Monday, February 3, 2014

Two Recipes for Spinach Ravioli

Ravioli is not for the faint of heart. I'm pretty sure my kitchen looked like some sort of exotic disaster zone after my mom and I finished making dinner. There were so many pots, pans, bowls, cutting boards, cookie ravioli sheets, wooden spoons, appliances, scraps of wax paper, and balls of pasta dough adorning my kitchen that you couldn't see the island counter, the stove, or the sink. And then there were the ravioli themselves

What is sauce for, am I right?
That said, for those with a heart as robust as their stomachs, these were totally worth it. They are delicious, restaurant-quality, and pretty technically easy. Not easy as in yes there is a lot of hand-manipulation, but easy as in they worked remarkably well. This is the first time I've given it a go, and despite a few purportedly (but not actually) calamitous glitches they were delicious!

What's also nice about ravioli is that you can make them from pretty much whatever you have sitting around, and since there is so little filling per ravioli it is really easy to scrounge leftovers. I'm looking forward to making some with stuffed-pepper filling left over from our Super Bowl party!

After slavering over diverse potential ravioli recipes, I wanted to experiment at least a little, so I made two different fillings, both with spinach as a base (we had spinach for a side the night before). (Plus I had to throw away a third butternut squash filling because of sour shallots so subtract the defunct and divide by two and the clutter situation would really have been reasonable!). In one of my recipes, I mixed the spinach with ricotta and covered the ravioli with pine-nut brown butter sauce. My other dish was spinach, parmesan, and prosciutto-filled pasta with a white wine, cream, and cheese sauce.

The fillings were really easy to make and don't really require a recipe (don't panic: I'm not leaving you hanging). I think making two sauces also added to the general chaos of the process. Next time I make ravioli I will try a single filling with a single sauce and see if I can't turn it into a manageable dinner.

What follows is: 1) generic directions for how to assemble ravioli (just in case you already have the perfect flavor combination eating a hole in your stomach), 2) my recipe for spinach-ricotta ravioli with pine-nut brown butter sauce and 3) spinach-parmesan prosciutto ravioli with a white wine, cream, and cheese sauce.

How to Make Ravioli (with pictures)

1. Make some awesome pasta dough.
A step so important it has its own blog post.

2.1. Figure out how you are going to roll out your pasta dough.
There are lots of ways to do this. 

Apparently it is possible to roll our your dough of pasta using nothing but a dowel. :O I did not do this but I found a video that makes me wish I knew how 

Ok and how badass is this

Thanks to the people on Chowhound for their discussion about choosing pasta machines, on which I found these really cool links

This deserves another amazed face :O

There are also hand-crank machines that will do it for you semi-automatically.

Image courtesy of Williams Sonoma
And then there are attachments for your mixer that do it for you electrically so you have two hands open to deal with your REALLY LONG sheet of pasta. 

I was fortunate enough to get one of these for Christmas, so that's what I used to roll out my sheets. 

2.2. Roll out your pasta dough. 

First, make sure to flour your workspace!

On a pasta-rolling machine, you can adjust the thinness of the sheet by using a knob on the side of the attachment. The instructions that came with appliance specified an ideal thickness of 4 or 5 (higher-->thinner) for ravioli. This was much too thick for my pasta; I ended up using setting 7 and would have used 8 had I not been afraid the sheets would fall apart. 

Using a ball of dough about the diameter of my thumb, I got a sheet of pasta about 9 inches across by three feet long.

Look at how thin the sheet is! You can see the counter and the flour through it.
3. Make a battle plan.
(In non-metaphorical ravioli-making speak: spoon teaspoons of filling on a sheet of pasta with an understanding of how you will arrange them into square-shaped capsules.) 

My mom and I figured out that the best way to form your ravioli is to mentally divide your sheet in half and after distributing the filling fold it over itself to form both the top and bottom of the capsules. That way you're working with more manageable pieces of pasta and you don't have to worry about producing a second sheet of identical size when you want to top them. 

4. Lay out your ravioli.
My mom and I used about a 1/2 tbsp of filling per ravioli and left about an inch between clumps and half an inch around the edges to allow for cutting and sealing, but of course follow your own judgment/preference. In hindsight we realized we should have sort of compressed the globs to produce a flatter, more elegant ravioli.

To seal the edges of the noodles, make an egg wash by whipping an egg in a small dish and painting around the globs of filling with a pastry brush.

5. Form the ravioli.
Fold your sheet of pasta in half over the filling.

Press down around the edges of each pocket to seal them (this is where the egg wash comes in).

Using some sort of rolling blade--a pizza cutter would work, or they make special pasta cutters with a crimped wheel to produce a decorative edge--cut out your ravioli.

Ta da!
6. Boil.
We're talking three to four minutes. Don't worry about the flour, it falls right off in the water!

After you remove them from the boiling water, place them in a colander for a minute to let the water drip off, and then they're ready to sauce and eat!

Here's what they look like when they're done!
And now for the pretty stuff...

Ricotta-Spinach Ravioli with Pine Nut Brown Butter Sauce

Ingredients (all of these are approximate: I just kept adding stuff until the proportions looked right)

3/4 cup cooked, drained spinach (if you use frozen spinach you won't have to deal with trying to convert pre- and post- cooking volume)
1/2 cup ricotta
2 tbsp really finely ground--almost powdered parmesan 
1 tsp salt

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts


1. Mix together everything in the first list above. Adjust for preference and the right consistency (it should be wet and sticky enough to somewhat hold together).
2. Done! 

1. Melt your butter in a large saucepan. 
2. Add garlic.
3. You will see the butter begin to separate into two components: a yellow, translucent liquid and an opaque, white foam. Using a spoon, skim as much of the white foam from the top of the liquid as you can. You are left with "clarified butter". 
4. Add your pine nuts.
5. Wait until the butter begins to brown slightly. You will get some white bubbles atop your sauce, but they will not have the same thick consistency as the foam you just removed. 
6. When the butter starts to take on a darker, browner shade, you are done!

This is what the filling looks like

After the white foam has been removed
With pine nuts
When the sauce starts bubbling up, it is getting close to done
I tried to kind of get a picture of the shade of the sauce...


Spinach, Parmesan, and Prosciutto Ravioli with White Wine, Cream, and Cheese Sauce 


3/4 cup cooked, drained spinach (frozen works)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (generous) chopped prosciutto
1/4 cup cream (to hold it together)
Up to 1 tsp salt (to taste)

Sauce (adapted from better homes and gardens):
2 tbsp onions, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup cheese*: for example, Parmesan, Asiago, Gorgonzola, provolone 
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp of another herb*, such as basil, chives, sage, thyme, oregano, or rosemary

*I used 1/4 cup parmesan and 1/2 cup Gorgonzola and basil for the extra herb...because it's what I had around :)


1. Mix together everything in the list above. Adjust for preference and right consistency (it should be wet and sticky enough to somewhat hold together).
2. Done! 

1. Saute the garlic and onion in the butter in a medium saucepan until the onion is translucent and tender. 
2. Add flour, salt, and pepper.
3. Add cream and wine at once.
4. Cook until the mixture begins to simmer.
5. Add cheese; stir for another minute to melt.
6. Add the herbs and then you are done!

The finished filling

The onions and garlic for the wine and cheese sauce

You can add the cheese once the sauce starts to simmer
The finished sauce

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