Feb 15, 2016
Most everything you make at home has the potential to be more homemade. One of my favorite things to make at home, in an especially homemade way, is pasta. For one thing, I've done it enough that it's become one of those skills that seems super impressive to most folks, but that I've come to know to be really quite simple: one cup flour, one extra large egg, mix with a fork, rest 30 minutes, run through the pasta machine.It's also one of those foods that truly does taste better when it's fresh. If you're used to dried, store-bought, out-of-the-box noodles, it's likely that the next time you go into a restaurant and try to distinguish if the chef is serving you homemade or truck-delivered noodles, you won't have a single idea. Unless you're at one of those annoying from-scratch restaurants that can't just take pride in doing it, rather, they boast to you at every table visit. Then I guess you'd figure it out. Because they told you.
I digress: Once you start eating fresh pasta more often, trust me, you'll notice a difference. Don't get me wrong: Nearly any pasta is good pasta. If there were such a person as a pasta snob, this person would be less a person passionate about food and more a snob about anything they can be snobbish about. ...But you will notice the difference, and you will prefer it.
Ravioli is only slightly more difficult than spaghetti or fettucine to make. Well, depending on what kind of gadgetry you have to make it. I use a pasta machine for spaghetti & fettucine, which comes with a noodle cutter. This means one more pass through the pasta machine after I've made a dough sheet, and then... noodles.
For ravioli, I like to use this little tray gadget I own. Ravioli stamps are nice too. The tray just lets me make them a bit faster. I use my pasta machine to roll out a couple of sheets of dough, place one sheet on the tray, spoon some filling in each spot, cover with another sheet, and use the roller that comes with it to cut the ravioli.
You could also do it by hand. Lay a sheet down, drop down the filling, cover with a pasta sheet, use your fingers to press the top sheet down around the filling, then use a pastry cutter or pizza cutter to cut apart ravioli.
Can you do it all without the pasta machine as the first step? Sure. But I don't recommend it. You'll be rolling with a rolling pin an awfully long time to get the sheets thin enough.
So now the recipe:
Some people use semolina for some homemade pastas. It's a gritty, thicker, yellower flour. I find the dough to be stiffer and harder to work with, and I don't notice a difference in taste. I especially don't recommend it for ravioli, which can already be a thick pasta, difficult to boil to a uniform tenderness. Just snag a cup of flour from your household bag of all purpose.
The ratio of 1 cup flour to 1 egg has served me well for close to 10 years now. I used to try recipes calling for water (or wine) in addition to the egg, and sometimes instead of. It's true that pasta can be as simple as flour & water. Just not for me. Those doughs have been harder to work with, less elastic, and too often I found myself adding more flour or water to try to counteract whatever just happened in my bowl in an endless cycle until I either gave up, or, after an hour, had a ball of pasta dough. I'm a proponent of egg and flour and nothing else. And an extra large egg at that. It's just always been the perfect amount for me, and the large yolks make for a rich, savory noodle.
I've been known to get pretty edgy with my ingredients whenever possible. This is not going to be one of those recipes. This is a simple, go-to recipe. As such, I'm making plain cheese. Well, that's a lie. These are going to be cheese ravioli. They are not going to be made with a plain cheese. Usually when you bite into a cheese ravioli you can expect creamy ricotta cheese, stringy mozzarella cheese, or a combination of the two. Mine are sort of a combination of the two, but I actually use a different cheese altogether: burrata. I would assert that burrata cheese is the best cheese for stuffing ravioli. Never heard of it? That's because you're from Cleveland. It seems to be no stranger in larger cities, and in California, it's a staple menu item. Especially in San Francisco. Which is where we spent last summer, and how I came to know and love it. Also: Unless it starts to become much more popular in Cleveland, I don't recommend ordering it from the one or two restaurants where I've delighted in seeing it. The few in the know about this glorious cheese don't seem to have perfected it just yet. So either put it on your list of homemade things that you could make that much more homemade (I haven't gotten there just yet) or give in and buy the Bel Gioso brand at Whole Foods. It's a little pricey and a lot worth it.
So what is it already? I thought you would have just googled it and given up on reading all this by now. Do I have to do everything for you?
Oh, alright: I would describe it as a ball of thick, creamy, ricotta cheese snuggled inside a shell of soft mozzarella. Really, the inside is just a soft creamy mozzarella, but it tends to taste a bit sweeter like ricotta.
This makes it the ideal ravioli cheese. No need to combine ricotta & mozzarella. No need to fight with the stringiness of pure mozzarella. No need to be overwhelmed by the rich sweetness of ricotta. Burrata gives you the perfect balance of flavor and texture.
I lied a little when I said just egg and flour. That's definitely the base. But I can't help myself when I start to think a recipe could be boring. So I added fresh herbs to the pasta. A little more incentive for you to listen to me about fresh pasta vs. store bought. It would be tough to find a store-bought, dried pasta like this. So I chopped up some basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, and oregano, and dumped it into the flour - about a 1/2 cup worth.
Grab a large bowl. Pour in the flour. Make a well its center so that it looks like a volcano. Use the egg as your lava - crack the egg into the well of flour. Use a fork to start scrambling the egg together. Next, use the fork to gradually mash the flour into the egg. Do this until the dough begins to come together (this can easily take 10 minutes). Once the dough starts to form, remove it from the bowl. Drop it down onto a cutting board and knead it together with your hands for a few minutes, until you have a fairly uniform, elastic dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes. Magic will take place in this 30 minutes. Your floury mess of a dough ball will become a perfect, smooth and uniform dough. The liquid and the solid will combine and gel together on its own.
2. Roll Pasta Sheets
30 minutes has gone by and now you're ready to make pasta sheets. Get out the pasta machine, or rolling pin (oh, you poor fool. only kidding, it's not THAT bad). Pinch off about a 3" around ball of dough and begin flattening it with your hands. Once you have it flattened to about 1/2 inch, feed it into the pasta machine, at the thickest setting. A thick sheet of dough will spill from the rollers. Fold the sheet over and feed again. Do this a couple of times to knead the dough. When it feels flexible and soft, you can continue on to the next setting. Roll it through several of the settings until you're close to the thinnest, but not quite there. You should have a 6" across sheet of dough, about 12" long. Set that aside and do it again so that you have a second sheet similar in size and shape.
First, you need to spoon about a half tablespoon of burrata onto the first sheet of dough. If you're using a tray like mine, spoon the burrata into each of the 12 spaces. If not, just evenly drop the burrata filling in rows of equal distance. If you're making 1" ravioli, keep 1/2" open around all sides of the filling. Place the second dough sheet over top of the filling. If you're using my tray contraption, you'll use the rolling pin to roll over the second sheet of dough, stuffing and sealing the ravioli as you roll. If you're making these by hand, you'll need to use your fingers to press and seal the dough around the filling.
4. Cut apart
With my tray, you just need to remove the ravioli from the tray. They'll already be cut. If you're doing them by hand, you'll need to use your dough cutter to cut out the ravioli.
Fabulous, you're a ravioli maker now. The final step is to put on a pot of water, bring it to a boil, then drop in the ravioli. Fresh pasta takes MUCH less time to boil than dried. Fresh spaghetti is a 3 minute boil. Ravioli is of course thicker, so I find that anywhere from 5-10 minutes is ideal. You'll need to pinch them every so often to see if the dough is tender enough. Once it is, you simply remove them from the water and toss them in your favorite pasta sauce (mine is a fire-roasted tomato sauce, rich with tons of fresh basil and garlic).