Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ravioli Worth the Making

I love ravioli, always have. I favor cheese fillings over meat fillings, preferring to have meat in the sauce to go with it. My husband on the other hand, has never once, ever, ordered ravioli if at an Italian style venue, but always has gone with spaghetti with meat sauce and meatballs or sausage, if available. 

My free-form ravioli experiment
My earlier free-form ravioli experiment
With that in mind, while I have a couple of times in all my years made ravioli, I had never gotten a rave from him. Since I know that is not his "thing", that's okay, but at least I attempted them. Once I made them - earlier this year in fact - and used some of the leftover cheese pieces (of Romano and Chevre mashed together) I had used in the center of one of the flank steak rolls (appetizers for a Winefest here). There ended up more of the cheese filling than flank pieces, and I just got the idea to mash them up with some of my homemade pesto and fill ravioli. They were really good, but to try and explain what I did would have been near-impossible, so I didn't even try. Still, since my husband seemed to like those ravioli well enough, I had kept this in back of mind to try again at a future date.  

Making the pasta for the ravioli was another thing I  hadn't done too much of, despite having the pasta rolling attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. I did make the past for the earlier ravioli. I was absolutely 100% sure that the recipe I used was in the booklet for my new Breville Sous Chef food processor. I went to the booklet to recreate the pasta. And . . . it wasn't there! I looked through the recipes at least 5 times. I was THAT sure it had been there! Oh well.

My new Ravioliera
My new Ravioliera
Also, in the last couple of weeks I was on the Williams Sonoma website for hours and hours, just feasting my eyes. I went there specifically for a tablecloth, which I bought, but the only other thing I ordered after those hours on end was a ravioli mold. This is not a machine, or even a plate to fit into a machine, but just a mold with 12 little wells. The raised edges are meant to cut the ravioli, once filled and topped with pasta. It seemed, at the time, to be a good idea. Lots of people complained about not having a tool to press the dough into the wells. Others complained about the ravioli sticking in the wells and not coming out easily. Despite this, I ordered it and it came about a week ago. The tablecloth is stunning, and I am so very happy with it. The little ravioli former was beckoning.
Just formed ravioli
Just formed Cheese & Pesto Ravioli

When I made ravioli in the past, it was free-form, seen in the photo above. I am no Mario Batali to just whip them out easily and readily. When I saw this little "ravioliera", I didn't know how large or small the ravioli would be, and there was nothing in the description (nor on the box once I received it) to say what size ravioli it would turn out. I used it the other day, with great success (after an initial learning curve), and it makes 2-inch ravioli. 

Keeping in mind all the negative comments on this little device, I was determined to make it work. I used a pasta recipe from the latest Food and Wine magazine, though I totally forgot to add the water! I tried, belatedly, to work in some water, accomplishing maybe 2 tablespoons worth. The pasta was nicely dry, which usually doesn't happen for me, so I had less problem with things sticking than usual. I rolled the pasta through the pasta roller attachment and though the recipe stated how many times and how thin to roll it - possibly because I forgot the water in the recipe, but there was no way I could form ravioli into the little wells without the pasta tearing. It was just too thin. I went one roller setting less thin, and had no more problems. I did find that it was easier to make one very long piece of dough (ultimately both top and bottom of the ravioli), setting half of it way off to one side covered with a damp towel, while working with the other half set over the ravioli former. I held the dough up while gently pressing the indents into the wells with the thicker end of my marble pestle. One of my round measuring spoons would probably have worked as well. If this is confusing to read, it was not that difficult. Just a matter of some common sense. 
Exquisitely flavorful Cheese & Pesto Ravioli
Exquisitely flavorful Cheese & Pesto Ravioli

One comment I had read stated that it was best (rather than heavily dusting the ravioli wells with flour as the instructions suggest) to instead heavily flour the bottom of the pasta dough before setting into the mold. This worked well for me. With a little bowl of water nearby, I moistened the perimeter of each filled well before flipping the long pasta tail from off to the one side back over the wells. After pressing very well all around the edge to seal each individual ravioli, I ran the little wood dowel over the top to cut them apart. I will say this was not exact. It appears either the raised ridges are not of even height, or the wood dowel is not totally smooth. However, it did most definitely leave a deep enough impression so it was easy to go and run my pastry cutter (with the same zig-zag edge) over the parts that were not separated. All in all, after the first piece of dough through, I had a system going and it went very well.

In the same Food and Wine magazine article that I used the pasta dough recipe from, was the recipe for the ravioli filling. I liked the thought of the cheese part, though the actual recipe was for much larger ravioli that would have an egg yolk dropped into the center of the cheese filling before sealing. With my little ravioli of a bare 2-inch diameter, there was no way to add an egg yolk into them. I used the Feta, Romano and Parmesan, then added some of my own Pesto to flavor it instead of adding other herbs and such. 

This was the absolute best ravioli! Even my husband raved about them. Granted, I did nothing special with the sauce part. I fried hamburger, added some onion and green pepper and a larger jar of Ragu and cooked it. But no matter how you look at it, these ravioli were most exceptionally good! If you prefer a simple marinara, Puttanesca or a raw tomato mixture, any of these would be great. I think these were good enough to serve alone with a drizzle of olive oil, but my husband would so not go for that!

Cheese & Pesto Ravioli
Cheese & Pesto Ravioli
Cheese & Pesto Ravioli with Parmesan shavings

Makes 58 - 60 (2-inch) ravioli 

2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2 - 4 tablespoons water
2 cups "00" or semolina flour (I used semolina)

7 ounces preferably sheep and/or goat milk Feta 
7 ounces whole milk ricotta
1.5 ounces Romano cheese, finely grated
3 tablespoons (preferably homemade) basil pesto
a few grinds of black pepper
a few gratings of fresh nutmeg

Place the flour in a food processor. Separately, whisk together the eggs, yolks and water. Drizzle into the processor while pulsing, once all added, process until the mixture starts to come together. Turn out onto a surface and knead a few times to form a ball. Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Wipe out the food processor bowl and add in the Feta, broken into chunks, along with the grated Romano. Pulse, then process to completely break down to crumbs. Add in the ricotta, pesto, pepper and nutmeg and process until well combined. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To roll the pasta, a pasta roller of some kind is preferable, unless you have great experience at rolling pasta dough thinly. (I don't.) Cut the dough into quarters, working with one quarter at a time and keeping the remainder well covered. Roll the dough out slightly, into a long oval. Run it through the pasta roller on its widest setting at least 4 times. Turn the setting to the next smaller setting and run it through twice more. Turn the roller to the next smaller setting and run the dough through twice. The dough should be quite thin. If not, use the next narrower setting twice and possibly even one more narrower setting if needed. The dough should be thin, but not so easily torn.

You should now have a very long, narrow piece of dough. Drape half over a ravioli former, or if free-forming, cover half the dough with a towel while forming ravioli with the other half. In a mold, press the well-floured dough into the wells. Use a very small cookie scoop to make even sized little mounds of the filling. If free forming, simply keep the filling mounds evenly spaced for ease of cutting. Moisten the edges all around the filling with water. With the mold, flip the long tail of dough over the top, pressing well around each well to seal. If free-form, moisten the dough all around the filling, and then mold the long remaining tail over each mound of filling, pressing tightly all around each mound to seal. With the mold, run the dowel or rolling pin over the top to make the cuts. Turn out and separate any places that stick, using a pastry cutter. If free-form, simply cut between the mounds with a knife, use a biscuit cutter or use a pastry cutter. Whichever works best.

Once formed, make sure the ravioli are well dusted with flour so they do not stick. They will cook in boiling, well-salted water in about 3 to 4 minutes. Serve with your favorite sauce.

MAKE AHEAD:  The ravioli can be frozen. Make sure  the bottoms are well dusted with flour, then set the ravioli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until solid, then remove them to a zip-top bag and return to the freezer for up to 3 weeks. They can be cooked straight from the freezer, though the timing might require another minute or two to bring to temperature all the way through.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (AHOFpin). I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies