Valentine’s Day is only a few weeks away. It’s time to start planning that menu now. If you love hand-made pasta like you get at your favorite Italian restaurant, make it at home for a romantic dinner that is very impressive and big on taste, but quite inexpensive and fun to make.
Maybe you have never attempted homemade pasta before because it seemed like a daunting task that would take hours to prepare. While it does take longer than boiling some frozen ravioli or ordering out from your favorite restaurant, it doesn’t take too long, especially once you have done it a time or two. Plus, there is something so satisfying and almost therapeutic about making it from scratch. After you’ve made it once, you’ll want to make it for more than just special occasions.
If you have a pasta machine, either a manual one or an attachment for your stand mixer, the task goes pretty quickly. If you don’t own either of those, you can still roll the pasta dough by hand. It will just take a bit more elbow grease. However you make it, the end result will be well worth the effort.
There are three basic components to ravioli: the pasta, the filling and the sauce. Even though they are made separately, once they are put together they make one harmoniously delicious dish. There are countless possibilities and combinations so that you can experiment and come up with your own masterpiece.
The pasta dough is simple to make. Although we’ll use this dough for ravioli, this same dough could be used to make any sort of pasta. One of the most important parts of making the pasta dough is the kneading. Similar to bread dough, pasta dough must be kneaded in order to develop the gluten. The gluten is what gives the pasta that chewy, toothsome bite. If the dough is not kneaded sufficiently, the resulting ravioli will be limp.
The filling for this ravioli is a basic ricotta filling with just a hint of lemon zest. Experiment a little. If you want the lemon flavor to be more pronounced, feel free to add a little more zest. Parmesan cheese and freshly grated nutmeg are also important parts of the filling. The nutmeg gives the filling just a touch of sweetness, while the Parmesan lends a little saltiness.
Use your favorite sauce recipe to compliment the ravioli. A nice marinara or Alfredo sauce would be good choices. Be sure to catch tomorrow’s article that will be all about pasta sauces.
But now, here’s the ravioli recipe.
Lemon Ricotta Ravioli
Lemon Ricotta Filling:
- 1 (15 oz.) container whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, egg and salt; mix well. Add the Parmesan, nutmeg and lemon zest. Fill a disposable pastry bag or a large zip bag with the filling and set aside. If using a zip type bag, cut a large hole in one corner for piping the filling.
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 2 whole large eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons water (more if needed)
Sprinkle a couple of cookie sheets with semolina flour, cornmeal, or all purpose flour to keep ravioli from sticking.
You will need a large work surface for this. Pour flour on work surface. Make a well in the flour. Add eggs, salt, oil and water. Using a fork, mix together the wet ingredients. Starting on the inside of the well, gradually mix the flour with the egg mixture until the dough is dry enough to be handled, Continue mixing with your hands until all ingredients are well incorporated and you have a large ball of dough. Add more water if the dough seems too dry. The dough should be very easy to knead without being sticky or stiff.
Knead the dough for at least 8-10 minutes or until it feels smooth and elastic. Knead the dough by pushing the heal of your hand into it while rolling it at the same time. Really get into it. Once it is smooth and elastic, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for an hour. If you are not planning on using it soon after that time, refrigerate until ready to use.
Using a pasta machine, mixer attachment or rolling pin, roll half of the dough until it is very long and thin. Keep the other half of the dough covered with a towel so that it won’t dry out. If using the mixer attachment, you will start at setting one, fold the dough in half, and run it through on that setting again before moving to setting two. After that, run the dough through each setting once until the desired thickness has been achieved. For the mixer attachment, it will be setting five or six. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
When running the dough through the machine, it’s important not to stretch the dough. Use the back of your hands to catch it instead of your fingertips so that the dough will not tear.
Cut pasta sheets to fit work area. Working with one at a time, brush the bottom half of the dough with water. Pipe the filling on this brushed surface. Gently pull the rest of the dough over the filling. Starting in the back, use your fingers to seal the dough, being sure to seal the front last so that any existing air bubbles can escape.
Use a ravioli mold, a scalloped biscuit cutter, a pastry wheel or just a knife to cut out the ravioli. As the ravioli are done, place them on prepared cookie sheets. Use them right away or freeze for later use.
When ready to make ravioli
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water very well. Add the pasta to the water and cook until pasta is done, about 2-3 minutes until it floats to the surface. .Add ravioli to favorite sauce and serve.
Makes about 1/2 pound of pasta
Looking for semolina flour?
Reasor’s carries semolina flour, often used to make pasta, on the aisle with the rest of the flour. The flour made by Red Mill.
No time to make ravioli?
If you love fresh ravioli, but simply do not have time to make it, visit Napoli’s Italian Restaurant for some delicious ravioli and other Italian specialties. They are located at 2039 West Houston.