uongiorno tutti. It’s arrived, the day many of you have been waiting and asking for. I was hesitant at first, being the beginning of the “semester” if you will, but you’re all strapping Juniors by now at Paulie T’s Pasta Community College and Rehab Center. The all nighters, keg parties, and walks of shame have all been worth it, I promise.
Ravioli. Among all the various shapes, sizes, techniques, and traditions of pasta making this may be the most difficult to perfect. I’m including all stuffed pasta’s in that remark because that is what most, if not all excluding tortellini, are referred to here in the states. The balance between pasta, filling, and condiment is paramount. Thick pasta is tedious. Dry filling is detrimental. Over-saucing – a sin. Below is my recipe for an almost fool-proof, simplistic Ricotta Raviolo:
Ravioli di Ricotta e Bietola
1 Pasta Dough
1lb Homemade Ricotta
2 cups Marinara
1 Bunch of Swiss Chard
1/2 Cup Pecorino Romano
This is roughly enough for 4-5 People.
For The Pasta: Follow the recipe above for the egg-based pasta. Ravioli are meant to be rich, so feel free to use only egg yolks to make the pasta extra decadent and bright yellow (double the quantity if doing so). Once the pasta dough has rested for 30 minutes the ideal thickness to roll it out (as stated by the governing body of Bologna) is 8/10 millimeter…That’s asking too much. I like mine rolled to the second to last setting on my pasta roller, but ultimately it should be just thin enough to glow when held up to a light. Place on kitchen towels and allow to slightly dry but remain pliable.
For The Filling: If you screw this up, you may want to pull a Billy Madison and head back to 4th grade, it’s that easy. Blanch (boil until soft) your Swiss Chard and trim away the red stalks to use in another pasta dish some other time. Allow to cool and chop into oblivion. Place all of your chopped chard into a dish towel and squeeze the be’jesus out of it to remove all extra moisture. Combine in a bowl with the Ricotta, Pecorino, 2-3 Tbs Olive Oil, and some Chile Flakes if you like. Leave in the fridge until ready to assemble.
Pasta Team, ASSEEEEEEMBLE: First things first, set up your station. My Nan used to tell us stories of her and her family rolling out hundreds of Ravioli for Sunday and trays of the pasta pockets sitting everywhere from the kitchen counters, on top of the tv, and even on their beds. This will not be so intruding. Assembly Kit:
Pasta – Check
Pasta Filling – Check
Small glass of water – Check
Knife or Pasta Cutter – Check
Glass of wine to sip on – Check!
Start by placing two pieces of the dough parallel to one another. Trim the edges so they are precisely the same length.
Next, using a teaspoon, place a 3/4 spoonfull of the filling onto one of the pasta sheets spacing them according to how much room you have (try to get at least 2 width-wise as shown above).
Next, dip your finger in the cup of water and lightly outline all of the balls of filling. This will act as a glue for the pasta and help it to remain closed during boiling.
Next, place the empty pasta sheet on top of the filling-covered one and press each ball of filling down until it’s just slightly flattened. Using your fingers try to remove all of the air out of each “pillow” before sealing the seams.
Finally, using a knife or pasta cutter, cut first lengthwise down the middle of the sheet, then across forming squares – ravioli! The ideal ravioli has it’s filling pushed almost to the edges with just a slight rim of pasta, but most important is removing any and all air from the ravioli so it does not burst or become soggy during boiling. After the first batch or two you’ll be a seasoned veteran and the rest will form much quicker.
The trimmed pieces of pasta, a form of maltagliati or “badly cut”, are worth saving for a quick lunch too.
As you finish each batch, dust with a heavy hand of Semolina flour and allow to rest in a cool place for at least an hour. This will help the edges seal and the ravioli to hold their shape. You could just as easily freeze these tray by tray and then hold in a ziploc for god knows how long.
To Boil: Ravioli need a very large pot of water so they have plenty of room to bob around like a chubby kid in the deep end. The water should not be at a rapid boil, but rather “smiling” as Batali so eloquently puts it, where the surface of the water is just rotating ever so slightly. Drop the ravioli in batches at first so the pot does not overcrowd and wait until they just begin to float above the surface, 3-4 minutes tops.
Il Condimento: Megs and I are wild for Sage and Butter, but my Nan was a Marinara kind of gal and always served her Ravioli spooned over with the fragrant tomato sauce and extra Pecorino or Parmigiano. In this case I had about 2 cups of sauce simmering in a large saute pan and added the Ravioli directly to the sauce to finish cooking.
I also topped each bowl with some fresh breadcrumbs toasted in olive oil for an extra crunch.
When the laborious pieces of this delicious puzzle ultimately come together, the mix of toothsome pasta, velvetty ricotta, and floral sauce is dizzying. I prepared these for a few close friends and one of my biggest Giusto Fans who’s faithful reading and commenting deserved a worthy meal.
I hope, in the end, this epic 1000 word odyssey of flavor inspires you to spend a few hours in the kitchen rolling and folding raviloi among ravioli with friends or family. The anticipation of the evening’s meal will fuel your floury fingers until the moment you can all sit, relax, and indulge in triumphant bowls of Pasta Pefection.