I have always had fond memories of my Nonna making fresh ravioli. Pasta from scratch with a cheese or veal filling (or both), and a simple tomato sauce. As a child, it was my job to use a fluted pastry wheel to cut the ravioli. As I hadn’t made fresh pasta in quite some time, I had the urge to recreate this experience but with with slightly different tools: my fantastic KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook and pasta roller attachment and a square 3″ crimped ravioli cutter.
The pasta dough recipe is quite simple. One kilogram of sifted all-purpose flour, six whole eggs, four egg yolks, and a pinch of salt. A little water is often required, but it depends on the humidity and how large the eggs are. I only add it as necessary at the end of the process, a few drops at a time.
After the dough came together in the KitchenAid, I kneaded it on a lightly-floured surface for about five or six minutes. I always prefer to finish the dough by hand because I get a better feel for the consistency to ensure that it’s silky and smooth. The dough was wrapped in cling film and allowed to rest in the fridge for about a half hour. This resting period relaxes the gluten in the dough and makes it easier to roll.
While the dough was in the fridge, it was time to move onto fillings. That’s right, fillings. Plural. And not a small batch of ravioli either. A large batch of ravioli. Making ravioli is a time consuming process, so one might as well go all out. Besides, they freeze really well and make for excellent, quick mid-week meals.
The first filling was cremini mushroom, mascarpone cheese, and fresh thyme. Cremini mushrooms were minced and sauteed in butter. White wine, chicken stock, and fresh thyme were added; the liquid being allowed to reduce.
The mushroom mixture was emptied into a bowl and allowed to cool slightly before the mascarpone was stirred in. A quick check for seasoning and then into the fridge to cool completely.
The second filling was a classic ricotta and veal. A local butcher receives shipments of fresh ricotta every Saturday morning, so that was what I used. I love that the ricotta is still warm when I go to pick it up, and I always sneak a taste by spooning it onto a slice of fresh baguette with a sprinkle of fleur-de-sel. The ricotta must be quite dry before using it, so a colander was lined with a double layer of cheesecloth and set over a large bowl to allow the liquid to drain, squeezing out any excess.
Sauteed ground veal, ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh parsley, and a slight grating of nutmeg were brought together with a lightly-beaten egg. Another seasoning check, and both fillings were complete.
Now that the raw materials were complete, it was time for assembly. The dough came out of the fridge for about fifteen minutes and pieces were run through the roller attachments of my KitchenAid at its widest setting. It’s important to roll, fold, rotate 90-degrees, and repeat. Keep working the dough and rotating until it is smooth and pliable and is the full width of the attachment. I usually run it through about eight to ten times.
The dough was then run through at progressively thinner settings until I was happy with its thickness. It’s important to note that dough rolled for ravioli will always need to be a little thicker than regular pasta, as it needs to be strong enough to hold the filling. Generally speaking I bring it down to a three for regular pasta and a four for ravioli.
Working quickly, dollops of filling were placed on one half of the dough, ensuring adequate space was left in between so it could be folded and cut. The spaces were lightly brushed with cold water and the dough folded over the filling. Pinky fingers were used to shape the filling, seal the ravioli, and push out any air pockets. Air pockets are bad for ravioli. They’ll burst during the cooking process and you’ll end up with soup, not ravioli.
The ravioli crimper/cutter resulted in uniform pieces. Since only a handful of ravioli were to be cooked immediately, most were placed on parchment-lined cookie sheets in the freezer. Once they were completely frozen, they were placed in zip-top freezer bags for later enjoyment.
To enjoy the fruits of my labour, I prepared two sauces. A brown butter and fresh thyme sauce was made for the cremini mushroom and mascarpone ravioli. As per usual with pasta, I slightly undercooked the ravioli (tough to do considering it only takes a few minutes for fresh pasta) and finished them in the sauce. This ensures that the sauce thickens and clings to the pasta.
For the veal and fresh ricotta ravioli, I prepared a simple tomato sauce with shallots, garlic, tomato paste, herbs, and red wine. A quick chiffonade of basil added colour and freshness to the finished dish.
I couldn’t have been happier with how everything turned out. The ravioli were absolutely delicious! It took the better part of the afternoon but it was worth it. I would definitely do it again.