Filling in the RavioliI love ravioli because it’s so versatile and good to eat (I’m not talking about the stuff from the can or the freezer).  There’s nothing like the fun of making homemade ravioli and then sitting down to enjoy a plate of it.

Ravioli needs to start with a great pasta dough and the filling choice is up to you, because you can fill them with anything.  While most people only think of ravioli being a savory food, you can even make them into dessert just by adding the right fillings.  How about a chocolate dough filled with a fruit filling or marscarpone cheese whipped with chocolate in a regular pasta dough and topped with a wonderful sauce.

Rolling Out the DoughSavory fillings can consist of meat, veggie, cheese, or a mixture of them all and you can  add any number of sauces to top them with to make up the flavors that you like.  That is the fun of ravioli because I get to be creative and decide what flavors I want to serve.  You can also fry them to make them crispy for appetizers and even coat them in panko breadcrumbs and serve with a dipping sauce.  Flavor the dough with herbs or any seasonings of your choice.

Many of you probably think that you need a pasta machine and ravioli molds for making ravioli but you don’t (while they can make things a little easier, it can be made without them as well).  I make mine with a rolling-pin and a glass to cut out the pasta dough (you can use a biscuit cutter or round or square cookie cutter, whatever works for you).  Sometimes when you have a small kitchen, you don’t have room for all the extra gadgets :).  This technique also works well for making perogies which once again are as versatile as the ravioli with how you flavor the potato filling (one of my favorite ways to use up leftover mashed potatoes).

Cutting Out the DoughThe biggest trick to making ravioli (or perogies) is getting the pasta dough thin enough without being too thin (about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick) and getting the right amount of filling on them.  Too much filling and you have a mess (too much causes it to squeeze out the sides and not seal properly) .  Generally you only need about 1 to 2 teaspoons of filling per ravioli unless you are making giant ones.  If making by hand, you want to take a little water or egg whites to seal up the edges when you press the dough together so the filling doesn’t leak out while cooking.

While making your ravioli, make sure you keep enough loose flour under them or they will stick down making them hard to get up and to tear when you are ready to use them.  Cover with a clean slightly damp dishcloth while you are making them to prevent the dough from drying out.

Folded Ravioli with UnfoldedI’ve also learned that the flour makes a huge difference as well.  I tried making my dough out of all whole wheat pastry flour but it was way too heavy and didn’t taste right.  I’ve switched back to all-purpose or bread flour for the best results.  I’ve also found out that you need an egg pasta dough recipe instead of an eggless one for ravioli because the dough stretches out too much while cooking on the eggless.  My favorite dough recipe comes from Fabio Viviani from the Top Chef.  It doesn’t need to rest like most pasta dough does and tastes wonderful for all types of pasta.

The other trick to making ravioli is not to over cook them.  You just need a large pot of boiling water, drop in your ravioli and take them out after they have floated to the top and the dough has become pale in color (about 2 to 3 minutes).  Remove, allowing as much water to drain as possible then season with salt and pepper before topping with the sauce of your choice.

Close Up of Finished RavioliThese ravioli also freeze well.  Just arrange finished ravioli on a baking sheet in a single layer, pop into the freezer, and once frozen place in a freezer bag until needed.  To cook, drop frozen ravioli into a pot of boiling water and treat as you would the fresh.

While ravioli are a little time-consuming but easy to make; making homemade ones are so worth the time and effort because the flavors are just so much better.  Get the family involved in making them and the job will go so much faster or you can make your fillings and sauce (if possible) a day ahead of time.  Just don’t miss out on these wonderfully yummy flavor of life to entice your taste buds with.

Made Butternut Squash RavioliBelow is the recipe for my butternut squash ravioli that I’m making for my Thanksgiving appetizer this year.  The filling works well as a side dish as well.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

One batch of Fabio Viniani’s Pasta Dough

2 cups of roasted butternut squash purée (easy just pop in oven on 350° for at least an hour or until soft)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

6 Tbsp. shallots, minced

6 to 7 Tbsp. heavy cream

6 Tbsp. grated Romano cheese (Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano are also good)

1/3 tsp. white pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan or skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots and sauté until soft.  Add the butternut squash purée and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, before stirring in cream.  Cook about 2 more minutes, then remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.  Check your seasonings, adding more if necessary.  Allow to cool completely before using in ravioli.

Roll out your dough, place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each dough.  Fold dough over, moisten edges with water or egg white and seal completely.  To cook, bring a pot of water to boil, add ravioli and cook until they float to the top and become pale in color.  Remove from water and drain well.  Season with salt and pepper after removing from water.  Sprinkle with a little more cheese when serving and top with sauce.

Butternut Squash ravioli are great paired with a Brown Butter Sage Sauce.

http://hullcha.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/homemade-butternut-squash-ravioli-w-brown-butter-sage-sauce/

Ravioli di Zucca

 

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