Pasta is unleavened dough formed into various shapes and boiled. Did you know that there are over 600 shapes of pasta and that their names describe their shapes? Spaghetti means cord, vermicelli means little worms (ew), rotini are spirals … you get the idea. Pasta is a staple food of traditional Italian cuisine with the first official reference to pasta dating back to 1154 in Sicily.
October 25, 2014 is World Pasta Day. Yes, you heard that correctly. World. Pasta. Day. YAY! World Pasta Day was founded in 1995 at the World Pasta Congress. And yes, the World Pasta Congress is also real.
Not that we ever need an excuse to prepare delectable pasta dishes, but I for one am not going to miss making something special. So we better get onto those preparations. We wouldn’t want Millicent (Millicent@LifeinPleasantville.com) to think that we’re not up-to-snuff on this stuff, right?
If you’d like to celebrate Pasta Day this year with a most delectable treat, why not make some homemade ravioli. It’s a little tedious, but it’s not as hard as you think and the result is sure to produce an evening to remember … perhaps even better than Candace’s The “I’m Getting Lucky” Beef and Beer Stew *wink*.
There are very vew ingredients required for the pasta dough: all-purpose flour, good quality cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, milk, eggs.
In a mixing bowl, put 5 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 1 1/2 tsp of olive oil, 2-3 tbsps of milk. Gently mix, breaking up the yolks with your fingers. Don’t get all tidy on me, this where the messy fun begins.
Dump 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour onto a clean surface and make a well in the centre.
Start incorporating the flour into the wet ingredients. Use your fingers to slowly drag the flour into the middle. You’ll see in the picture that you incorporate the flour a little at a time, not all at once. By the way, are your hands dirty yet?!?
When you are almost done mixing all of the flour in and a dough ball starts to form, you may need to use a pastry scraper (a spatula works if you don’t have fancy-pants kitchen gadgets!)
Once you have a dough ball, your workout for the day begins. Knead for approximately 10 minutes until the dough is a bit elastic and has a nice sheen. Don’t skimp on the kneading, this is the love that makes the pasta extra scrumptious!
If it’s too dry, add a splash of milk. It should feel moist, but not sticky.
You have to let the dough rest before rolling. You can wrap the entire ball with plastic wrap, but I like to cut mine into roughly 3 equal balls. Now they don’t have to be perfectly the same size, but I’ll confess, I’ve been known to take out my kitchen scale to get darn close. Make sure one ball is slightly bigger (25 grams?) because you’ll want to cut off a small piece to clean your rollers (if using a pasta roller).
Place tightly wrapped balls (*tee hee*) in the fridge for about an hour.
While your dough is resting, you can prep your filling. This is where you let your creativity soar! You can stuff your ravioli with pretty much anything you like, as long as the filling is precooked. Mushrooms, onions, beef, pumpkin, duck, spinach … the possibilities are limitless.
My favourite filling is 1 cup of finely diced sauteed onions or shallots with a bit of crushed garlic, 1 cup of chèvre or any other creamy cheese, 1 cup of finely chopped (almost shredded) poached chicken breast, a handful of freshly grated Parmesan, a splash of high-quality balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction, salt and pepper to taste. Mix up your choice of ingredients until you find a combination that you LOVE!
To roll the dough, you can put some backbone into it and use a rolling pin until you have really thin sheets. I prefer to use a pasta roller to create nice, consistently thin sheets of pasta. The design of the pasta roller hasn’t changed in forever, a simple and effective tool.
Start by passing a small piece of dough through the rollers to clean them. If you are following along, you can cut the small piece of dough off the largest of the three balls you placed in the refrigerator. Flatten the rest of the ball into an oblong pancake and roll it through on the largest setting (the setting where the rollers are the furthest apart).
Fold it in half or thirds depending on length and run it through sideways. Do this a few times, then lower the setting, one number at a time (the rollers should be getting closer and closer together).
Roll the pasta through each setting without folding, until you have a very thin sheet of pasta. On my machine, I go the very last setting.
Place a sheet of pasta on a board or on a ravioli cutter. Brush egg whites on the areas that need to “glue” together. Place a dollop of your filling in the “holes” if using a cutter or spaced in two rows along your sheet if using a board.
Place a second sheet of pasta over top. Make sure you create a good seal. When you cut each individual pillow with the ravioli cutter (or a knife if working on a board), each pillow should come out perfectly sealed, otherwise they will explode and filling will leak out when you boil them.
Place finished ravioli pillows on a cookie sheet and place in fridge until ready to cook. You can lightly flour the cookie sheet if your ravioli is sticking.
Add ravioli to rapidly boiling water until they float to the top (about 2-3 minutes). Don’t overfill the pot. Work in small batches. After all of your hard work, you don’t want them to stick and tear open.
You can serve them from here with your favourite sauce. Simple crushed fresh tomatoes, olive oil and basil would be YUMMY. Or, you could really go upscale and make a brown butter sage sauce.
Melt about 1/4 cup of butter in a large skillet. Cook until it turns a nutty brown colour. Watch it closely because you can easily burn your butter *she says without ever having experienced this problem before*.
Add a handful of fresh sage leaves and toss them in the butter. You can chop the leaves if you wish, but they crisp up really nicely when left whole.
Toss the cooked and drained ravioli in the skillet and let them fry up a bit.
Transfer to a fancy serving plate and garnish with grated Parmesan, toasted nuts, whatever your taste buds desire.
Enjoy with your favourite somebody and a
few glass es of wine. Buon appetito!
Sources: Days of the Year