Friday, September 9, 2011

homemade spinach and ricotta ravioli

I've always been terrified of making homemade pasta. I thought it required hours of labor, masterful hand crafting, and live yeast (which I have never worked with and am slightly grossed out by, to be honest).

So, I
was thrilled to learn that pasta is actually a pretty quick process and only requires three ingredients – flours, eggs, and olive oil. You will need a pasta maker too. Our cooking teacher swore by this model, which we purchased at Crate & Barrel. We love it – it’s compact and reasonably priced. She lectured us that “you do NOT wash a pasta maker, just wipe down with a towel.” (Envision her saying that in an Italian accent and you’ll take the statement very seriously.) If you get the maker too wet, it can rust and it won’t roll out your pasta properly. I’m just going to take her word for it.

So for a 2-person entrĂ©e portion or a 4-person appetizer portion of ravioli (spinach and ricotta in this case), here’s what you need:

100 grams of flour
1 egg
1/3 an egg of olive oil

100 grams of frozen spinach, cooked and drained
300 grams of ricotta
1 egg
A generous handful of nutmeg, freshly grated if available
Salt and pepper to taste

First, prepare the filling. You can let it sit in the fridge while you make the pasta and the flavors will all blend together. Heat the frozen spinach. (I find that about a half a bag equates to 100 grams once you’ve cooked and drained it.) Once the spinach is cooked through, place it in the center of a thin dish cloth and squeeeeeeeze all the excess water out. Mix 100 grams of this drained spinach with the ricotta, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. We were taught to use a generous amount of nutmeg. I usually grate about half of one nutmeg (see picture below). Taste the mixture and add more spices to your liking. Mix in egg. Store in fridge until pasta is ready.

Pour flour onto a clean surface. Form a basin in your flour mound so that you can fill it with your liquid ingredients. Crack an egg into the basin of your flour mound. Using an egg shell half as your measuring device, measure 1/3 an egg of olive oil. This equates to about 2/3 the way up your egg shell half, give or take depending on how neatly you cracked your egg.

Carefully and with small, circular movements, break the yoke of the egg and mix the oil, egg, and flour together. Try to keep all the liquid ingredients inside the basin until enough flour is mixed in so they won’t run all over your surface. If they do (and don’t worry, this has happened to me a bunch of times), just toss some of your flour onto the liquid, so it stops running away, and mix it into your dough.

Once all the ingredients are mixed together. Knead the dough until it is springy to your touch, about 3-5 minutes. In case you have no idea what kneading means: Use the heel of your hand to flatten the dough out and then fold it back into a dough ball. This continues to mix the ingredients and activates the gluten in the pasta.

Set your pasta maker to setting 1. Roll your pasta through this setting a couple times. You may have to manipulate the shape of the pasta at first to get it through the maker. Move the setting up to 2 and roll your pasta through. Continue through this process until your pasta is sheer enough you can see your hand through it (usually by setting 6 or 7).

Lay the pasta on a clean surface. Spoon 1 tablespoon of filling on the center of the pasta. Repeat this down the entire length of the pasta, about 2 fingers apart. Gently fold the pasta over. Using your fingers, push the two sides of the pasta together while pressing all the air away from the filling. (Air in the filling could cause the ravioli to burst in the boiling water.) Cut the ravioli.

If you’re going to eat the ravioli immediately, place them in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes. If you want to cook the ravioli later, simply parboil them now (boil them for 2 minutes) and the drain them and store them in the fridge. When you’re ready to cook them, boil then for 3 minutes and they’re good to go!

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