Oh I have been cooking, I haven’t been writing very much but I certainly have been cooking. So now let me knock your socks off with a super easy recipe to make home-made stuffed pasta, more precisely, spinach and ricotta ravioli.
Easy and home-made stuffed pasta don’t coexist in your dictionary? Well, you may have to add an entry because this recipe for ravioli is very easy! And you can make lots of ravioli and then freeze them, ready to use for next time, convenient hu?
Tricks for fresh egg pasta (the base for stuffed pasta):
- use good quality ingredients and a scale!
- let the dough rest, well wrapped, for 30 minutes.
That’s all! You could also try to knead for some 10 minutes, with strength, push and turn, but this is not crucial. Letting the dough rest will do the trick even if you didn’t knead well.
On to the fillings. There as so many that I can’t mention them all, here I am giving you one just one, spinach and ricotta, more will come, don’t worry. I will have a ton of options for you :)
There are also many different shapes of stuffed pasta, and the name is usually bound to the shape. Today I show you ravioli, they are shaped as small squares, little pillows, the dough is cut on three sides with a fluted wheel, also called ravioli cutter.
Note that just like pasta of different shapes should be paired with the right sauce, also stuffed pasta of different shapes should be matched to the right filling. For example, a sweet pumpkin (butternut squash) filling should go inside cappellacci. Cappellacci are similar to tortellini in shape, they look like a hat, but cappellacci are really big, tortellini are medium sized and cappelletti are very small. A hat in italian is called cappello, reminds you of cappellacci and cappelletti doesn’t it?. The mild squash filling goes well inside cappellacci because you can fit a lot of it.
For this recipe I used a spinach and ricotta filling which is quite tasty so ravioli work better, because the proportion dough to filling is higher.
The following ingredients are for 3 persons.
- 300 gr all purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- a pinch of salt
- 125 gr frozen spinach
- 125 gr ricotta
- black pepper
- 2 tbs parmesan cheese
- 1 egg if needed
- butter and sage or heavy cream and nutmeg to top
- parmesan to top
Let’s start from the filling, you can prepare the filling in advance and keep it in the fridge until it is time to use it. The filling should always be cold (or at room temperature) when positioned on the fresh pasta.
Grab the frozen spinach, toss them in a pan and set them on medium heat to thaw. Make sure you squeeze all the water out and then let cool.
Transfer the spinach to a food processor, add the ricotta, salt, black pepper and 2 tablespoons of parmesan. Pulse until everything is well combined and creamy. It should not be runny nor very dry. If it results very dry, you can add one egg and pulse more. Set aside, or refrigerate if you are not going to make the pasta right away.
In the ingredients list I am giving you amounts for a cheesy rather than spinachy filling, even the husband liked it, and he doesn’t eat green things. If you love spinach, feel free to modify the quantities so that the proportion between spinach and ricotta is 2 to 1, in this case you will need to also add an egg to the filling or it will be too dry. So, the filling for spinach lovers should be: 250 gr spinach (thawed and squeezed), 125 gr ricotta, 1 egg, salt, black pepper and 2 tbs parmesan.
Fresh pasta, or in Italian Pasta Fresca all’uovo, is simple to make, very simple, the problem comes when it’s time to roll it, but let’s take one step at a time.
Measure the flour in a large bowl, make a well, crack the eggs inside, add a pinch of salt, or rather a small pinch for each egg (Picture 1). With a fork start mixing the eggs with the flour working inside the well (Picture 2), slowly incorporate more flour (Picture 3) until you have a slightly sticky mass. Transfer to a well floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, pressing and pulling and then turning the dough for 1/4 of a circumference from the right to the left. The dough will initially be firm, then it will give in and turn more yellow, it will finally be very elastic and smooth (Picture 4). Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
The resting period has passed and now it’s time to roll. I would highly suggest you to get a pasta machine, they can be very cheap (15-20 bucks) and the way they work is very simple so it’s hard to get a bad one, they will all do a more or less good job. But if you are strong and have time on your hands go ahead and roll the dough by hand.
Don’t roll the dough all at once, divide the dough so it is more manageable. You should work with one portion at a time, so if you are following the amounts specified above, divide the dough in 3. Keep well wrapped the dough you are not currently rolling. When you are done rolling one portion start to fill it or it will dry and it will be harder to seal.
Rolling with a pasta machine
Position the pasta machine on the largest setting, number 1, flatten the dough a little, flour lightly and run it through the machine. Fold it in half and run it through again. Do this step for 3 times. Before continuing to roll try to make your tongue of pasta less wide than the hole in the pasta machine, this will give good sized ravioli with little scraps to roll again later.
Move the wheel to the next number and run the dough through each level once. Flour between levels if needed. Ravioli are good with a thin pasta, so keep rolling up to the second last number on your machine. If your pasta is very elastic you may want to roll at the last thickness a second time.
It’s now time to fill you pasta.
You want a tongue of pasta about 10 cm (4″) wide, using a teaspoon place small mounds of spinach and ricotta filling, with about 2 cm (1″) of empty space between them (Picture 1). Once you’ve covered the entire length of the tongue of pasta with filling, grab it along the side and fold it in half (Picture 2, and 3 completely folded) don’t press it close yet.
When closing the ravioli make sure to let all the air out, this is important otherwise when you boil the pasta the air will swell and your ravioli will look like… corpses swollen in the water :P (Perhaps I watch too many thrillers) To let the air out, first press between two mounds of filling, and then press in front of the filling.
Finally cut the ravioli, first cut in front of them (this is just to make them pretty), and then cut between each couple.
I would suggest to lay your ravioli ricotta and spinach on a sheet of parchment paper, that’s the best to prevent them from sticking and eventually breaking when you grab them to cook them.
Roll the scraps of pasta together and close them in plastic wrap, at the end you can roll all the scraps into one more tongue. Grab the next portion of pasta and repeat all over again.
When you are done you will have a nice tray of ravioli (they will not look all perfectly the same, but that is the beauty of home made), bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt abundantly (remember the pasta has almost no salt), toss the ravioli in and cook for just a few minutes, 3 or 4 minutes will do.
Meanwhile melt some butter or warm some heavy cream flavored with salt, black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Drain the ravioli, toss them with the butter or cream and serve dusted with parmesan cheese.
Want to learn how to make stuffed pasta, a staple of Italian cooking? I give cooking classes in Berlin, contact me!