Homemade Ravioli

Usually, I have the TV on for distraction as I go about performing perfunctory household chores. This is how I discovered the Italian wonder known as Lidia Bastianich while folding laundry. Ms. Bastianich has a PBS series called Lidia’s Italy. What drew me in was her no-nonsense approach to food making. I loved the way she got into the food with her hands to prepare it, and how all her ingredients were so beautiful and fresh. She is not pretentious, did not add extra ingredients for show and is just so down to earth and likable. Fast forward a year and two cookbooks later and thanks to Lidia I now make my own spaghetti sauce, ravioli and fresh pasta.

Ravioli making is a labor of love. It is easiest made in advance and frozen; although, if you start early in the day, you can surely have fresh ravioli on the table by dinner. Four things you should always keep stocked in your (Italian) kitchen are: olive oil, garlic, San Marzano tomatoes, and fresh basil. These four magical ingredients serve as a base for so many delicious dishes. San Marzano tomatoes are essential. I have tried using regular tomatoes and it is just not the same. They are a little more pricey, but worth it. I order mine from Amazon. Carmelina is a good brand and is relatively inexpensive compared to the others. As far as fresh basil, in the summer, it is easy enough to have a basil plant in the yard or even in a pot on the patio. Basil is easy to grow, loves the heat and is a low-matienance herb. Or, you can just buy it fresh from the store, or if in a pinch, use dried basil. Tossing these four ingredients tossed together can make a wonderfully fresh ravioli sauce.

I have posted before how to make pasta dough, using a “flour bowl” on the counter and mixing everything with your hands. Lidia’s version is even easier, as she uses a food processor to mix the ingredients. Click here for recipe and instructions.

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Once the dough is made, it must rest for at least 30 minutes. This is so it will hold its’ shape better during the rolling process. While the dough is resting, there is plenty of time to make the ravioli filling. I bought Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking. I felt this would be a good starter book for me. In addition to great recipes for pastas and sauces, she also has a killer apple cake recipe in this book, that even my sweet-hating husband devoured.

Ravioli filling:

2 bunches of chard, chopped (remove the stems and center ribs)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pound of ricotta
3 large eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups grated parmesean-reggiano cheese
IMG_7119To a large pot of boiling, salted water, add the chard. Blanch for 5 minutes, then drain well. I usually squeeze out the excess water by rolling it in a paper towel. Chop the chard very finely, and place in mixing bowl. add the remaining ingredients and gently mix. Cover and keep in refrigerator until ready to use.

IMG_7117It is helpful to get everything else prepared before you start rolling and filling. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper. These are to be used to place the ravioli on once they are made. Attach your pasta roller and flour your counter or board and cutters or pan. Also, have a small cup of water ready with a pastry brush. You will need this to seal the edges of the ravioli together. I know this seems like a lot of upfront work, but it is really worth it and will make things go much smoother.

The next step it to begin rolling the dough into sheets of thin pasta. I use my Kitchen Aid pasta attachment for this, and it makes for relatively easy work. You must first knead the dough on a setting of 1. Roll the dough through once, fold it then roll it again. After the dough has been kneaded, it is time for the thinning out process. Start on 2, then pass the dough through the machine. Place the sheet on the counter so it picks up some flour then increase your setting to 3. Roll through the machine again and repeat. I usually go to about 4 or 5 when making ravioli. As far as molding the ravioli go, there are a few ways to shape them. I chose to use a mold that makes a dozen at a time. My daughter found this nifty little pan on Amazon and gave it to me for Christmas, and I absolutely love it. It makes for easy work when making lots of ravioli. I also like the size of the molds too. I am not fan of giant ravioli.

Flour your molds, then once the pasta has been rolled thinly, cut it in half and lay it on top of your mold. Then, push down into the mold a bit so there is more room for the filling. Make sure that the dough goes all the way to the edges of the mold. That way, you will be sure to get a nice seal. Fill each mold with ravioli filling (just a good teaspoon should do).

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Then, take your brush and moisten all the edges. Place the other half of dough on top of this. My ravioli mold came with a perfectly sized rolling-pin. Use the rolling-pin to roll across the mold. this seals the edges and also cuts the pieces.

IMG_7136Invert the pan onto your already prepared baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Separate a little bit if needed. You don’t want to move the ravioli a lot once they have been inverted; otherwise, they will lose their shape and won’t look as good. Once I have done 2 dozen, I pop the whole pan into the freezer.

Ravioli’s that have just been inverted. I freeze them just like this.
Ravioli’s that have just been inverted. I freeze them just like this.
I freeze only until they are firm (no more than 2 hours) Then, I get out the seal a meal and freeze them in individual or family sized portions.

Now, all you have to do next time you want fresh, homemade ravioli is to cook those little wonders up. Top with your favorite sauce, sprinkle on some fresh cheese and a few shreds of fresh basil and enjoy!

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