Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Raviolo and I

Raviolo: a word so obscure, even Microsoft Word's spell-checking software doesn’t recognize it. Its better know plural, of course, is ravioli. By either name, though, this wonderful cheesy-stuffed pasta pillow is not only delicious to eat; it’s also easy and fun to make. If you’ve never made it (or any other fresh pasta) before, I invite you to try now; you’re in for a real treat, not to mention a real sense of accomplishment once you’ve seen and tasted what you made. And you won’t need a pasta machine. (I didn’t even own one until earlier this week, but that story’s a future post.)

My introduction to home-made ravioli was a pasta class I took several years ago at the culinary arts school of a local community college.  The pasta chef teaching the course excitedly brought out the school’s brand new restaurant-grade pasta machine, an impressive multi-gadgeted electric device only about the size of a household toaster but costing a couple of thousand dollars. Or at least it was impressive until the machine started shutting down from the motor overheating every time someone tried to use it. A few in the class decided to stay with it, enduring a continuous cycle of press, overheat, wait for it to cool down and then try turning it on again. I opted for the other type of pasta maker, the round wooden kind that never overheats or breaks down, also known as a rolling pin. That’s one of the most encouraging things about making pasta; people did it centuries before any of the fancy kitchen equipment we have today was invented.

Both the pasta dough and the filling are easy to make. The dough described follows a traditional recipe. The filling features Fontina cheese. I wasn’t familiar with it until recently, when I heard Bobby Flay make an off-handed remark on a Throwdown rerun about Fontina being one of the best cheeses there is. Once I heard that, I had to get some and find out what he was talking about. My first taste of its wonderful Italian aura immediately screamed ravioli.

The dough for about two dozen ravioli (more or less, depending on how big you make them) begins in a large bowl into which you put 2 cups of all-purpose flour and ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix them until they’re combined and then form a well in the middle of the flour-pile. Into the well, put three egg-substitute eggs (or, if you like, three real eggs), and a teaspoon of olive oil. Mix them together using your hand, first combining the wet ingredients with the inner-most part of the flour pile, and gradually working your way outward until all the flour is incorporated to form a dough.

[Before we go further, I must add the following remark. There’s a good chance you’ve seen someone make pasta dough as described above, except without the bowl; in other words, with the flour piled directly on the kitchen counter. That’s the most authentic way, but it’s hard to do with only two cups of flour without making a mess once you start mixing in the wet ingredients. If you really want to try it, I suggest waiting until you’re making at least a double-batch of dough.]

Knead the dough for four to five minutes until it’s smooth and elastic, flouring your work surface as necessary during the kneading. After kneading, cut the dough ball into quarters. Wrap each quarter in plastic wrap and let them rest for 20 minutes while you mix the filling.
The filling, though delicious, couldn't be simpler to make.

Just put the following ingredients into a bowl and mix well until they’re combined: 1 cup of Ricotta cheese, 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 3/4 cup of fresh grated Fontina cheese, 1 egg-substitute egg, 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley, ½ teaspoon of garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

So now you’ve got your dough, and you’ve got your filling. Next stop: home-made ravioli!

Beginning with the first quarter-portion of dough (and keeping the remaining portions covered to keep them from drying out), roll the dough out on a well-floured surface into something as close as you can to a square about 12” on each side and 1/16” thick. Using a cooking cutter, cut out as many pieces as you can. (Remember, each raviolo will require two of the pieces.) Place a generous teaspoon of filling on the centers of half of the pieces; using your finger, coat around the edges of those pieces with egg-substitute (or a real egg, beaten) and place an identical dough shape on top. Press the edges down onto the egg with your finger, then with a fork to seal. Done right, the egg will keep the ravioli from opening up later in the cooking water.
And that's it! As you finish the ravioli, either put them aside (if you’re going to cook them right away), or place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment for freezing later. In either case, cover them to prevent drying out while you repeat the above with each of the remaining pasta quarters.

Remember that fresh pasta generally cooks faster than the packaged kind. The ravioli will generally cook in about 7 minutes, but check them often for doneness. If you choose instead to freeze them, put the ravioli in the freezer on the baking sheet first; once they’re frozen, put them together in a plastic bag for storage. (If you put the ravioli together in the bag before they’re frozen, they’ll likely stick together.)

Once the ravioli are cooked, all that remains is to top them off with your favorite sauce and some parmesan, and to enjoy the taste of fresh-made ravioli – and the fantastic feeling of having made them yourself!
For a cookbook style, notebook-ready copy of this or any other recipe from this site, just drop me a line and I’ll get it right off to you. (I also hope to get a video of this recipe finished and available on You-Tube soon...stay tuned!)

Thanks for visiting! Till next week, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. When I splurged on my Stand mixer from Kitchen Aid, I got the pasta attachments for free. I have not used them yet, but hoping I will in the new place. I love ravioli, but I am sometimes a snob about what is inside. This sounds good, I will have to try it!

  2. yum! have you ever made gnocchi????


  3. Hi Tawnya! I've looked admiringly at the Kitchen Aid pasta attachments; truth be told, it's what they cost that made me inclined to use the rolling pin. (Hand-rolled pasta does have an advantage over machine-rolled in that its texture is a bit rougher and holds sauce better.) If you got yours as part of a package, that's a great deal. Its only wanting to do long pasta that made me finally break down and buy a real - if gently pre-owned - pasta machine.

    And hello Alaina! It's funny you mention gnocchi; I've actually been looking recently at some recipes with an eye toward making them. You never know where things go around here!

  4. Ben, this blog is very bad for my diet!

  5. I bought a pasta rolling machine years ago but I still think the rolling pin is better. It wasn't an electric machine but one you turn by hand and it now lives on the attic!

  6. Good point, Sandy. It does seem my posting choices hint at a serious fondness for carbs. I'll work on doing something healthier. (Ironic note: I recently got a letter from Ronald McDonald House, a wonderful group - associated with McD's, of course - that provides housing for families of seriously ill children who are receiving medical treatment. They're making a fund-raising cookbook and are looking for recipes. I can't help wondering what McDonald's would think of publishing recipes that use low-fat egg-substitutes and butter substitutes.)

    And the rolling pin...still works for me, Angie. The only reason I finally got a machine (the hand-crank kind) was to make long pasta. I've done it with a knife, but it's pretty labor intensive.

  7. After having eaten ravioli for a couple of days (talk about a food coma), I'm ready to try making it from scratch. My pasta machine (aka rolling pin) is armed and ready. Please send me the notebook ready copy of this recipe as well as a pair of Reeboks so I can run off the extra pounds. Thanks.

    - G

  8. The recipes are on the way! (I kept the dough and filling recipes separate since the dough can be used with countless wonderful fillings.)

  9. If I waned to make twice the amount you made here could i just double all the ingredients? Would the timing remain the same?

    1. Thanks for your note, Reyna! Although some recipes don't work right if doubled, it should be ok to do with the ravioli. As with any fresh pasta item, watch the pot closely during cooking to avoid overcooking.


  10. Hi Ben - found your youtube video yesterday and I made the ravioli last night. first attempt a week ago had ended with too much flour, too much kneading and the pasta was not rolled thin enough. You provided me with enough tips to fix my issues and voila! Perfecto Ravioli. My wife loved it.Grazie