In all honesty, I make pasta from scratch maybe once a year (if that). It’s hardwired in my brain that pasta is the ultimate mid-week quick fix for dinner, so the thought of standing around for hours making the dough, refrigerating it, crafting the fillings, rolling out and cutting the pasta, drying the strands (if making spaghetti) / assembling the little parcels, then cooking them defeats me more often than not. No can do, no compute, not-a-number!
This week though was the once a year occasion. Recently I’ve had a hankering to have a go at making ravioli – and a half-eaten pot of ricotta in the fridge rapidly approaching its expiry date and a wilting bag of spinach were good enough excuse. A natural early riser, I woke up at 6.30am and had a choice what to do with my hours of free time before the work day began: put some hours in studying about databases or computing networks, or try my hand at making ravioli from scratch? Silly question; pasta wins of course!
This was a labour of love to make but worth all the effort. The result was a melt-in-your-mouth, gorgeously thin pasta with a lemony, zingy kick from the ricotta filling. Yum!
- 360g tipo 00 flour, or strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 4 free-range eggs
- 200g fresh spinach, washed and drained
- 200g ricotta
- 40g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
- 1/2 lemon, grated zest only
- Sea salt and black pepper
To make the ravioli, I followed a BBC food recipe (here) and used my KitchenAid pasta making extension kit to make and roll out the dough.
Put the flour, eggs and a large pinch of salt into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix gently until it comes together. It may seem very dry at first, but it will gradually form a dough. If, after a minute or so, it still seems crumbly, add 1–2 teaspoons water, kneading after each addition. Continue to knead for 6–8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and stretchy, and springs back when you press your finger into it. Divide the dough into four equal pieces, wrap tightly in cling film and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the spinach into a large dry frying pan and place over a high heat. Cook the spinach, turning frequently, for 3–5 minutes until it has completely wilted. Drain in a sieve, pressing out as much liquid as possible, then wrap in a clean tea towel and press out any remaining liquid, so the spinach is as dry as possible. Finely chop the spinach and transfer to a bowl, together with the ricotta, Parmesan and lemon zest. Season to taste with salt and plenty of black pepper, mix well and set aside.
(At this point, I put both the dough and the filling in the fridge and left them during the day while I was at work. Later that evening…)
Take one portion of dough from the fridge, remove the cling film and lightly dust the dough with flour. Flatten with a rolling pin to the width of your pasta machine. Feed the dough through on the widest setting, then fold each side of the dough to the centre, as if you were folding a letter to fit inside an envelope. Feed the dough through on the widest setting again. Adjust the rollers to the next setting and roll the dough through the pasta machine again. Continue to roll the dough through the machine, decreasing the thickness by one setting each time and dusting with a little more flour if it becomes sticky. Do not be tempted to skip settings on the pasta machine, otherwise the dough may tear.
Thinness is critical to a good ravioli, and you want to be able to see the shadow of your hand behind the dough when you hold it up to the light. If the dough is too thick, the seams (where the layers of dough come together) will be thicker than the rest of the ravioli, leading to it being undercooked and unpleasantly chewy in texture.
Once you have rolled it through the thinnest setting, cut the long sheet of pasta in half widthways. Lay one length on a floured work surface and set the other half to one side, covered with a clean damp tea towel.
Place teaspoonfuls of the ricotta mixture at even intervals along the middle of the pasta sheet, using no more than about a quarter of the mixture. You should be able to fit about nine teaspoons of filling along the sheet of pasta.
Using a pastry brush and water, dampen the pasta around the ricotta filling. Now take the other half sheet of pasta and carefully lay it over the ricotta, gently pressing down around the mounds of filling and pushing out any air pockets. Traditionally, a ravioli should be square, and the original recipes calls for a sharp knife to trim the pasta into evenly sized squares of ravioli. I went off-piste here and used a fluted cookie cutter. Tradition you say? Pah I say!
Once cut, put the ravioli parcels on a tray, and dust them with a little flour. You can keep the trimmings for other pasta dishes. Roll out and fill the remaining three pieces of pasta in the same way.
When ready to serve, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the ravioli (in batches if necessary) in the boiling water for about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, then serve immediately. The original recipe includes a sage butter sauce accompaniment, but we found pairing the ravioli with Mr Salford Kitchen’s classic marinara sauce to work just as well and to be equally delicious 🙂