Food Friday: Homemade Ravioli


It is just as well that spring appears to be coming early, because we have started to mess with the new pasta machine. You must remember that we have baked pizza almost every Friday night for at least 25 years, and consistently roll out (and devour) parabola-shaped pizza pies. Precision is not our métier or our skill set. So what were we thinking when we unboxed two Christmas presents,the new ravioli maker, and an electric meat smoker on a rainy Sunday? We really need to get outside more, and fast.

I can credit Mr. Friday for this adventure. Give the man a decent gas range and suddenly he has a yen for cooking. I applaud that impulse, I just wish it did not include machines with sharp moving parts, and multi-step productions that require more than the four hands available. Luke, the 70-pound ankle bracelet was willing as always to help us in any way, but he was transparently hoping for falling gifts and could not advise us, let alone assist.

We have only tried making homemade pasta twice since Christmas. The first time resulted in some very tasty(though frankly, irregularly-shaped) fettucine noodles. The second time we leapt out of the frying pan into the roiling ravioli water. We do not have a lot of experience with pasta and neither of us had Italian grandmothers who patiently turned out dozens of perfect tortellini for admiring crowds. We did read Strega Nona aloud to our children a few dozen times, but no spaghetti magic did she impart. We grew up in households where Wednesday night was indeed Prince Spaghetti night: the pasta was store-bought and in a box, although the sauce was homemade. Neither of us has ever taken a pasta making class at Sur la Table. I did work in an Italian restaurant once. It specialized in Chicago-style pan pizza, which does not give me any street cred.

We follow recipes. But not always to the letter. And sometimes we make substitutions, or take shortcuts, or feel we have gut instincts worth following. We are often foolish. Which could explain our history of parabola pizzas, sunken brownies, and overdone smoked briskets…

Bon Appétit knows their stuff:

And who would argue with Martha?

Apparently we need to practice more, so it is a good thing we are heading into another weekend.

Back to Bon Appétit for the ravioli lesson.

For building the ravioli we followed the instructions on the back of the ravioli maker, which drew me back to my Play-Doh days; lots of squeezing and molding. We had some sticking issues, but I think it was the combination of wet weather, and the experiment with 00 flour. It was super fine and prone to making itself adhere to all the surfaces we were using: countertop, rolling pin, ravioli mold, and even the pizza cutter,

For the filling Mr. Friday experimented and improvised. So you might want to go back to Bon Appétit or Martha for something predictable and orthodox. But ours was pretty yummy. I am guessing at exact measurements, so you might have to go with your own gut feelings.

4 ounces bulk Italian sausage
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon fresh basil, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg

Mr. Friday frizzled up the sausage, over a medium heat, on the nifty new gas range, and then drained it on paper towels. Then he mixed the cooled meat with the beaten egg, cheese, basil and nutmeg. Then he filled the ravioli bottoms, and then applied the top sheet. He used a pizza cutter to cut the ravioli apart, and then refrigerated them until Monday night, because, multi-takers that we are, we still had to figure out if we had smoked the brisket for the proper amount of time. The new smoker was smoking away out in the back yard, where we had to occasionally run to protect it from the irregular rain showers. Lots of experimenting went on that day!

Monday night Mr. Friday waltzed in the door, poured two glasses of wine and started an easy peasy pasta sauce – and three cloves of garlic, lightly heated in olive oil until fragrant and then smothered with a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes. I was assigned Parmesan cheese grating and topping up the wine glasses.

Mr. Friday popped the 12 ravioli into a boiling vat of water for about 4 minutes, and artfully plated them, and swhooshed a light lashing of aromatic sauce over the ravioli, dusted them with cheese and another sprig of fresh basil, and put them on the table. Where we fell on the plates like starving dogs, and gobbled the food all up. Deelish. Poor Luke. Gravity failed him this time. He did not appreciate the heel of bread, even though it was schmeared with the best Irish butter.

The next time you want to fill up a weekend, consider homemade ravioli. Personally, I am hoping it is going to be warmer this weekend, and we might have to occupy ourselves outside. Otherwise I might start thinking about perfecting my bread baking. My loaves have been likened to medicine balls and loads of bricks. Yummy!

“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”
― Federico Fellini

About Jean Sanders

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