Tag Archives: Ravioli

How to make potato ravioli

19 Apr

They only look like the ones your mother used to make.

Far from it, actually. These ravioli are filled with potato, not ricotta. The only cheese inside is a little grated Reggiano, and that’s for flavor, not texture.

I know what you’re thinking: Must be pretty heavy. Like pierogi maybe. Cannonball type stuff, right?

Nope. These are pretty light as ravioli go, so long as you treat the filling just right.

Start with around 2 pounds of Russett potatoes. With a fork pierce the skin in several places and bake until the flesh is thoroughly softened. It’s totally cool to microwave the potatoes instead; after all, we’ll only be using the flesh, not the skins. Just don’t boil the potatoes, okay. Far as I’m concerned that always makes for a heavier filling.

Once the potatoes are baked allow them to cool just enough so that you can work with them without burning your fingers. Remove the skins and run the potatoes through a ricer and into a mixing bowl.

Mix in one egg, three tablespoons melted butter, 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a dash of nutmeg, salt (don’t be shy here, okay) and pepper to taste, and enough milk to moisten the potatoes. I’d start with 1/4 cup and add from there as needed; the idea is to achieve a nice and smooth filling, but not a runny one.

For good measure stir in some extra virgin olive oil, at which point the filling should be good to go. Taste it and adjust as you see fit. You can now get right to work on making the ravioli, or refrigerate the filling until you’re ready. It will last in the fridge a few days.

All that’s left to do now is put the ravioli together (here’s my fresh pasta dough recipe in case you need one). These pasta sheets are very thin, rolled out to the 1.5 setting on my pasta machine, which ranges from 1-10, thinnest to thickest. You can see that the filling is creamy without being runny; that’s the consistency you’re looking for.

To keep the ravioli from having air pockets carefully lay down the top pasta sheet with that in mind. I always begin at one end and slowly roll the top sheet down over each dollop of filling. To me that works better than lowering the entire top sheet down onto the bottom sheet at once.

One at a time start to form the ravioli; again, being careful to allow all of the air to escape.

This is how things should look. It’s not the end of the world if a little air is left inside the ravioli; just do your best to keep it to a minimum.

All that’s left to do now is get out your pasta cutter and cut the ravioli. As I said, the dough is thin and delicate. When you boil the ravioli (in very well-salted water, of course) they should only take around 3 minutes.

The great thing about this filling is that it goes great with most any kind of sauce you can conjure. This is a really simple sauce that I made here. I just sauteed some garlic and a little hot pepper in olive oil, then added lots of sweet butter, white wine and chopped parsely. In a couple minutes enough of the wine had reduced so that the flavor was just right. Easy peasey.

Then again, I have some leftover filling from the other night and I’ll be making a small batch of the ravioli for dinner tonight. This time it’ll be a Bolognese sauce, I think.

Which is a lot more like what mom might have made.

Chickpea & onion ravioli

1 Jul

For me it’s all about the pasta.

Sometimes, though, it’s really about the filling.

I had been Jonesin for some chickpeas (garbanzos if you prefer the more humorous sounding designation, ceci to those who parlano Italiano). The original dinner plan had called for some kind of homemade noodle, sauce To Be Determined, and so with the dough at the ready I set out to concoct a chickpea filling to stuff inside ravioli.

Following me down this determined—if haphazardly charted—course would not be the worst culinary decision that you could make.

Saute a small onion, two or three garlic cloves and some hot pepper in olive oil.

After the onion has softened add one 15-ounce can of chickpeas (drained of liquid).

Add in the zest of half a lemon and simmer for maybe five minutes.

In a bowl mash the chickpeas by hand. The idea is not to make the filling totally smooth but to keep some texture; otherwise I’d have used a food processor and turned this into more of a puree.

This is about right as far as consistency. Once you’ve mashed the chickpeas put them in the fridge and allow to cool before filling the ravioli.

The rest is just your basic ravioli making, which starts out like this…

… makes its way here …

… and winds up a right about in this place. I’d suggest a simple brown butter and sage preparation to sauce these ravioli. In fact, that’s what I had prepared myself.

But it just so happens that my friend Laura delivered a bag of zucchini flowers.

And so just for kicks I decided to toss them in with the brown butter and sage.

When the ravioli are boiled to doneness gently remove them from the water using a slotted spoon and add them to the pan with the brown butter. It’s okay to let some of the pasta water into the pan; in fact, you’ll want some of it to mix with the butter and coat the ravioli. Remove the ravioli to individual plates and serve immediately.

I will be Jonesin for these ravioli again one day. Soon.

Beet ravioli with poppy seeds

17 Feb

Don’t let the crappy picture fool you. These were some of the best ravioli I’ve had in a while. The reason the picture sucks is, well, I made the things on Valentine’s Day, see. Lots of great wines were sampled prior to eating time and so I was not, shall we say, in a mood to responsibly handle a camera. I managed to freeze a few ravioli and shoot the following day, but during boiling they did not hold up so well.

What are you gonna do!
Casunziei, as these ravioli are known, are normally made in a half-moon shape, but as you can see I went in another direction. The beet and ricotta filling is a nice combo, but it’s really the butter sauce and poppy seeds that make this dish really special. The first time I had casunziei was many years ago, at Al Di La in Brooklyn. It’s their signature dish. If you’re ever around you must give it a try (their Trippa alla Toscana too, but that’s another story entirely).
Anyhow, other than the part about making your own pasta dough, and of course being comfortable filling and shaping ravioli, these casunziei are super easy.

It all starts with the beets, and I scored one large enough to handle the whole pasta course. Roast it in aluminum foil until done; when cooled peel off the skin.

There’s a lot of moisture inside a beet, and it’s best to get rid of it. Most recipes call for running the beets lightly through a food processor but I just used my hands over a colander.

I even used a paper towel to make sure the beets wouldn’t be wet.

This turned out to be around a cup’s worth of beets. In a bowl I added the beets, 1/2 pound of ricotta, a scant 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt and pepper to taste. Most recipes call for the addition of eggs here, but I went without.

Then just mix it up, like so.

If you’re a pasta maker then you know the drill. If you aren’t, just do it. It’s not as difficult as it looks.

What’s the worst that could happen?

They could wind up looking like this, or maybe they won’t. You’ll never know unless you try.

Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid. — Goethe

Saucing these things could not be simpler. Just melt a lot of butter in a large pan that can accommodate the ravioli you’re making. When the ravioli are done boiling scoop them out of the water and add them to the pan, along with enough (well-salted) pasta water to keep things moist. Grate some more Reggiano over the ravioli and sprinkle a good amount of poppy seeds over them too. You can add a little more cheese and poppy seeds once you’ve plated.

And that is that.

Ravioli al uova (with egg yolks)

19 Jan

This is gonna be fun.

If you like soft egg yolks, that is. And fresh pasta. And cheese, of course.

I sure enjoyed making these ravioli, a specialty of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region if you wondered. And they aren’t nearly as difficult to put together as you might think.

No lie.

It helps if you are comfortable working with fresh pasta dough (here’s how I make it). These ravioli are large (5 inches around) and so make sure to roll out a wide pasta sheet (say, 8 inches or so). These sheets aren’t rolled to the thinnest possible setting, but they are fairly thin (just under the No. 2 setting on my machine.)

The filling? Basically what you have here is a “nest” made out of ricotta and goat cheese (see the filling recipe below). After placing the cheese mixture on the pasta sheet, hollow out a place in the center large enough to accommodate an egg yolk. After the yolk is placed (be careful here, you don’t want it to break) make sure that the cheese is higher than the yolk. If it isn’t gently add more cheese all around the circle.

Lay another pasta sheet on top. (If the dough is on the dry side use an egg wash first; that’ll help the two pasta sheets come together.)

And cut with whatever tool you have around. This 5-inch pastry cutter works great, but even the rim of a wide wine glass can do the trick.

Press down on the edges to make sure they’re secure, and they’re ready to be boiled.

These ravioli need to be handled gently, and so I put them into the water and take them out with a large slotted spoon. Do not dump them into a colander!

Don’t bother doing a complicated sauce because it isn’t at all necessary. This is a brown butter sauce, which I managed to ramp up with some black truffles I had around (it was a special occasion). But the brown butter alone would be great too, especially with a little grated cheese once plated. What I do is take the ravioli right out of the boiling water and place them into the pan with the butter, then gently spoon the butter over the ravioli while on medium heat.

Plate it (again, gently).

And there you go.

Like I said, fun. And easy.

Recipe for the filling
Good for six to eight 5-inch ravioli

1 pound fresh ricotta
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together, in no particular order. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Ravioli with zucchini & leeks

11 Sep

According to three very close associates of mine, these here are the best ravioli that I have ever made.

Don’t ask me. I’ve made thousands of the things, and I’m not about to pick a favorite.

Had I known this batch was gonna be such a big hit I’d have documented the recipe more precisely; at the very least, taken a few more pictures.

What are you gonna do? The recipe below is pretty close, I promise.

The ravioli filling is a combination of two fresh cheeses: ricotta and goat cheese. The fresh pasta dough you’re probably all set with, but if not, here’s a step-by-step look at how I usually make pasta dough.

The sauce is a mixture of sauteed zucchini and leeks. The ravioli are boiled and then added to the pan and mixed with the sauce.

A light dusting of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and you’ve got yourself a killer plate of ravioli.

Or so my associates say.

Two-cheese ravioli w/ zucchini & leeks

For the ravioli filling
1 lb. fresh ricotta
1/2 lb. fresh goat cheese
3 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 large egg
1 tsp. lemon zest
slight pinch of nutmeg
good pinch of salt
Mix all the ingredients together. Chill before forming the ravioli.

For the sauce
1 large zucchini, sliced and with the seeds removed
1 leek, sliced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 stick butter

1 1/4 cup homemade chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

In a good sized saute pan (large enough to hold the ravioli) heat the olive oil and then saute the zucchini and leeks until softened.
Add the butter and saute until vegetables are slightly golden, then add the chicken stock and cook for around 10 minutes longer. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add the cooked ravioli to the pan, turn the heat up to high, and gently incorporate before serving.

Thanksgiving in a can

23 Nov
It was the night before Thanksgiving and the A&P on Fulton Street, the one under the El that went from the East River out through Queens, was about to close. I was a teenager, on a mission for my mother to gather last-minute items for the next day’s meal.
The supermarket was oddly quiet. There was one cashier, a manager sitting in a platform that overlooked the registers, a Con Edison worker picking up a six-pack of Rheingold Extra Dry, and me.
Or so I thought.
“Pete,” I said, startled when the familiar face appeared without sound or warning. “How you doin?”
“Okay, kid, okay, good, see your uncle Joe today?” said Pete in that rat-a-tat-tat way of his. “Thought he’d be at The Club this afternoon but he never showed, no he never showed, your uncle didn’t, didn’t show.”
Uncle Joe was both head of our family and, arguably, the tightly defined corner of the neighborhood where we lived. People relied on my mother’s brother — for favors, kindnesses, sometimes money — and so, too, no doubt, did his friend.
“Dunno, maybe on a job,” is all I needed to say in order for Pete to wish me a happy holiday and move along.
Until I stopped him.
“What’s this?” I asked pointing at the two strangely familiar-looking cans in Pete’s cart.
To this day, I wish I had allowed that poor man to be on his way. Because his answer has haunted me, in a very deep and painful way, ever since.
“They’re good,” Pete said, now handling one of the cans of Chef Boyardee Ravioli. “We run them under water, get all the sauce off, get it all off good. Then my brother makes his gravy and we pour that on top, know what I mean? They’re good, they’re okay, yeah, kid, they’re not bad, pretty good.”
Pete and his brother Johnny were in their late fifties, I’d guess. Neither was married, and they lived together, as best I can recall, in the house they had once shared with their parents. Johnny was a mailman. I can’t say what Pete did for a living, because I never knew.
They called him Chicago Pete, though I doubt he ever stepped foot in Illinois. Who knows how they handed out nicknames back then. Some made sense, sure. Frankie Squarehead’s dome actually did appear to be framed by right angles, for instance. But logic did not reign always, and I am suspicious about the handle bestowed upon Pete.
No matter. It is the culinary strategy in question here. Why on Earth would two grown men decide that opening a can of ravioli was in any conceivable way preferable to boiling a pot of salted water and throwing fresh or even frozen pasta into it? On Thanksgiving Day, no less!
Remember, they cooked their own tomato sauce. From scratch. One of the brothers likely made his own meatballs to go into the homemade sauce. And as for real ravioli, the stores were lousy with the things. This is Brooklyn we’re talking about here.
What the hell were these two thinking with these cans?
I have lived with this riddle, this burden, for well over thirty Thanksgivings. The current haunting began a couple weeks back, after it was decided where the family’s holiday meal would take place (in Manhattan, at cousin Jo’s, it turns out).
The difference this year is that I decided it was time to exorcise my demons, by confronting them. And so, God help me, that’s just what I did.
The can you already saw. Well, I opened it. Then I got out a colander. The ravioli (and I use that term advisedly) did not give up the red stuff so easily, but a constant stream of water did finally do the trick.
I won’t torture you more than is necessary, so you’ll just need to trust me on how the ravioli looked buck naked: think pale, gummy, foul-looking scary stuff, more like yellow Play-Doh stamped into unholy little squares than actual food-grade product. I touched one of the things with my bare fingers, just to get a feel for the texture; I won’t be doing that again anytime soon.
That night, in fact, I suffered the most horrible nightmare. I was being smothered to death by a giant, gooey, yellow Blob. Steve McQueen was there, and so I thought I might have a chance at getting out of this mess. But all he would do to help me was toss lit cigarette butts at the yellow monster and yell, “Take that, Blobber.” After awhile of getting nowhere with the lit butts he just took off on his motorcycle and waved goodbye. To me, not the Blob. I think.
I woke up in just a terrible sweat, made worse by the sight of my dog Otis sitting next to me on the bed. He was wearing a white toque and a red neckerchief. Worse, he was holding a bowl of the canned ravioli and singing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” except Otis was saying “Eat It.”
I so need a drink just thinking about it.
Where was I? Oh, yes, the exorcism.
Always the dedicated Italo, I am never without some quantity of good tomato sauce on hand. And so, like Pete and his brother, I proceeded to apply my homemade sauce to the washed-and-prepped Chef Boyardees. Then — and this is the truly scary part — I took a bite.
Decades after our encounter at the long ago shuttered A&P, uncle Joe’s friend and I were finally joined in a profoundly strange and unusual way. Only Pete and I parted ways on one crucial point. That first bite? It was also my last.
Next Thanksgiving, when I think about Pete and Johnny, I will probably feel as sad for them as I have always felt. You would think that rinsing my own can of ravioli, swallowing one of the awful things, might provide insight into their ritual, but the truth is that it did not.
I have no more clue today what they could possibly have been thinking. And probably never will.

Pumpkin & ricotta ravioli

2 Nov
I’m a big fan of the freshly baked pumpkin pie. (Hear that, Josephine?) But I’m more of a pasta maker. And roasted pumpkin makes a really swell ravioli filling.
Our guest of honor, an American Tondo. This pumpkin’s roots (so to speak) are in Italy. It is relatively new to the U.S., and I like it a lot. A local farmer grew them this year.
Pretty, huh?
Anyway, so you cut it up into one-inch pieces, toss into a roasting pan and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, rosemary and (of course) garlic.
About half an hour at 375 degrees ought to do it.
And it’s ready for the Cuisinart. (You could just mash it all up by hand instead, which would give the filling more texture. I’d have done that had I not been adding the cheese.)
Get (or make) yourself some ricotta. (The pic doesn’t show this, but I wound up with two-thirds pumpkin and a third cheese.)
And mix it up by hand, like so.
Then it’s on to the pasta sheets. (Yes, Jeannie, I will one day dedicate an entire post to making fresh pasta.)
Cover and shape with pasta sheet No. 2.
Let the pastry cutter do its thing.
And there you go.
A simple brown butter sauce will do. But, hey, it’s your ravioli, do what you want.

Zucchini blossoms two ways

21 Jul
You probably don’t need another knucklehead food writer going on and on about the culinary wonder that is the zucchini blossom.
So here’s the deal. I’ll promise not to be tiresome about how great these things are if you promise to overnight ship to me (chilled, of course) every male blossom in the garden that you do not intend to eat. (Yes, the males don’t produce any fruit on the plant and so they are the ones to, er, snip. And who are you calling a food writer, anyway?)
Long story short, I score a lot of blossoms this time of year. Rarely does a petal go to waste.
Here’s last night’s batch, all cleaned up (the stamens, or reproductive organs of the flowers, removed) and ready to go — prepared a couple different ways.

The battered and fried way

Fried zucchini blossoms could not be simpler to prepare. Just mix together some flour and club soda, salt and pepper, then lightly coat the blossoms. (Make the mixture on the thin side and you’ll get a lighter result, like tempura; that’s how I do it.)
Drop them into hot (not just warm) olive oil and fry until one side’s slightly crisp.
Turn and let the other side have a chance to crisp, and you’re done.
Let the blossoms cool a minute or two, then have at it.
They won’t last long.

The whatever comes to my mind way
I saved four of the blossoms from being battered and fried, but the buggers got tossed into a pan anyway — this time with olive oil and garlic, walnuts and a little hot pepper.
In the freezer were some of my homemade squid ink ravioli, filled with ricotta and walnuts.
And so there you go.
Oh, one other thing. Be a pal, would you, and shoot me an email with the tracking number after you ship off those blossoms.
I promise to take good care of them.

Dark side of the ravioli

29 Apr

I’m a big squid guy. If it’s on the menu, I’m ordering it, at least once just to see how the place handles it. Sometimes I even score some when it isn’t on the menu. Just the other day, whilst lunching at Saigon on Forest Ave., I managed to coax a couple of nicely grilled squid out of the kitchen. It was good. I was happy.

Lately, it also appears that squid ink has come running through my veins (see “The squid and the shrimp” post from 4/11). Possibly I ought be concerned over this. I am not.
As is often the case (sorry if I bore you here), I am forever in pasta-producing mode. Here’s what went down.

You got your walnuts, your grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a little nutmeg, pinch of salt, like that.
The Cuisinart does its thing.
Add in some fresh ricotta.
And you got your basic mushy mess of a filling.
Bop, bop, beep, boop.
And ravioli!
That is all.
Now go eat something.