Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ricotta & Cremini Ravioli

Fresh pasta is a joy to make.  Such simple ingredients come together between your hands in a matter of minutes into something elegant.  Unfortunately, making fresh pasta is nearly a novelty.  We've come to think of store-bought pasta as a basic ingredient.  Like buying lettuce to make a salad or ground beef to make a hamburger, we buy noodles to make a pasta dish-- rarely, if ever, thinking to buy some flour instead.  Even those who try to avoid pre-assembled, processed food still stock up on dried pasta.  There certainly is nothing wrong with that: dried pasta can be made excellently and you can easily acquire a multitude of shapes, each with their own special benefits.  However, fresh pasta-- especially  fresh ravioli-- deserves to be made now and then.  Trust me, you won't regret it.

First the noodles:
  • Combine 1 c. flour with a dash of salt and make a well in the middle.
  • Beat an egg together with a drizzle of olive oil (about 1/2 tsp) and 3 tbsp. water and pour in the well.
  • Combine the mixture gently with a fork or your hands until it forms a dough, then turn it out onto a well-floured surface.
  • Knead the dough for about 8 minutes until it feels elastic.
  • Let the dough rest for at least ten minutes.
  • Roll out your pasta.  Cut the dough in two equal pieces to be rolled out to as similar shapes as possible.  It should be as thin as possible without being transparent.  Lift and flip the dough often and keep it well floured to prevent sticking.
  • Place the smaller of the two (if there is a difference) on a well floured surface to be filled.
For the filling (which can be made when the dough is resting):
  • Combine 1 c. sliced cremini mushrooms in  a large pan with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt.
  • Cook the mushrooms on low heat until they are brown and fragrant, stirring as needed.
  • Set aside to cool a bit.  You can chop them up more or leave them as whole slices depending on the texture you want for the filling.
  • Blend the mushrooms with 1/2 c. ricotta cheese (for this recipe I prefer a lighter, more 'watery' ricotta to a very dense one-- think cottage cheese as opposed to mascarpone) and salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble and cook:
  • Spoon the ricotta/mushroom mix into the first sheet in whatever size you prefer (or whatever size will fit in your stamp, if you have one).  To aid your placement you can trace the side of each ravioli onto the dough with a knife.*
  • Dampen a pastry brush or your finger and moisten the sheet if pasta surrounding the scoops of cheese mixture.
  • Gently drape the second layer of pasta on top and gently press it down around the ravioli pillows.  You do not want the top layer pulled taught over the mounds of cheese or you will have to stretch it to seal the ravioli (making it thinner or more likely to burst).  Try to eliminate air from the pockets as you press the dough together
  • Stamp of cut out your ravioli.  If you have a stamp or a wheel cutter, it will likely also press the sheets of pasta together enough.  If you use a knife, choose a dull one.  You may also want to consider using the tines of a fork to crimp the edges to make sure the ravioli don't open.
  • Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the ravioli for about 6 minutes.
  • While they cook, reheat the mushroom pan and add a dash of white wine to deglaze, then some cream, minced fresh rosemary, and fresh ground pepper.  Bring it to a boil and let it reduce as your pasta cooks.
  • Plate the paste, spoon some sauce over it, and garnish with freshly torn italian parsley.
This recipe makes 12-15 ravioli.

*As an alternative to two separate layers of pasta, you can roll out one sheet, cut out squares, fill them, and fold them over into triangular ravioli.