Ravioli [Attempt No. 1]
My journey learning about Italian food continues. It invariably started with the eating, but has now progressed full-flow into cooking. I’ve never tried making ravioli before, and delving into my subconscious, perhaps it is because I was a little intimidated to.
There are so many perfect looking examples of filled pasta you can purchase from your local supermarket or specialty food shop, with exotic sounding fillings, whose creation seems beyond the reach of a home cook. The technical aspect of creating (in essence) a pasta dumpling, with just the right amount of not-too-wet-or-dry filling, that doesn’t burst whilst cooking, and is delicious enough to justify the work involved, are all points my internal antagonist has been whispering to stop me thus far attempt this classic pasta.
Well. I’m pleased to report that I attempted ravioli making, and I’m as surprised as anyone when I say it was surprisingly simple… and delicious! Many food blogs (some of which I follow avidly) are guilty of making similar claims of simplicity, no matter what the recipe. Yes, ‘ease’ is relative, and dependent on prior skill and experience. But as I am happy to admit, I have little of either. And if I can do it – so can you.
I did stick to a basic classic recipe for the filling – but simple is often the best. As in so many examples of the finest tasting Italian food, the fewer ingredients, the more stunning the dish. I am fond of crab, so for no better reason, I made crab ravioli. This classic recipe is as follows (feeds 2-3):
White crab meat 100g
Brown Crab meat 100g (I used fresh prepared crab meat which worked well).
Lemon juice 1tbsp
Pinch of salt
Fresh Egg Pasta dough:
200g flour (00 ‘extra fine’ if you have it; plain if not)
½ tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
If you’re not a fan of the stronger crab flavour, change the crab mix to 150g white meat and 50g brown meat – or just use white meat.
My inner child still gleans satisfaction from piling a mountain of flour on a table, forming a volcanic crater, and cracking eggs straight into the middle. Rebels (and pasta aficionados) don’t need mixing bowls.
Mix the eggs with a fork, and gradually combine in the flour to make a dough. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, stretchy and springs back to the touch. Add a little water (a tablespoon at a time) if too dry, or extra flour if wet and sticky. Cover and leave to rest for 30 mins to allow the dough to relax.
Combine ‘ravioli filling’ ingredients in a bowl and stir. Your filling is ready! Cover and refrigerate until required.
Split dough into 4 balls, and roll out either with a pasta machine or a rolling pin. Given that a) I was using a relatively shallow ravioli mould (meaning less filling) and b) delicate tasting ingredients, I rolled the pasta thinly to achieve a good pasta to filling ratio.
Trim two sheets to cover the ravioli tray, with a little excess around the sides. Lay one over the tray and create divots in the pasta sheet for your filling to nestle into.
Depending on your ravioli shape, you can use various implements to do this (end of a rolling pin, back of a teaspoon etc.) but as I was using an unusual triangular shape, I ended up using a finger.
Next - the filling. Piping is probably the most professional way, but I just used two teaspoons to scoop and transfer. I found that size-wise, rough spheres of filling whose top is slightly higher than the top of the ravioli tray worked well.
As I alluded to earlier, ravioli that don't seal and burst apart once cooking is one of my horror scenarios. A quick Google search suggested tracing a bead of water along all pasta edges to be sealed with a finger, which I did. Cover with the second sheet.
Time for the fun part. I thought there would be some nifty trick here, but honestly… just carefully roll over the tray with some downward pressure, and the ravioli are sealed and cut in one motion. My nightmare of torn, burst, badly sealed ravioli never materialised. It was, on an otherwise uneventful day, quite a revelation. I’d just made ravioli.
Knock out onto a board. Some needed teasing apart by hand, but it was easy to do.
Cook immediately, or freeze (just place a single layer of ravioli in a freezer bag and lay flat in the freezer). I tried both methods, and for experiment’s sake, having cooked both for comparison - I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. Of course, the only meaningful caveat is to cook the frozen pasta a minute or two longer.
Below I've shown a cross section through a cooked raviolo. The filling spread quite evenly throughout the whole thing, and cooked without any drama or splitting.
Classically served with a reduced white wine, butter and lemon sauce. Lacking two of those three ingredients, I melted butter with fresh chopped chives and tossed the cooked ravioli in the pan before eating immediately. I enjoyed it immensely, and more profoundly, feel like I’ve added a new string to my culinary bow. Onward!