I really knocked one out of the park with this dish . . .
It all started with a post by Lisetta on her superb blog, Mangiare Bene. She was describing the flour used to make perfect pasta and I sighed, knowing I probably wouldn’t be able to find Italian flour around here. However a quick search on the web turned up all kinds of fun stuff at King Arthur’s Flour. These are the two I selected for starters.
Once I got my fancy new flour, I started looking for a great dish so I could try them out. I found a couple of old pasta cookbooks and leafed through them, reading all the delicious recipes and pointers. I decided to start with ravioli. I made my pasta dough with the Perfect Pasta Blend using the directions on the bag, then wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it aside to allow the “gluten to relax” -whatever that means.
The ravioli recipe that seduced me had a filling of bacon, kale, onion and cheese topped with a simple tomato sauce. No kale available without a 30 minute drive to the “city,” so I used baby spinach, pre-cooked bacon pieces, half of a large onion and two kinds of cheese – fontina and aged parmesan. I planned on making the light tomato sauce, really I did, but secretly I was yearning for Alfredo. I grabbed a little carton of cream at the local grocery . . . you know, just in case.
I chopped a large handful of bacon pieces into smaller bits and sautéed them in EVO oil with chopped onion until the onion was tender. Then I added the chopped spinach and cooked the mixture a few more minutes. I removed it from the heat and set it aside to cool. The cheese was added right before assembling.
While my filling was cooling, I rolled the pasta.
You have to roll it very thin for ravioli, so this went through the rollers several more times, reducing the gap between the rollers every couple of passes. I felt satisfied with the thin-ness when I could see light through the dough – I should have photographed it at this point, but my hands were full. A very important tip – divide your dough before rolling or you’ll have a 6 foot sheet of pasta that keeps growing!
I felt okay about learning this as I went and had fun learning on the fly. I had a lot of flour strewn about and too many vessels tossed in the sink, but it was pasta school 101 and I was having a blast. With ravioli the main thing is to press out all the air and make sure the pasta is sealed well around the filling. I laid out my little piles of filling and pressed the top dough down firmly before cutting. I tried two different shapes and cut both out with my fluted rolling cutter. I think the half moons aren’t technically ravioli, but I don’t recall what they’re called.
Once I had used up all the filling, I set the flour dusted ravioli aside to dry a couple of hours until dinner. I used the scraps to practice making little orrechiette - which are supposed to be rustic but they turned out too rustic to photograph. Hey, I’m learning and they were still tasty for lunch the next day.
When the time came to make dinner, I made a simple Alfredo sauce with parmesan, butter, cream and a dash of freshly ground nutmeg. I thickened it a little with a roux, but that’s my preference. Once it was done, I added a couple of tablespoons chopped tomato and set it aside until show time. The ravioli only needed to boil gently for 7 minutes, and I sizzled up a little fresh asparagus while it was cooking. When it was done, I divided the ravioli on warmed plates, sauced it and added the asparagus. My pictures aren’t that great, but we were dying to eat . . .
When Mr. H took his first bite and got that dreamy look in his eyes, I knew I’d hit a home run!