Homemade ricotta, Italian cooking, Pasta, Pasta fatta a mano, Ravioli, Stuffed pasta, Vegetarian pasta
Stuffed pasta is more of a special occasion dish than an ‘everyday’ pasta, and really fun to make by hand. I especially like large ravioli, as they look like little gift packages-and everyone loves presents!
Making ravioli is more efficient and fun as a team effort. I recently spent a morning with my nipotina Francesca making ravioli with a creamy ricotta and spinach filling. Since I needed to measure out the recipe for her, I decided to share it in a post.
Pasta naming can be confusing, and there are also regional differences. Ravioli are usually square, but can also be round or mezzalune –half moons. They are usually made with a filling between 2 thin pasta sheets, sealed and cut. Large ravioli are sometimes called agnolotti- a sub category of ravioli where pasta sheets are folded over a filling, sealed and cut. One example is agnolotti del plin. As you see in the photos, some of our ravioli were made folded over, and some not, so we just call them all ravioli.
To make the pasta:
Fresh egg pasta is generally made with 1 egg to every 100g flour. I use finer OO (doppio zero) flour as it makes a more elastic dough which is more likely to stay al dente. All purpose flour can be used as well, or a combination of the 2.
Depending on the size of the eggs, an extra yolk may need to be added, or a bit less flour. The dough should not be too dry, or the ravioli will not seal properly and will open while cooking.
I usually use 5 eggs and 500g 00 flour, which will use up all of the filling. This makes about 75-80 ravioli 5cm (2 inch) square.
Tip the flour onto a wooden board. Make a wide hole in the center of the flour and add the eggs. Move a few tablespoons of the flour off to the side in case it is not needed. This prevents needing to add water because the pasta is too dry!
Beat the eggs with a fork and slowly start to mix in some flour. Keep adding flour from the inner edge of the wall. When the egg mixture is no longer runny, start kneading by hand.
Knead for 10 min using the whole hand. Keep folding and turning until the dough is shiny and elastic. Shape into a ball. Cover with an overturned bowl and let the dough sit for 30-60 min. This lets the gluten relax, and the dough will be more elastic and workable.
A stand mixer or food processor can be used to make the dough, but it does not come out as nice, plus I find it more work to wash the appliances than to mix it myself.
To make the filling:
The filling can be made the night before, or while the pasta is ‘relaxing’. I do not really measure the ingredients. Use less ricotta and more spinach if you like. I often make them without any spinach. These are the approximate amounts:
500-600 g (~2 cups) ricotta, drained
80-100g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (¾ -1 cup)
2 egg yolks
500g fresh spinach, cooked, drained and chopped finely, or 200g frozen spinach, thawed and drained
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
The ricotta I use comes in its own little draining basket. The basket can sit in a colander over a bowl to drain for a few hours. To make your own ricotta, check out the post Ricotta fatta in casa. Make sure to squeeze out all of the water from the spinach as well. Extra moisture will produce soggy ravioli. Yuck! Mix all ingredients with a fork. Cover and store in the fridge until the ravioli are ready to fill.
To make the ravioli:
Cut off one piece of dough at a time (~1/8th of the total) and leave the rest under the bowl so it does not dry out. Lightly flatten the dough with fingers and run it through the pasta machine twice on the widest setting. Gradually run the dough through at thinner settings, until the second thinnest setting.
Since ravioli is double layered, the pasta should be as thin as possible. The green spinach should be visible through the pasta!
The dough can also be rolled out by hand, but it takes real talent and years of practice to roll out a sfoglia thin enough for ravioli!
Work with only 1 piece of dough at a time-or the pasta will dry out and not stick together. Try not to add any extra flour to the dough or the board when making stuffed pasta as this will also prevent sticking.
I have a ravioli mold called a Raviolamp, and a round ravioli cutter, but I also like to make them ‘freeform’. We made a combination of all 3 so that Francesca could try them all! They do not have to all look the same-but try to make them all the same size so they take the same time to cook.
Using 2 teaspoons, drop 1 heaping teaspoon of filling on the pasta sheet 2 fingers apart. Either use 2 sheets, 1 for the top and 1 for the bottom, or 1 long sheet and fold it over. Press in between the filling with the heel of hand, making sure to remove any air. The filling can be piped out of a pastry bag if you want to get fancy.
Cut the squares with a fluted pastry wheel or ravioli cutter. The Raviolamp makes 12 ravioli stuck together, then they can be cut apart with the pastry wheel.I use the leftover dough to make a few ‘freeform’ ravioli rather than putting it through the pasta machine again. Use the leftover bits as soon as possible so they do not dry out. The finished ravioli can go on a floured tea towel on a cookie sheet until they are ready to cook or be frozen.
Cook the ravioli in a large pot of boiling salted water. If cooking frozen ravioli, do not defrost. Drop them into the boiling water directly from the freezer. Cook for ~4 minutes, or 1 minute after they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon.
These ravioli should be served with simple sauces. While they are cooking heat up olive oil with some garlic and fresh sage. They are also delicious with a simple tomato sauce. For either sauce, top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and bite into them!
Buon appetito, Cristina & Francesca
*qb=quanto basto meaning however much is needed. This is what you commonly see in recipes written in Italian