Italy

Making Ravioli with Loredana

Tuesday, 17 ottobre 2006

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a short paper that I wrote about the history and culture of pasta in Italy. Part of the project was learning to make my own fresh pasta, so I documented this part of our cooking class with Loredana in great detail! (Thank you, Teresa, who filled in as photographer while I mixed and kneaded dough.)

After these photos is the second part of my paper, in which I wrote about my first foray into pasta-making at home.

With the flour, make a mound with a hole in the center then put the other ingredients into the hole.

Mix,

then knead, into a ball for at least 10 minutes.

(Loredana combines all our little balls and kneads.)

Cover the dough with a damp towel.

Divide into several pieces, and then put the pieces through the pasta maker several times.

When the pasta is thin enough, lay out in strips and add a small spoonful of filling every 3 inches or so. Make sure you leave space between the filling to cut into individual ravioli.

Fold over the pasta to close it,

then press down around the filling with a tiny cup to seal the pasta closed.

Cut individual ravioli apart.

(We all pitch in making the ravioli and put the finished ones on a towel as we work.)

When all are ready, dump them into boiling water for just a few minutes, or until cooked. You may need to do two batches so that they don’t stick together.

After draining them, immediately add butter and sage sauce and serve.

(Put it on a plate and gobble it up!)

Ravioli di Spinaci e Ricotta con burro e salvia
(Stuffed Spinach Ravioli with Butter and Sage Sauce)
6 servings

6 eggs
600 grams of flour (roughly ¾ lb. or 2 ½ cups)
3 spoonfuls of oil
A pinch of salt

With the flour, make a mound with a hole in the center then put the other ingredients into the hole. Mix, then knead, into a ball for at least 10 minutes.

Divide into several pieces, and then put the pieces through the pasta maker several times (you can also roll it out with a rolling pin). When the pasta is thin enough, lay out in strips and add a small spoonful of filling every 3 inches or so. Make sure you leave space between the filling to cut into individual ravioli. Fold over the pasta to close it, then press down around the filling with a tiny cup to seal the pasta closed. Cut individual ravioli apart. When all are ready, dump them into boiling water for just a few minutes, or until cooked. You may need to do two batches so that they don’t stick together. After draining them, immediately add butter and sage sauce and serve.

Ravioli Filling
2-3 cups of cooked spinach
2 ½ cups ricotta
1 egg
3 spoonfuls of grated parmesan cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Mix all together. Salt and pepper to taste.

Sauce

¾ stick of butter
8-10 sage leaves

Melt butter, add several sage leaves. Heat until melted, at which time it is ready to serve over ravioli.

Upon arriving at home, I decided to try two different pasta dishes. We returned to a cold snap in North Carolina, and the rest of my basil needed to be harvested. I had most of the equipment I needed, but I decided to invest in a pasta machine and a mezzaluna, a rounded knife with two handles that is ideal for chopping herbs and garlic.

I had found in our lesson with Loredana that the making of pasta is really not that difficult. As Elizabeth David points out, traditional Italian food often requires long preparation and short cooking times. Italian cooks often do not give exact measurements of ingredients; assuming that we should be able to judge how much a spoonful or a teacupful should be. The first question about measurements I ran into occurred at the very beginning of my solo pasta adventure – Loredana’s recipe called for 6 eggs, 2 ½ cups of flour, 3 spoonfuls of oil, and salt. My eggs were extra-large, and other recipes I had for pasta called for approximately one egg per cup of flour. I decided to use three extra-large eggs, and when the dough seemed much drier than the dough we had made in Spannocchia, I added another splash of oil. At that point it was impossible to add another egg. It was very stiff dough, but it all came out just fine. But should I decide to make stuffed pasta, I will add more egg.

After following Loredana’s instructions, I sliced off sections and ran it through the pasta machine on successively smaller settings, until the dough was silky thin. Later when I cooked the pasta I found the lowest setting to be too delicate for my tastes, and will probably make it a bit thicker in the future. Part of the dough I left in wide strips to be used in a lasagne for our meals over the next few days, and part of the dough I ran through the fettucine attachment. I draped these over a rack under a damp dishtowel as I worked.

The following recipes are copied from La Cucina di Spannocchia, a cookbook published by the Spannocchia Foundation. My changes or additions are in brackets.

Pesto
[Cook fresh tagliatelle in boiling water until al dente (2-3 minutes, tops). Top with pesto:]

“2-3 cups fresh basil leaves
¼ c pine nuts
¼ cup parmigiano, grated
[1 large clove garlic]
Extra virgin olive oil

“Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree till smooth, adding oil to achieve the desired consistency. [I chopped everything together on a cutting board with a mezzaluna.] Taste for salt, adding if necessary. Toss with linguini, spaghetti, or orecchiette, add a couple tablespoons of butter and additional cheese, and serve. Or freeze in containers to use later, when the peppery taste of basil will bring summertime to your winter table!”
(Cucina, 28)

Lasagna

Lasagna sheets
Ragù sauce (recipe follows)
Besciamella sauce (recipe follows)
Grated parmigiano

“Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente, toss with olive oil to prevent sticking. Place a thin layer of ragu in the bottom of a large baking dish. Lay the lasagna noodles on top, cutting the ends to fit the pan. Layer the ragu and besciamella, sprinkle a generous layer of parmigiano, and continue until the pan is full. Bake at 375 until bubbly at edges.”

Ragù [divided in half makes plenty for a pan of lasagna]

1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 tbls tomato paste
½ cup red wine
½ cup or more olive oil
2 tbls parsley [I used basil]
2 lbs finely ground meat: pancetta, pork, veal, beef, sausage: a combination of meats makes a more complex sauce
8 cups crushed tomatoes [I used home-canned chopped tomatoes]
Salt and pepper

“Saute meat in a large pot until browned, remove the meat and set aside. Finely mince the first four ingredients in a food processor [I used a mezzaluna], sauté in olive oil over medium heat until soft but not browned, about 15 minutes. Add tomato paste and sauté for 5 minutes, return meats to pan and deglaze with red wine. Add parsley [basil] and tomatoes and allow to cook over a low heat for several hours, being careful not to burn. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.”

Besciamella (béchamel) [Again, I divided this in half]

4 tbls butter
4 tbls flour
4 cups milk, heated
Salt and pepper
Ground nutmeg

“Melt butter on a medium heat, add the flour, stiffing constantly until flour is absorbed. This forms a roux and should be allowed to gently cook for a few minutes to allow the flour taste to cook out. As a white sauce, besciamella requires a light roux, so be careful not to brown.

“Add the hot milk slowly, whisking in to dissolve any lumps that may form. Add a good amount of salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Continue whisking over medium heat, adding milk if too thick, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. It should be relatively thick yet pourable.”
(Cucina, 29-31)

To be continued…

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