After learning how to create homemade ravioli in this guest post, and about papaya salads and chayote quesadillas in her last posts, I think you'll agree with me that my friend H should really be vying for a spot in Phoenix's growing restaurant scene. Or at least that she knows how to create some epic meals.
NOTE: Firstly, apologies to K for this gluten-heavy post. She very nicely invited me to talk about cooking, and I barge in dropping G-bombs all over the place, which is not proper guest behavior. I will endeavor in the future to not gloat about how awesome foods with gluten are.
Secondly, this post is LONG. Pasta making is not for the faint of heart, nor the faint of kitchen, nor the faint of reading long blog posts.
So, make-your-own pasta. It's actually fairly painless, should you have the following:
1. Plenty of time
2. The right equipment
Time becomes less of an issue if you're just making flat pasta, but ravioli won't stuff themselves, so be prepared to spend some time filling and sealing lots of little packets of cheesy goodness.
The equipment is more important, and by equipment, I basically mean a pasta roller. As I am about to demonstrate, you can do this completely by hand (with just a rolling pin, some elbow grease, and an almost masochistic need to finish what you've started), but it's not easy and my hands are still a little sore.
CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED.
1 1/4 c. flour + 1/2 tsp. salt
The Proper Method (taken from Mario Batalli's Molto Italiano)
Mound flour/salt in the center of a large wooden board. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork, beat the eggs and incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the mound. When half the flour is incorporated and you have a lump of dough, use your hands to knead and mix in the rest of the flour. Once you have a cohesive mass, scrape up and discard any dried, unused dough.
Mound flour/salt in the center of table. Make a well in the center of the flour and add one egg. Get concerned that well is not deep enough to contain both eggs. Try to make a deeper well by pushing the flour into a larger pile. Add second egg and watch as it slides down the edge of the flour pile and on to the table. Grab fork and frantically try to beat flour and rogue eggs together. Give up on fork and use hands to mush flour and egg bits into ball, then use said ball to sop up rapidly escaping egg matter. Mix in flour, adding water to make up for the missing egg moisture. Upon creating semi-cohesive mass, discard dried dough and egg remains.
Once you have your ball of dough (however it was attained), lightly flour your work area and start kneading. It will be hard at first, but once the gluten starts breaking down, it will become much softer and easier to work with. Continue kneading for 10 minutes or so, adding flour as needed, until the dough is elastic and tacky (but not sticky). If you've ever made bread, you'll know what I'm talking about. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Mine was a ricotta, smoked mozzarella, spinach and green garlic mixture. You can basically make any filling you'd like (just make sure that if you used any other vegetables/meats, that they are cut small enough to fit inside your ravioli).
Once the pasta dough has rested for 30 minutes, you can start the rolling. If you paid attention earlier and acquired a pasta roller before embarking on this little adventure, follow the instructions for the roller and roll the dough out to the thinnest setting.
Otherwise, I separated the dough into four pieces (keeping the unused pieces covered until I needed them). The dough should have soften considerably; if not, let it rest a bit longer. Roll each 1/4 of the dough into a short rope (like if you were making a snake out of clay), and, using a rolling pin, roll out lengthwise. Continue to roll until the dough is as long and thin as you can get it; if the dough starts to resist, let it rest for a minute or two before trying again. Once it is rolled to your liking, hang the piece of dough to slightly dry (over the back of a chair works) and proceed to do the same to the other three pieces.
After your hands have gone numb, but everything is rolled out, use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the dough. Ideally, if they are rolled into rectangles, you can cut the dough into squares. Mine dough was more...abstract, so I cut it into 1.5-2 inch wide strips. With a wet finger, moisten the along the edges of the dough strip and add a small spoonful of filling to the center (this amount will change depending on the the size of your ravioli). Fold the dough strip in half lengthwise, and press the edges together to seal the filling in. If filling started spilling out, use the spoon to scoop out some of the excess and try again. Fortunately, you'll have lots of raviolis to practice on, and you'll soon figure out what comprises an acceptable amount. Place finished ravioli on a kitchen towel or plate that has been dusted with flour.
After all the raviolis are stuffed, heat a well-salted pot of water to a boil and add the raviolis (just don't overcrowd the pot). Return the water to a gentle simmer (a rollicking boil could cause the raviolis to burst) and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Drain and serve with the sauce of your choice (ours was a simple San Marzano tomato sauce with basil, oregano, parsley and marjoram). Leftover ravioli should be cooked shortly after making, but can be kept in the fridge (add either some sauce or a bit of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together).