Over the last year, I had a curiosity to learn how to make my own pasta. Flags of floured pappardelle, herb-cheese stuffed tortellini, ear-shaped orecchiette, and so much more. It wasn’t just the dough but the technique of how to make shapes, grooves, and keep your ravioli sealed when boiling. How to roll out sfoglia evenly and what tools you need. I question items in my grocery store and stop a minute and think, “Can I make this myself?” Often times, the answer is “yes” and it is far better in taste all of the time. Beyond doubt.
Making Your Dough
It would be colossal to describe here all the various ways to make homemade pasta dough. There are various flours available around the world, some which add egg but others water, general techniques/resting times from northern, southern, and island Italy, and finger work for which type of pasta shape or form you wish to create. Even temperature and the day’s humidity can play a part in the dough’s elasticity. That said, let’s focus on this recipe for today and get cooking together.
To begin your ravioli: 400g of 00 Farina flour and 4 fresh (room temperature) farm eggs. Place flour on clean and floured wooden board and form a circle with a well in the middle. Add your eggs and begin to scramble with a fork then fold in slowly the sides of your well to begin to thicken the dough. Keep egg mixture inside the flour walls. Continue until you reach the wall’s brink then begin to fold with your hands. You want to activate the gluten so set aside 10-15 minutes of kneading – pushing away with the heels of your palms and rolling back with your fingers. Fold and rotate and continue until you reach a silky, smooth texture. If it begins to dry, wet your fingers and slowly hydrate your dough. Once texture is reached, set aside in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel, keeping air out. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
Preparing Your Ravioli & Cooking
While your dough is resting, in a large bowl combine 400g of spinach which has been squeezed to absolute dry either pressing or with kitchen towels with appx 180g of ricotta cheese. Add a pinch of salt and cracked pepper and mix. Following, grate a proper dusting of Pecorino Romano cheese over your mixture and a pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg. Set filling aside.
If you are like me, you have the standard wooden rolling pin. Although in Italy most home cooks have broom-length rolling pins and wooden pasta boards for rolling that can cover a full dining room table, let’s work with what most of us have. First, divide dough into fourths (if most of us had a bigger space, we could either divide in half or use the entire dough). Take first ball out (keep 3 covered) and begin to massage then roll with your pin into your best shaped circle. Focus on the evenness and consistency. If you have various thickness of pasta it will cook inconsistently and not be with all this effort. Add tiny amounts of flour if your dough is sticking. Set aside your dough sheet on a clean cloth and repeat for the remaining dough balls.
Using a pastry cutting roller or a fine knife, cut your dough into squares appx 2″ / 2 1/2″ or appx 6-7cm. You can decide how large your ravioli will be but make sure the squares are consistent in size. Remember, if you think they are too small they will expand when cooking. Add 1 tbsp of mixture and fold one side over. With slightly wet fingertips, close the remaining 3 sides. Set aside and repeat. Remember, to prevent your mixture from escaping during cooking ensure it is properly sealed. Add flour or water as necessary and take your time – it will be worth it.
In boiling, salted water, carefully add your ravioli. These should cook for appx 10-11 minutes or until your preference (al dente, for example) is reached. While they are cooking, add a tsp of extra virgin olive oil to 6-8 fresh sage leaves to a small fry pan. Lightly fry to release aromas. Add 1/3 cup butter and make your sauce as rich as you desire. Remove ravioli and drain, add them into your butter sauce and combine.
To serve, place in bowl and cover with a generous amount of Pecorino Romano and any garnish that suits you – sage, basil, more black pepper, or toasted nuts like pine or walnut. This recipe will yield appx 16 ravioli and can serve 4 adults. Serve with a garden salad in a wine vinaigrette to enjoy this meal to its absolute fullest with a matching Italian desert.
- For 00 Farina flour for homemade pasta: 100g requires 1 egg. If making tagliatelle, 200g and 2 eggs will suffice. Because you are folding ravioli, the recipe is doubled to account for top and bottom pasta layer.
- Spinach must be dry. I let my spinach rest in a colander before I push the excess water out, wrap in paper kitchen towels, wring out water then chop/air dry on a cutting board.
- You could use Semola flour for this recipe, as they do in the south, which is a bit more hearty. It is also vegan-friendly. For every 100g of Semola flour it is 50g of room temperature water.
- Keep dough covered to prevent dryness
- Take your time and find your technique how to close your ravioli. Above all, ensure they have the same thickness.
- I always find when kneading, food tastes better if you think of someone when you do. Enjoy the kneading time and think of someone you love. It will always taste and come out better in the end.