Making Homemade Ravioli

ricotta ravioli bowl Do you have a favorite kitchen project?

Mine might be making ravioli. I’ve been doing it for years (and years) so this may sound ridiculous, but I still get an enormous sense of accomplishment when I stand back and look at a batch of hand-cut ravioli that I have just made. I straighten the rows in which I have placed them, on baking sheets or on a tablecloth. I scrutinize them to see how each one is different from the next. I count them once, twice, three times. I admire them.

ravioli with cutter unedited

The beauty of making hand-cut ravioli is that it can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be rushed. The process requires a certain amount of concentration, of repetition, of contemplation. It’s the sort of task in which you can lose yourself, for just a little while, on a winter weekend afternoon.

A few years ago, when I was working on The Glorious Pasta of Italy, I bought one of those ravioli molds, a two-piece aluminum and plastic ravioli press that (allegedly) makes quick work of the process, turning out a dozen perfectly shaped square pillows at a time.

filling ravioli

I’ve used it exactly once and probably won’t use it again. For one thing, it didn’t work as well as advertised; my ravioli clung fast to the mold and had to be banged out. For another, it took away the pleasure of hand cutting. My hand-shaped ravioli may not symmetrical but their imperfection is what makes them beautiful. At least I think so.

BW ravioli

These ricotta ravioli are a specialty of Abruzzo. The dough incorporates semolina flour in addition to the more finer “00” pasta flour and so is a little rustic. The filling is typically made with fresh sheep’s milk ricotta, a ubiquitous ingredient in Abruzzese cooking, but hard to find here in the U.S. Instead I use fresh cow’s milk ricotta, which is a softer and little tangier but still makes a tasty filling (make sure to drain it before using).

Ricotta ravioli go well with a great variety of sauces. I dressed this particular batch with browned butter and crispy fried sage, but I often use melted butter seasoned with a generous pinch of saffron threads. You can also use simple tomato sauce or a hearty meat sauce. In any case, don’t forget a sprinkling of pecorino or parmigiano cheese at serving time.

handcut ravioli

A couple of things to keep in mind when you’re making homemade ravioli:
*  Because ravioli are folded over and sealed, the dough needs to be stretched thin so that the finished ravioli aren’t too thick. I use my hand-crank pasta machine for this. You should be able to see the shadow of your hand through the ribbon of dough.
* Make sure to sprinkle your work surface with semolina to keep the ravioli from sticking. Semolina does a better job than flour of preventing this and is less readily absorbed by the fresh pasta dough.
* Use a judicious amount of filling; too much and your ravioli will burst at the seams when you cook them.
* Use just a bit of water to moisten the strips of dough before you fold it over the filling. This will keep your ravioli from coming apart during cooking.
* Once you have folded the dough over the filling, be sure to press all around to remove any air bubbles. This will help keep the ravioli sealed.
* Get yourself a pastry cutter. I got mine at La Cuisine, a kitchenware store near my house. I love it because it has two spurs, a straight-edged one and a fluted one. And it’s made in Italy.
* If you are not going to cook your ravioli immediately, place them on a towel-lined baking sheet that has been dusted with semolina and pop them in the freezer. Freeze them until firm, then transfer them to a tightly lidded container and return them to the freezer until it’s time to cook them. (I freeze mine even if I’m going to be cooking them later the same day.)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Homemade Ricotta Ravioli

These delicate, hand-cut ravioli, a specialty of Abruzzo, are filled with a simple mixture of ricotta and pecorino cheeses. You can dress them a simple tomato sauce or meat sauce, saffron-tinged butter, or browned butter and sage, as I've done here. But be sure not to over-sauce them ~ their light texture and subtle flavor is what makes them so special.

Ingredients

  • 1 batch All Purpose Egg Pasta Dough
  • 12 ounces fresh sheep's milk ricotta or well-drained cow's milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated aged pecorino Abruzzese or pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Semolina flour, for dusting the work surface and the dough

Instructions

Make the pasta dough according to the recipe directions. While the dough is resting, make the filling:

In a medium bowl, work the ricotta with a fork until smooth. Stir in the cheeses, egg and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cover two large rimmed baking sheets with clean kitchen towels and sprinkle the towels with a light coating of semolina flour. Sprinkle your work surface with a light coating of semolina flour as well. Have on hand a fluted pastry wheel for cutting the ravioli, a glass of water for wetting your fingers to seal them, and (optional) a fork for sealing them.

Once the ball of pasta dough has rested, cut it into quarters and rewrap three of the pieces. Using a pasta rolling machine (I use my faithful old hand-crank Atlas), and working notch by notch starting with the widest setting, stretch the first piece of dough to about 1/16 inch thick or slightly thicker (notch #5 or 6 on my machine). The strip should be thin enough for you to see the shadow of your hand behind it, but not so thin that it tears. If the strip of dough becomes to unwieldy, cut it in half crosswise and continue to stretch each piece separately.

Carefully lay the strip of pasta on the semolina-dusted work surface. Mound a rounded teaspoonful of filling at 2-inch intervals along the length of the strip, slightly below center. Dip a finger in water and moisten along the bottom edge of the strip and around each mound of filling. Carefully fold the top of the strip, lengthwise, over the filling so that the top edge meets the bottom edge. Press all around the mounds of filling to squeeze out any air and to seal them. Use the fluted spur on a pastry cutter to cut along the bottom edge. Then cut between each mound to create square ravioli. Or, cut around each mound to make a fan shape. Press to seal with your fingers, or use the tines of the fork to seal them. Lay the ricotta ravioli on one of the towel-lined baking sheets. Gather the scraps of dough, put them in a zipper-lock bag and set them aside.

Continue to stretch, fill and shape the remaining dough pieces, collecting the scraps as you go. You should end up with 50 to 60 ravioli. If you plan to cook them within the hour, leave the ravioli out. Otherwise, put the baking sheets in the freezer and freeze the ravioli for 1 hour, until solid. Then transfer them to a tightly lidded container and store in the freezer until ready to cook (up to 1 month).

(Check the reserved scraps. If they are brittle, discard them. Otherwise knead them and re-roll. Cut into noodles or maltagliati, spread out on a semolina-dusted tray and freeze. Transfer to a tightly lidded container and freeze for future use.)

To cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and salt generously. When the water is boiling, carefully drop the ravioli into the pot ~ cook them in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pot. Cover the pot until the water returns to a boil and then uncover and cook the ravioli for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are just tender (they will be floating on the surface).

Scoop up the ravioli, a few at a time, with a large skimmer, taking care to let excess water drain off. Place the ravioli in a warmed serving bowl and spoon heated sauce or melted butter over them (I like melted butter flavored with saffron or sage). Sprinkle a little cheese on top and serve immediately.

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29 Responses to Making Homemade Ravioli

  1. ciaochowlinda January 28, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    I have one of those ravioli forms that makes uniform individual ravioli, and I have to say it works great. But there’s something about the hand-cut ravioli that brings back all the love and memories of Italy to me. I’m still looking forward to making your carrot ravioli after seeing them in your latest book, and in Adri’s gorgeous photos on her blog, Adribarrcrocetti.com.

    • Domenica Marchetti January 28, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

      Linda, yes, so many wonderful memories tied up in making hand-cut ravioli. It’s one of the first kitchen jobs I was tasked with doing (that, plus cracking nuts, which was not nearly as much fun). Loved Adri’s post on the carrot-ricotta ravioli. Glad you mentioned them.

  2. Adri January 28, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    I love making ravioli, and my grandmother’s ricotta and chicken ravioli were an absolute delicacy. Her filling recipe is very much like the one you present, but with the addition of shredded poached chicken breast meat. Growing up, her ravioli were such a special treat, and to this day I make them just as she did.

    Some of my fondest childhood memories are of making ravioli with my grandmother, Angela, in her kitchen The way she rolled out the dough, stretching it ever thinner was like watching magic. My cousin Dino and I were ‘the little ones’, and so that meant we got the job of “fork patrol.” We crimped those darn edges as if our lives depended on it. Oh, what care we took, and what pride. Funny, what tiny things can evoke the best memories. My cousin passed away years ago, but when I think of him, I think of standing in grandmother’s kitchen, the light streaming in through a window, glinting off our little blonde heads!

    I’ve got one of those ravioli plaques, too, and after much aggravation I discovered that the secret to success was to rub the edges and borders of the plaque with a bit of olive oil. The ravioli pop right out. That tool, however has spent much more time in the cupboard than out of it. I’m with you and Linda – handmade are truly special. And thank you, Linda, for the kind words about the Carrot Ravioli. What a nice surprise!

    • Domenica Marchetti January 28, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

      Adri, thanks for sharing your beautiful memories. My job was the same ~ crimping the edges of the ravioli with a fork. Like you and Dino, my sister and I were good little soldiers. My mom puts finely ground chicken in her cappelletti filling. I like the idea of adding it to these delicate ravioli. As for the ravioli press, I think I’m probably too old to change my tune on that thing…but I was really intrigued by that little cavatelli crank you wrote about. Might just have to get one of those. Cheers, D

  3. sippitysup January 28, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    Everything about ravioli should be touched by the hand. Contraption be damned… GREG

  4. Phyllis @ Oracibo January 28, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    You know, I never cared for ravioli until I made them from scratch! What a revelation..they were so light and wonderful! A simple sauce is the best way to go, in my opinion. One of my favourite fillings has cauliflower in it…delicious! Thanks for reminding me that I need to get off my duff and make some ravioli soon. Hubby’s upcoming birthday…hmmm….

    • Domenica Marchetti January 29, 2014 at 8:44 am #

      Phyllis, you raise a good point. Outside of Italy, there are very few places at which I’ve enjoyed good ravioli ~ especially not the kind you get in the refrigerator case at the supermarket. I’ve never had a cauliflower filling, what a great idea. I’m curious as to what else you flavor the filling with…some sort of cheese, I imagine?

      • Phyllis @ Oracibo January 31, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

        I will send you the recipe for the filling. Would the best way to do that be on FB? or what would you suggest?

      • Phyllis @ Oracibo January 31, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

        Cauliflower filling: 1 Tbsp. ea. butter & veg. oil; 3 cups 1″ cauliflower florets, 1/2 cup water, 6 Tbsp. each ricotta & Parmigiano, 1/3 cup mascarpone. Melt the butter & oil over med. heat in a large skillet; add cauliflower; sprinkle with salt & pepper, sauté until golden. Add 1/2 cup water, cover, simmer until tender. Uncover, cook until dry. Cool completely. Blend the cheeses until smooth (processor). Add cauliflower, process until smooth. Chill until ready to use. SAUCE: 8 oz. guanciale cubes, chicken stock & butter. The usual: fry guanciale til crisp, add 3 cups stock, 1/4 cup butter, reduce by half. I hope you like it, we really do!

        • Domenica Marchetti January 31, 2014 at 11:13 pm #

          Phyllis ~ I’m glad you posted the filling recipe here in the comments section; that’s just what I was going to ask you to do, as I’m sure there are others who will be interested in making it. Is this a recipe you created? Or do you know its origins? Sounds delicious! Many thanks for sharing it.

          • Phyllis @ Oracibo February 1, 2014 at 12:00 am #

            No I did not create it…found it a few years ago in Bon Appetit made the filling as is & didn’t feel that I needed to change anything once we had made it, unusual for me! Of course, I used locally grown cauliflower which is sooo sweet, locally made guanciale and homemade chicken stock.

  5. Frank Fariello January 29, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    I’m with you, Domenica. Those molds are just too constricting and, frankly, I kind of like the imperfections you get from hand cutting. So much more personal and approachable. And I have to admit, I’ve learned about not overstuffing them the hard way!

    • Domenica Marchetti January 29, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

      Learning by doing is the best way though, isn’t it Frank. I think the tendency with ravioli is to overstuff and also to try to cook them all at the same time. But restraint rules in both cases.

  6. amelias (z tasty life) January 29, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    bellissimi! fatti a mano sono un’altra cosa….

  7. jamielifesafeast January 29, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    I will try it again. I have tried making homemade ravioli maybe twice (yeah, they stuck to the little contraption when I tried it once… never again) and I couldn’t quite get the dough to the right thickness. It was either too thick or too thin. Yours are gorgeous (of course) and I love the filling… really the best. You sold me.

    • Domenica Marchetti January 29, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

      It’s one of those things that gets easier each time you do it Jamie. The thickness (or thin-ness) of the pasta is key. It’s true that the strip of pasta should be thin, but not so thin so that it tears. I’ve rolled it out so thin that the top of the ravioli splits open when they cook. So, like Frank, I’ve learned my lessons the hard way. I think the semolina in this dough recipe helps a bit in keeping it from being too fragile.

  8. elisa January 29, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    You just did what I did during these sub-zero temperatures! I stayed at home and I thought that was the perfect time to make homemade pasta, I usually don’t have time for lengthy preps, but ravioli for me are “a poetry for the psyche”, I used ricotta ,sausage and the peperoncino abruzzese I froze enough for another “psyche session”…Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

    • Domenica Marchetti January 29, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

      Yes! That is such a perfect description of what making ravioli is ~ a poetry for the psyche. I do it whenever I feel like time is rushing by too fast and I need to slow things down. It’s a form of therapy really, isn’t it.

  9. Cristina January 30, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    My 85-year old aunt in Italy still makes hand-cut ravioli and they are wonderful. My dad used to make them as well. As for me, even though I know how, have not made them yet. I’ve been baking and staying warm in the kitchen with all this bitter cold we’ve had!

    • Domenica Marchetti January 30, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

      Cristina, how wonderful that your aunt still makes homemade pasta. My mom continued to make it until very recently. These cold temps really do drive us all into the kitchen. I hope you will give homemade ravioli a try sometime. I’m sure you’d enjoy it. Cheers and thanks for your comment.

  10. paninigirl January 30, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Ravioli are my favorite! I’m always reminded of Sunday lunches with my grandparents when I make them. I’ve always hand cut them-there’s something therapeutic about forming them!

  11. Laura (Tutti Dolci) January 31, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    Beautiful ravioli, they look so light and wonderfully delicate!

  12. WhatJessicaBakedNext... February 2, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Amazing! I love making homemade ravioli- so delicious! :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Fav Reads On Italy This Week: Jan 31 - BrowsingItaly - January 31, 2014

    […] Making homemade ravioli by Domenica Cooks – I can understand why Domenica stands back and admires her work of art, they are simply beautiful. While it does take time to make ravioli, the ingredients are simple and served with sage and butter, it’s a delightful dish! […]

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