Saturday, 4 June 2011

How to Make Pasta - Fresh, Homemade Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli

Since I was given a pasta machine a few years ago, I've been making fresh pasta about once every couple of months. I can't promise that it won't make your kitchen a floury mess (at least to start with) and it does take a little while, but most of that is the filling and rolling of the ravioli. Once you've tasted fresh, homemade pasta you realise that it's nothing like the dried up, slightly chewy tortellini of the supermarket chiller cabinet. It's so velvety-soft and eggy-yellow in colour - for me it's a real treat to make this.

I know that it can be daunting - it's something that a lot of people watch on TV and read about in cookbooks but then never take the plunge to make it. But it really is easy, and quite relaxing after a busy day. And I'm going to show you how easy it actually is. Allow a couple of hours if you're making ravioli and it's the first time you're making it, so you can take your time. I've got this down to just under an hour from the flour hitting the bowl to dishing up - and I don't rush.

Here's how you do it:

Home made pasta

Ingredients
(makes about 36- 40 ravioli, depending on size)

For the pasta:
  • 250g '00' pasta flour (I use organic Dove's Farm)
  • 3 eggs (mine are organic, free range)
  • large pinch sea salt flakes
  • Drizzle of olive oil - about a tablespoon (extra virgin if you have it)
For the ravioli filling:
  • small pack spinach, washed
  • 250g pot ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch salt
Method
First, measure out the flour and tip into a large bowl with the salt. Make a well in the centre of the bowl, crack in the three eggs and drizzle the eggs with the olive oil.



Mix with a fork or your hands (it will get doughy so you will have to give up the fork at some point anyway), first combining the eggs and then bringing in the flour gradually from the sides, until the dough is all combined. Knead for five minutes. You have made pasta. (see? Easy, isn't it?)




Cover with cling film and leave to rest for 20 minutes while you get on with your filling.



Cook the spinach in a few splashes of water for a few minutes just until it starts to wilt. Drain, squeeze out any excess moisture and set aside. Place the ricotta and egg yolk in a bowl and mix thoroughly. When the spinach has cooled, chop roughly and then add to the ricotta mixture. Mix well, add a pinch of salt (a pinch of nutmeg is also good here if you have it).


Take out your ball of pasta dough and cut off a quarter. Put the rest back under the cling film and dust your quarter with flour if it feels sticky. This will help it roll through the machine more easily. Roll through a pasta machine.


Start with the widest setting and repeat, turning the dial up a notch each time, until the sheet of pasta is thin - I usually go for about a '7' setting for ravioli. Too thin and it will break open in the pan, too thick and it will look like boiled pastry and not cook through.


Dust a ravioli press with flour to stop the pasta sticking, lay over a sheet of pasta and fill the indents with scant teaspoons of the ricotta mixture - don't over fill!


Dab the edges of the ravioli with water (I use my finger to trace along the lines) and lay another sheet of pasta over the top. Push down a rolling pin gently, which will seal the ravioli and help cut it on it's serrated edges.


Tip the ravioli out onto a floured board, break off another quarter of the dough, roll, fill and turn out again, repeating all the steps until the pasta and the ricotta mixture is used up. If you have any leftover pasta, you can wrap well and freeze it, or cut into ribbons for home made tagliatelle. I find it doesn't keep too well in the fridge, it goes dark and sticky even the day after. I'd always freeze it or use it straight away.





All done! Bring a pan of slightly salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta in the rapidly boiling water for about 3 minutes. They will puff up and rise to the surface. Don't overcook. Cook in batches if you don't have a very large pan, removing them with a slotted spoon and onto a colander to remove all the water before adding the next batch.


Drain well, toss in butter and some extra virgin olive oil and serve, with lots of freshly grated Parmesan and garlic bread.



I know many people who have found it daunting to make pasta - let alone ravioli - from scratch but I hope that these step-by-step photos will encourage people to make it themselves. Once you've made it, you won't go back!

A few points:
  • If you don't have a pasta machine, you can roll it very thinly using a rolling pin, but if you want to make pasta regularly it might be worth investing in a pasta machine as you will get a nice, uniform thickness each time.
  • I used to make a cheese sauce for this ravioli, but now I just dress it with butter and olive oil. I found that you taste the flavours much better this way, but by all means experiment with sauces to go with this!
  • I have a ravioli press that I bought ages ago - if you don't have one, just place teaspoons of the mixture flat on the sheet of pasta, dab with a little water and then place another sheet over the top, pressing down between each 'blob' of fillling. Cut carefully around the fillings into squares with a knife or with a cutter.
  • Experiment with fillings - try making fillings with mushrooms, leftover cooked chicken, sundried tomatoes or bolognese mixture. The main thing to remember is that you don't want a filling that's too soggy, it needs to be fairly dry.
Good luck! 

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the idea. I'm going try it out with two little helpers (maybe when the kitchen is not quite so clean!)

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  2. Great stuff - let us know how you get on!

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  3. Sounds like fun! I just got a pasta machine so I am keen to try it!

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  4. Oh god I love fresh pasta ! is the best stuff I ever taste in my whole life! there's no doubt about it!

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