for filling will yield enough to fill an entire recipe for pasta dough above. If you’re going to use two different fillings, as I did, halve this recipe.