I wrote this overly optimistic post before I actually made the dish, which I often do. I usually write first, then go in after I've actually made the dish and edit, add comments, or revise the recipe as needed. In this case, I wanted to kick myself in the ass for my obnoxiously chipper approach to fresh pasta. So I'll keep the original post, but I'll add my after-comments in italics.
Okay, so after the Red Velvet fiasco, I think I'm done trying new recipes for a while. For the next few posts, I think I'm gonna rely on old faithful--classic cooking techniques that have served me well. Fresh pasta is one of them.
Making your own fresh pasta may seem intimidating to someone who's never tried it, but I promise, it's not. In fact, once you've made it yourself and have seen how easy and cheap it is to make, you'll wonder why on earth you ever bought the dried boxes of pre-made stuff that may have been sitting on a shelf for goodness only knows how long.
If you have guests for dinner, or are in the mood for something special, you simply can't beat fresh, homemade pasta. The flavor is stronger, the texture is smoother, and all that lovely sauce just cling better somehow.
(Ok, first of all, this is a semi-lie. I HAVE made fresh pasta several times before, and it's fabulous, but this is the only time I have not had the privilege of a pasta sheeter. I didn't think rolling it by hand would be a big deal. Ahem. We'll see how that went in a bit.
Also, I buy a lot of dried pasta. Because I'm lazy and rolling my own dough is work. So don't think I'm up on some culinary high horse disparaging Barilla. Cuz I'm not. At all.)
Today I'm making ravioli. I'm making the dough myself, and filling them with a four-cheese blend of parmesan, romano, ricotta, and cream cheese. You can fill with whatever you want, and that's exactly the beauty of making it yourself--you can make it entirely your own. Simple italian sausage and mozzarella? Done! Gourmet combinations like arugula and butternut squash? Why not?
I like to make my ravioli centers the focus of the flavor... put all the kapow into them, if you will, and then serve with a simple sauce.
So let's go.
This recipe is vegetarian and kosher dairy.
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs - The original recipe called for 3 eggs, but I found my dough was way too dry
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 oz whipped cream cheese
2 oz ricotta
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup grated romano
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 medium shallot, diced
1 tablespoon basil (fresh is best, but dried works well too)
1 tablespoon oregano (ditto above)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg, beaten
(Because I use so little, I hate to waste a whole egg. Instead, I used a tablespoon of eggbeaters)
- 1 can tomatoes (I used fire roasted with basil and oregano. You can always use fresh tomatoes, too, if you're not lazy like me)
- 1/4 cup cream cheese
I used Philly's new culinary cheese cremes)
- 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
- A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
What we're Gonna Do:
On a clean work surface, make a pile with your flour and hollow out a well in the center. You want the pile to be about 6" across, and the walls around the well to be about an inch thick. You should see flour at the bottom of your well, not work surface.
Crack your eggs into this well, and add the salt. Gently and carefully, scramble your eggs with a fork, making sure not to spill them over the edges of the well. VERY gradually, work in the flour from around the edges. Make sure to mix well.
(Ha! I was sloshing egg everywhere the moment I started. So instead, I just mushed it all together with my hands and got all up in it. Dirty style.)
Once all the flour has been worked in, the dough should be slightly sticky. Form it into a ball. At this point,you can lightly flour your work surface, but don't go overboard--you don't want the pasta completely dry.
We're going to fold our ball of dough in on itself. We do this to aerate the dough and create tiny pockets of air, which keep the dough light and smooth. Fold it over on itself once, and then again the other way. You're going to keep kneading like this until the dough is soft and elastic, and the surface should be pocked by tiny little craters where all those lovely little bubbles have popped. It may take up to 10 minutes. This is a good time to work out the stress from your day or pretend the dough is your neighbor's yappy dog. (I kid! I love dogs. Kneading dough helps me deal with the yappy ones.)
(This is truly a pain in the ass. The dough is NOT like bread dough. It is not soft nor supple, it is very firm and difficult to knead. You just have to beat the hell out of it and work it into submission.)
Now, let it sit and breathe a bit, go have yourself a cocktail for 5 minutes.
(You'll need it)
Once your dough has sat and rested a few minutes, use your rolling pin to roll the dough flat. I know it'll seem at first like you're not getting anywhere. It'll spring back, and you have to keep rolling the darn thing out. That's just the gluten doing...well, whatever gluten does. Something scientific, I'm sure.
Once you've worn it down, though, it'll submit. You'll win, I promise. Just keep working it, putting a bit of muscle into it, and eventually, the gluten will give up the fight and you can roll it out into a smooth, flat circle. You want it very thin. If you slip your hand underneath, you should be able to make it out through the pasta. Ravioli dough that is too thick will come out tasting like dumplings, or they'll be mushy or chewy. No good.
(Ha. Right. Okay. I couldn't get it anywhere near paper-thin using the roller itself. So instead, I got it as thin as I could, and then cut it into ravioli sized squares, then cut THOSE into quarters, and rolled out each teeny quarter. THOSE were paper thin. Mission accomplished. It just makes it a little more tedious. But it gets the job done, so hey. Also, be sure to cover the pasta you're not working on with a damp towel, or it'll all dry out and start to crack.)
Am I explaining this properly? Meh. Oh! Here's a handy dandy video!
To make the filling, I like to sweat my garlic, shallots, and herbs together a bit first. In a small skillet, I toss them together with just a touch of olive oil and saute over medium heat for a few minutes until they're translucent and fragrant.
Then, simply dump all the filling ingredients in a bowl and stir until well blended. Easy peasy.
Drop the filling by small spoonfuls into the center of each ravioli. Use as much filling as you can get away with and still be able to securely close the seams. Using your finger or a small pastry brush, lightly brush beaten egg onto the edges of your bottom ravioli square (or circle) and lay another piece on top. Press the edges together to seal, while pushing any air out from around the filling. You don't want any filling squeezing out as it cooks. Just as if you were making a pie crust, you can always use the tines of a fork to create a patterned edge and ensure a solid seal.
I then used a pasta cutter to trim up the edges and make 'em all neat and pretty.
Fresh pasta cooks VERY quickly, so it's best to have your sauce hot and ready to go before you start cooking the ravioli. Let's get on that.
In a medium saucepan, add your tomatoes, peppers, parsley, and any other spices or add-ins you may be using.
Cover and simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes are broken down and a bit reduced. Adjust spices as needed. Add your cream cheese and stir until heated through. There you go--simple, flavorful sauce that took all of 10 minutes to make.
Now, get a large pot of water boiling, and add a generous pinch of salt.
Add your raviolis and allow them to cook about 5 minutes. Drain, toss with your sauce, and serve. Now isn't that better than Buitoni? Yeah, I thought so, too.
(As tedious as the rolling process is, I still have to say--this pasta was magnificent. It had the most amazing flavor, and every single bite was well worth the mega calorie burning workout I got rolling it out. I'd do it again.)