Unlimited time at home has had me making lists of projects to start (and hopefully finish) around the house. I’ve got plans for the utility room, the kitchen, the living room, the twins’ room, the garden… I also have ideas for how all five of us can productively spend our time, and you can imagine how thrilled the other four people in my family were to hear this.
But, as the saying goes, water seeks its own level, and I find we are mostly just pottering about doing what we always did: a little gardening, a little reading, a little binge-watching, some social media, some dog-walking, and – in my case – a whole lot of cooking. I can’t help myself; it’s what I love and what I do given enough time and a set of ingredients.
In this case the ingredients were 500g grams of delicious salad greens from Sarah at the Walled Garden that were reaching their last usable day, some bits of mozzarella that I had squirreled away in the freezer, and basic pantry ingredients that I always have on hand.
It’s easy enough to make your own pasta to use as the base for a delicious sauce that you have perhaps spent hours making (like a traditional Bolognese, or a pork ragu), or even for just a simple dish with butter and cheese, and the pasta dough recipe below is easy and satisfying for that purpose. Filled pasta, however, is a great way to use up little bits of leftovers or disparate ingredients that might not otherwise find a home and that you are loathe to throw out. It is precisely for this reason that I love making ravioli. It is anti-wasteful, super thrifty, extemely sustainable, and delicious to boot.
Use the recipe for the filling below as a guide, but have a poke around your fridge, freezer and pantry, and see what else you can come up with. You can always make the filling and freeze part of it if you have too much, or if — like me — you want to get a jump on the next batch of ravioli and you happen to have your eye on that chicken carcass from Saturday’s dinner that still has about 100g of chicken clinging to it…
This whole recipe can come together in less than an hour, start to table. If you do not have a pasta machine, you can roll the dough with a rolling pin.
(serves 5-6 people)
For the filling:
- 500g (0.5 lb) greens, washed (I used mixed winter salad greens, but you could use kale, collards, mustard greens, nettles, spinach, whatever you’ve got that you like)
- 170g (0.3 lb, or 1.5 cups) mozzarella, chopped or grated into small pieces
- 50g (0.25 cups) pecorino, finely grated
- 2 eggs
- 0.25 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 0.25 – 0.5 tsp salt (depends on the salt level of your cheeses)
- black pepper
- salt for the water
For the pasta dough:
- 150-220g (1.25- 1.6 cups) flour (’00” flour is the type normally used for pasta, but you can use whatever flour you have on hand; I typically use bread flour)
- 2 eggs
Start with the pasta dough, but first, a note: I have specified a variable amount of flour, because all flours have a different hydration level based on the wheat that is used and the age of the flour. In addition, the eggs you use will vary in size, and that in turn will change how much flour is needed. It’s best to start with less flour and then add more as you need it. (Take it from me, it is much easier to add more flour to a wet dough than adding moisture to a dry dough.)
Put 150g of the flour into a bowl, and using a wooden spoon or even your hand, mix in the two eggs. As the dough starts to come together, you can judge whether you need to add more flour. If the dough is very wet and slippery, add a sprinkling of flour and keep mixing, pressing the dough against the sides and bottom of the bowl as you go (you are essentially kneading the dough in the bowl). Keep sprinkling the dough with additional flour until it feels only slightly sticky and a good kneading consistency, somewhat like play-dough. (If you have added too much flour, the dough will be stiff and be difficult to knead. If this is the case, try sprinkling it with a little bit of water, and knead some more. Keep doing this until your dough is pliable.)
Once the dough has the right consistency, turn it out onto the counter and knead well for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth when you round it ito a ball. Cover it well (with cling film or, preferably, a plastic alternative like Bees Wrap), and leave it to rest for a half hour while you get on with the filling.
To make the filling, bring a large pot of water and a tablespoon or so of salt to the boil. Plunge the greens into the boiling water and cook for just long enough for the greens to wilt. The sturdier your greens are, the longer this will take. Drain the greens into a colander and run cold water over until they are cool enough to handle. Squeeze as much water out of the greens as you can. (For tender greens — like baby spinach — you could simply put the greens in a colander and pour boiling water over to wilt them, then cool them and squeeze them dry.)
FInely chop the greens and put into a bowl and throughly mix them with the mozzarella, pecorino, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste and add seasoning if necessary. Then mix in the 2 eggs.
Assembling the ravioli: Line a couple of sheet trays with parchment and then sprinkle liberally with polenta or flour. (This will keep your pasta from sticking before you cook it.)
Take one-quarter of the dough and run through the pasta machine on the widest setting, number 1. Fold the dough in half and run it through on the same setting. Fold it in half again and run it through on the same setting.
Change the setting to 2 and run the dough through. Change the setting to 3 and run the dough through. Keep doing this until you are at setting 8. The dough will be quite long at this point, and you may need help to handle it, or alternatively, you can lop it in half and deal with each half separately. (If you are rolling this by hand, aim to have a very thin sheet of dough, approximately 1mm thick. Try to use as little extra flour as possible when rolling. You may want to start with a smaller piece until you get the hang of it.)
After the first batch of dough has gone through setting 8, lay it down on a lightly floured counter top, and put a large teaspoon of filling about 2cm in from the bottom left edge (see photos). Continue putting the filling on the dough, leaving approximately 4 cm between each. Using a pastry brush (or even a clean paintbrush) and some water, moisten the upper edge of the dough and in between each pile of filling. Then fold the unfilled section of dough over the filling, being careful to line up the bottom edge.
Now you need to seal the ravioli. Start from the folded edge and, using your fingers, press the dough gently down and around the filling, moving any air bubbles towards the open edge of the dough. Keep doing this to all the mounds of filling. If you find that there are some air bubbles that won’t shift to the bottom edge, try to centre them between two ravioli pieces, and you can release them when you cut.
You can use a pasta cutter, a pizza cutter, a bench scraper, or just a knife to cut your ravioli. If you are cutting across an air bubble, be sure to press the edges of the dough down afer to be sure it is sealed.
Put the ravioli pieces close together on the prepared sheet tray, and proceed with the next quarter-batch of dough. When all the ravioli is made, you should use them within an hour, before the filling starts to seep through the dough. (If you don’t want to use them all immediately, you can freeze some in a single layer, and after they have frozen you can pack them into a bag or container. When you want use them at a later date, just cook from frozen.)
To cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of very salty water to the boil. (Remember, the pasta dough is not salted, so you need the salt in the water to season it.) Gently add the pasta a few pieces at a time until they are all in. Stir gently to be sure that none are stuck at the bottom, then let them boil for about 4 minutes; you may need to reduce the heat slightly if the boiling is too vigorous, as it could burst the ravioli. To test for doneness, take one out and cut and taste a little bit of pasta from a sealed edge. It should be firm but not chewy. If it is not quite done, cook for another minute and then test again.
Serve topped with whatever you like. Some suggestions:
- melted butter with fried sage leaves
- garlic and walnut pieces cooked in butter or olive oil
- fresh tomatoes, chopped and cooked in olive oil with garlic and a splash of red wine (this is what we had)
- passata (either homemade or from a jar)
- in a little bit of chicken stock (basically a ravioli soup)
- your choice!