Thursday, December 1, 2011

Homemade Pasta Dough and Ravioli

Me again!

I'll let you all in on a little secret that maybe I've mentioned before: Cooking, while often time-consuming and labour intensive, is not really all that hard. At least many forms of it aren't very hard to do. I'll grant you that trimming the membranes off a piece of foie gras or slicing a perfect cut of sashimi are probably pretty damn difficult, but who really wants to do that at home? But I'd say most forms of cooking have their root in simple methodology and cleverly matching ingredients.

One form of cooking that I think we tend to overlook as being something to do at home that's dead easy, and allows for a great deal of creativity, is making pasta from scratch. As happens so often, Kari and I were watching the Food Network and one of the chefs was making homemade ravioli. He made it look so damned easy that I figured we could give it a try. Kari had been in possession of a pasta making machine for a while but never took the time to use it. Now it was time. She did a bit of quick Internet research and found that pasta dough is a straight-forward recipe that involves a bit of technique, but is still dead easy. She used Alton Brown's recipe as follows:

Fresh Pasta:

- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt


By Hand: On a clean surface make a well with the flour. In a measuring cup mix the eggs, water and oil and salt. Pour the wet mixture slowly into the flour and mix with your 2 fingers until all of the wet is incorporated. Do not force the dough to take all of the flour. If you are
 going to use a pasta machine to roll out the dough you may at this point form the dough into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to rest.

Now, it didn't quite go exactly as planned since the egg broke through the "walls" of the flour well and leaked out. But with a bit more water and oil, she was able to salvage it and knead it into the proper consistency. After refrigerating the pasta for an hour as indicated, it was time to roll that sucker out!

Our first run was a little awkward as we tried to roll out too much dough at once, but it didn't take long to get the hang of it.

While Kari was preparing the pasta into sheet form, it was up to me to come up with the filling for the ravioli. Ravioli gives you the opportunity to get pretty damn creative with the filling. Really, there are no limits as long as it's fairly easy to tuck between two sheets of pasta.

So, I originally had one filling in mind, but as luck would have it, I wound up with two!

The first came about whilst chopping for ingredients. I was thinking smokey and spicy with strong umami components in it. This was not going to be a light meal! So, I came across some lovely hot chorizo sausage and decided to pair it with a kind of cheese I'd never tried: smoked Emmenthal (aka Swiss cheese). Now, I figured some mushroom was a must, so I reconstituted some dry mushrooms and went from there. When we got home and were about to get cooking, I noticed that there were leftover ribs in the fridge from earlier in the week. There were only about 3-4 ribs left so there wasn't enough for a meal, but there certainly was enough to shave the meat off, mix it with sharp provolone and mushrooms and make another kind of ravioli filling!

So, here's the breakdown on both kinds of ravioli filling:

Chorizo-Emmenthal Filling (for about 20 raviolis)


- 1 hot chorizo sausage, meat removed from casing (just squeeze it out of the filling, it's that easy).
- 3-4 tbsp chopped mushrooms, fresh or reconstituted
- 1/4 cup grated smoked Emmenthal cheese
- pepper to taste (because the chorizo has so much seasoning in it anyway, I didn't see much point in adding more than just pepper. It's up to you if you want to fiddle with the seasoning)


- Fry up sausage meat and mushrooms in a pan until meat is fully cooked. Transfer to bowl and stir in cheese and seasoning.

Rib Meat Filling... I think...
Rib Meat Ravioli (for about 20 raviolis)

- about 1/2 a cup to 1 cup cooked rib meat, chopped
- 3-4 tbsp chopped mushrooms, fresh or reconstituted
- 1/4 cup grated sharp provolone (aka Provolone piccante)

- Fry mushrooms in either butter, mushroom liquid (if reconstituted) or olive oil for about 5-6 mins (until cooked through).
- Transfer to a bowl and mix with rib meat and cheese.

So, the next step in our adventure is actually making the ravioli!

Well, first off, crack an egg into a bowl and whisk it/beat it until well mixed.

Next, take a sheet of pasta and lay it flat. Using a tablespoon used for measuring (so more round than oval), scoop about a tablespoon of either filling and place it on the sheet of pasta, about 2 inches apart from the next spot for filling (basically, as pictured).

Using a basting brush, brush around the filling. This will allow the top layer of pasta to stick.

Lay another sheet of pasta on top, using fingers to press down, following along the contours of the filling and sealing out the air to make the ravioli tight. You might have extra pasta bits leftover, just fold this over and seal.

Now this was my first time, so there were some hits and misses, as you can see...

A motley selection of ravioli

So, really, if you're not too picky on how it looks, it doesn't take much manual dexterity to make a functional ravioli.

The next step is to cook the pasta and sauce it!

In this case, Kari wasn't feeling the standard tomato sauce, so she made this tasty mix of onion and butter. But I'll be damned if I can remember how she made it. In any case, basically you want to place the raviolis in a pot of boiling water, same as any pasta. But it should be noted that fresh pasta takes very little time to cook, no more than 5 minutes. Just use a slotted spoon to remove the raviolis and shake off excess water. Serve topped with sauce and grated parmesan, pecorino, asiago (or whatever other cheese you like).

Dinner is served!

Oh and in case you were wondering which filling was better, I'd say the chorizo-Emmenthal, but only by millimetres.


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