Friday, August 17, 2012

Day 84

Today marks 12 weeks since the last meal I ate in my own kitchen – a salad and various other leftovers with SP while the movers emptied the house around us. In honor of this minor milestone, here’s one I made earlier: my last major cooking project before we left Missouri.
In the midst of one of our many conversations about food (which we talked about at least as much as music theory or guitar technique), my guitar teacher mentioned the toasted ravioli that he had eaten on a recent trip to St. Louis, and how he wanted to replicate it. He thought, knowing my Italian heritage, that I might be able to assist him in this endeavor. I’d never heard of toasted ravioli (apparently a St. Louis specialty?) until he described it, but I’ve been making batches of ravioli with various gatherings of female relatives for as long as I can remember, so I figured I could at least help him with the raw materials. I offered to be the teacher for a change, and we spent an enjoyable Saturday afternoon in May covering every flat surface in my kitchen with flour. He concocted a filling of spicy sausage and chopped, sautéed mushrooms, and I contributed my grandmother’s cheese filling (it took me a long time to find out that ravioli was ever stuffed with anything else).

Nana's ravioli
If you do this by yourself, it will take a couple of hours from start to finish. I highly recommend doing it as a group project if you've got any like-minded friends or family around; it's much more fun and gets done a lot faster.

Pasta dough
The basic ratio for making pasta dough is 1 egg per cup (or 100 g) of flour, seasoned with a bit of salt and brought together with judicious use of hot water and lots of kneading. Use 1 egg per person you are planning to feed and you can make as much or as little as you need. Three eggs is a good minimum to start with if you are feeding anyone other than yourself.

Cheese filling
1 lb/450 g ricotta cheese
2 eggs
4 Tbsp/60 g grated pecorino romano cheese
Large pinch salt

To make dough
Pour flour into large, shallow bowl. Make well in pile of flour and sprinkle lightly with salt. Crack first egg into well, then mix in gently, using mostly your fingertips and pulling dough in from the sides to distribute egg throughout. Re-shape flour into pile and make another well, then repeat process with second and subsequent eggs until you have used them all and eggs are mixed fairly well through the flour pile. Continue the piling/well process, but now pour a small amount of nearly boiling water into the well. Work in carefully with the fingertips (don’t get burned!). Continue until the mass in front of you is more dough than flour pile, although specks of flour are still visible. Then knead the dough for about five minutes until it is shiny and smooth. Shape into a ball, wipe all over with a damp cloth to moisten, and place under a bowl to rest for 15-20 minutes while you make your filling and prepare your workspace for rolling out dough.

To make filling
Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl, and stir or whisk together until combined and of a simultaneously fluffy and creamy consistency. Set aside while you roll out the dough.

To make ravioli
First, roll out the dough. (Most people recommend using a pasta machine for this, but I think they’re kind of cumbersome and a pain, and prefer to just use a rolling pin instead, so that’s what I’ve provided information for.)

Cut off one-quarter of your pasta dough lump, sprinkle it lightly with flour, and roll it out until you can dimly see the pattern on your countertop through it. Don’t roll the pin back and forth over the dough, as this makes it tough, and check and turn the dough regularly as you’re rolling it out to make sure it isn’t sticking to the work surface. When a sheet of dough has been rolled, put to one side to rest and dry for a few minutes, while you assemble your bowl of filling, a teaspoon, a small bowl of water, a pastry brush, and a knife or ravioli cutter.

Cut strips of pasta about 4cm/1.5in wide and 7.5cm/3in long. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of one side of the strip, brush the edges with water, and fold the other side over as if closing a book. Press down on all edges to seal, either with your fingers or a fork. Place on a plate to dry out a bit if using right away. If freezing, place in a single layer on a baking sheet and put in freezer for at least 30 minutes to flash-freeze individually, then transfer to a freezer-safe bag. (If the ravioli are not at least partially frozen before bagging, they will freeze together in a huge lump—trust me, it's a mistake I have made before!)

To cook ravioli
Bring a large pot of boiling salted water to a boil. Drop ravioli in one by one; they will sink to the bottom. When they float to the top, they’re done—it will only take a couple of minutes. (You can also do this from frozen; the directions are the same, but the cooking takes a little longer.) Fish them out with a slotted spoon, mix with a little sauce to keep from sticking, and place in a warm, covered bowl until all have cooked. 

Serve immediately with sauce of your choice; I like these best served with a simple marinara.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...