Our 25/50 friends had the great idea, a while back, to celebrate a birthday while sipping wine and making homemade pasta. We blame them, in part, for this post — as well as the CQ and CK, who enabled this new love by buying us a pasta maker and a ravioli press. We’ve now made homemade pasta at least a handful of times. And why not?
Why not? Well, maybe because it takes so long.
But why? Because homemade pasta is just so damn good that you forget how time intensive the making of it was and next thing you know you have this vaguely familiar, brilliant idea to make homemade ravioli again — and then a few hours later you have a ridiculously delicious dinner and some very tired feet. And not too long after all your leftovers are gone you find yourself thinking, that was actually pretty easy and you have the brilliant idea of making pasta again, and so it continues.
That said, we’re not complaining. We love cooking it and we love eating it and we love photographing it. So now we’re posting it because if you happen to have a ravioli press and hand-crank pasta machine sitting around then we seriously suggest you giving this a try on some Saturday night you had set aside to relax and cook something new. You’ll thank us.
(Serves 4 hungry people)
5 cups flour
5 tbsp olive oil
5 tsp salt
2 c. ricotta
1 c. parmesan
4 tbsp chives
1 tsp crushed red chili flakes
1 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Brown Butter Sauce
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sage chopped
salt and pepper to taste
*Warning: this task is made more sane with two cooks (or as many as you have space for).
Start by making the pasta. Ready?
THE DOUGH: Clear off your counter. Put 1 cup of flour on the counter and form it into a well with a center, approximately the size of a grapefruit.
Crack 1 egg right into the center of it. Then add 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of salt right into the well with the cracked egg. Tell the other four people you have enlisted to do the same — 1 cup flour into a well, 1 egg in the middle with 1 tbsp oil and 1 tsp salt. Easy breezy!
Next, take a fork and whisk delicately and briskly into the center of your well. You don’t want to knock down the well walls just yet, but you do want the egg, olive oil and salt well-combined. Once they are a well-blended yellow mixture, start adding flour from your well walls.
The trick here is to add flour from the outside first so that you don’t let the walls collapse in. So, take from the outside of the walls and toss some of that flour into your well (maybe 2-3 tbsp at a time). We used a dough scraper, but there are probably other ways to accomplish this task. Combine thoroughly before repeating.
You are going to keep adding flour from the outside, while maintaining the integrity of the well walls UNTIL the dough becomes too firm to whisk easily with a fork. Once the fork becomes less useful and once the walls could be pulled away without flooding your counter with egg, then you are good to go. At that point, scrape the flour into one pile on the side. It is very likely that you won’t use all your flour, but keep it around, because you’ll definitely use a lot of it.
Now you should be looking at a gooey blob of infant dough that’s stuck to your counter. What next? Get out your pasta scraper again. Cover the sticky dough with a thick dusting of flour. Use your pasta scraper to get the dough off your counter and to combine it with the flour. Repeat and combine until the flour is all mixed in and the mixture will no longer stick to your hands or the counter.
This is when you start kneading. Start by pounding the dough into a flat (1″ thick) circle. Sprinkle with more flour. Fold the dough over the flour and knead the dough by simultaneously kneading and pushing it away from your body. The friction of being pushed against the surface helps activate the glutens in the dough. After kneading a few times, flatten the dough out, add a little more flour and repeat. If you notice your dough getting tears in it when you knead it then stop adding flour. If your dough is sticking to the counter or your hands, add more flour.
The ultimate goal is that your dough is well kneaded, springy to the touch, and a solid yellow color. When it gets to this point, wrap it up in saran and chill it for an hour.
THE FILLING: Grate the parm and chop the chives. Then, combine the parm and chives with the ricotta. Toss in the chili flakes, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Sneak a bite (you have to test it, right?) and then set aside.
THE ASSEMBLY: This is much easier if you have a pasta maker. If you don’t have a pasta maker, then take your dough, and roll it out reeeeeaaaaally thin. You want it a little wider and longer than your ravioli tins (1/4-1/2″ extra on each side if you can). You’ll need two of these sheets for obvious reasons. If you are rolling it out then you want it as thin as you can do. Think paper thin, and not the organic-hand-made-earthy-crunchy paper, but the cheap-o-paper-your-boss-buys-because-he-is-all-about-the-bottom-line paper.
If you do have a pasta maker then divide your dough in half (keep one-half all wrapped up) and then roll out the other half just thin enough to go through the crank (maybe 1/2″ thick?). Then crank it through the machine. Do it twice on each level. For fettucini, stop after your second time at level 7 and for the ravioli stop after your second time at level 5. For the rav, wake two sheets that would cover the ravioli press.
Next, lay out one of the sheets on your ravioli press. Make light indents and fill it with about a tsp of your ricotta filling. Lay the second sheet over the press and roll it out with a rolling pin. Don’t be shy. This is what helps them separate from the press in the end.
We laid them out on some wax paper, which we had lightly floured so that we could get at them easily when the time came.
COOKING: Set a pot of water, salted and with some olive oil, to boil. Dunk in the ravs for about 1 minute and serve piping hot!
THE SAUCE: This is stupidly easy. Chop up some fresh Sage (don’t worry too much about the size). Melt the butter with the olive oil. Add in the sage and let the whole thing brown. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and grind some nice black pepper over it. Serve over the ravs making sure to get some crispy sage leave on there. A little goes a long way! Do the same with the fettucini.
The ravioli and fettucini photographed above (and at the top of the post) were made for a Sunday night dinner with the CQ and CK. The CQ made the ricotta and the meal was accompanied by some delicious wine, handpicked by the CK. It also, just so happened to be the same night that the Ravens ended the Pats’ season and we hope what started as the classiest-Sunday-Night-Football dinner, ended as the best-consolation-prize-after-crushing-defeat. Hopefully, you won’t be enjoying homemade ravioli with a side order of heartache. But if you are, maybe this can help ease your pain.