Making two kinds of ravioli was a project that took time, but was well worth it...
I used up spinach, bocconcini, butternut squash and Parmesan, and we all ate well!
I picked up some ricotta cheese, and proceeded to make a spinach and cheese filling, and a roasted butternut squash filling. Making the filling is the quick part of this process, but I find that making the raviolis is the most rewarding part. It's also a great opportunity for everyone to come together in the kitchen and help out. With the availability of fresh pasta, some of the work is already done for you!
Another plus is that you know exactly what is in the filling, no fillers such as breadcrumbs. You can also control the ratio of pasta : filling, and therefore enjoy the flavours of the ravioli, and not just the pasta and sauce.
To make the butternut squash filling, cut the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Season the cut side of the squash with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
Place cut side down in an ovenproof dish, add about 1" of water and bake in a 400F oven until soft; the skin will start to go golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before scraping out the cooked flesh and placing it into a bowl, along with:
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives (the last of the season)
salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg
Mix well, taste and adjust seasoning, then add in 1 egg yolk.
Refrigerate until needed.
For the spinach filling, start by wilting the spinach if you are using fresh, as I was. If you are using frozen cooked spinach, defrost it. Squeeze as much water as possible out of your spinach, and chop it. You will need about 1 1/2 cups.
Mince 1/4 cup of onion, and cook in a bit of olive oil until it is softened and starting to caramelize.
Remove the onions from the heat, and allow to cool before placing them into a bowl with:
The cooked, chopped spinach
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup bocconcini, diced
salt, pepper, pinch of nutmeg and pinch of cayenne pepper
Mix well, taste and adjust seasoning and refrigerate until needed.
Both fillings can be made a day ahead if you like.
For the assembly you will need:
2 baking sheets, lightly dusted with cornmeal to prevent the raviolis from sticking
A small dish of cold water and a pastry brush
A sharp knife or pizza wheel
A small scoop or spoon
About 6 - 8 sheets of fresh pasta dough
Lay out a sheet of pasta, and place balls of filling along the middle of the sheet. The size of your raviolis will determine the size of the ball.
Our raviolis were about 2" square, and the filling was about 1" in diameter.
Lightly brush the pasta dough with water, all around the filling.
Using the knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough in between the filling.
Bring one side of pasta dough over the filling to meet with the other. Firmly press the edges together to seal, and then work your way around the filling, pressing the dough edges together and removing as much air as you can.
Trim any excess pasta away to neaten the look of the ravioli. Place the finished raviolis on the prepared baking sheet and continue until you run out of pasta or filling.
I made about 30 of each filling.
Cook the ravioli in a large pot of boiling, salted water. They will float to the top as they cook, and usually cook in less time than store bought pasta.
Drain, and gently toss with the sauce of your choice. We used cream sauce for the squash ravioli and Basic Tomato Sauce for the spinach and cheese ravioli.
- The raviolis can be made as big or small as you choose. I have made jumbo ravioli, and served 2 per person, as a garnish in Smoked Tomato Soup.
- There are various ravioli forms available, such as the one shown on the right. These help with the consistency of size and appearance, but being homemade sometimes means looking homemade, in my opinion!
- A cookie cutter can also be used to cut shapes from the pasta dough, before filling and sealing them. This opens up a whole lot of choices. To make things easier for yourself when it comes to sealing the shaped ravioli, it works best if you have 2 cookie cutters of the same shape, but one size apart. Use the smaller one for the bottom piece and the larger one for the top piece, as it has to stretch over the filling.
- The filling can be made ahead and refrigerated for a day or two; it can also be frozen. The ravilois can be filled and frozen; cook from frozen, allowing a bit of extra cooking time.
- If you have a pasta maker at home and make your own pasta sheets, think about adding flavour to the pasta sheets before you make the ravioli. Try chopped fresh herbs, minced garlic, lemon zest, tomato paste or roasted red pepper puree...
- Filling combinations are endless, but try and include a cheese such as ricotta, mascarpone, cream cheese or soft goat cheese to help bind the other ingredients as well as to add creaminess.
- Leftover meat, finely chopped; that lonely sausage or chicken breast in the freezer; the last few scallops or shrimp; extra pulled pork or braised beef...meat choices are endless and if you are using leftovers the ravioli will benefit from the flavours already in the meat.
- Herbs and spices should enhance the meat and cheese that you are using.
- Vegetables should be cooked first, as the raviolis are not in the water long enough to cook them. Vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant and spinach release a lot of water during cooking, and that will not only dilute the flavour of the filling, but can also seep out and make the pasta dough soggy.
- I like to include a stronger cheese with the creamy one. A ravioli is only one or two bites and you want to experience the intensity of the filling in each bite. Think of cheeses such as goat cheese, feta, blue cheese, Parmesan or asiago, smoked cheese or a peppered cheese.
- Some ideas for filling options: finely chopped cooked chicken, soft goat cheese, chopped sundried tomatoes and basil; grilled or roasted zucchini, finely chopped with feta cheese, cooked spinach, basil and ricotta cheese; mushrooms finely chopped and cooked with onions, garlic, fresh thyme and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, ricotta and blue cheese; roasted garlic, cream cheese, cooked scallops, lemon zest, Parmesan and black pepper.