Fresh pasta doubly delicious when you both make and then eat it! Ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta is one of the most classic pasta dishes, and with its fresh and delicate taste is pure poetry for the palate. The combination of spinach and ricotta cheese is a romance that has lasted for years, perhaps one of the most successful marriages in the history of the Italian cuisine. This dish is something I used to prepare with my mom for our Sunday lunch or special events with family and friends, such as Christmas dinner or Christmas Eve, because it is a meat-free recipe, according to the Catholic tradition.
It is not difficult to make it, especially if you use a pasta machine and a raviolatore – a Ravioli form. It’s a standard family activity with my kids. Team work is pretty useful for this recipe, because fresh pasta dries out quickly (faster than you think). I would suggest rolling out only part of the pasta, keeping the remaining dough well-covered with plastic wrap while you prepare a few ravioli at a time.
The typical sauce is butter and sage with some grated Parmesan on top, but you can also serve it with fresh tomato sauce and basil leaves.
RAVIOLI CON SPINACI E RICOTTA (RAVIOLI WITH SPINACH AND RICOTTA)
320 g (about 2 1/4 cups) Italian Grade 00 flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
320 g (11 oz) frozen spinach leaves
230 g (about 9 oz) fresh ricotta cheese
50 g (½ cup) Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg to taste
1. Prepare the filling. Cook the frozen spinach in a covered pan for 5-6 minutes. Drain, squeeze gently to remove most of its moisture and chop. Set aside. In a bowl mix the ricotta, Parmesan cheese, salt (if necessary), pepper and nutmeg to taste. Mix well. Add the spinach and mix. Cover and refrigerate until needed
2. Prepare the pasta. Place the flour in a volcano-shaped pile on a work surface (wood is the traditional material) making sure that the crater provides a large enough well in the center to hold the eggs. Wash the eggs under running water and crack into the well. Beat the eggs well with a fork, then gradually blend the flour into the eggs, starting from the inner wall of the well and continuing until all the flour and the eggs are completely combined. You may have to add additional flour until the dough is no longer sticky (the amount will depend on the absorption characteristics of the flour and on the temperature of the room). Knead the dough for about 15 minutes to form a smooth and elastic ball. This procedure helps develop the gluten in the flour, so your pasta will be springy and al dente when it is cooked
2. Place the dough in a clean cotton dish towel or plastic wrap to rest for about 20 minutes at room temperature. Divide your pasta into 4 equal parts and roll out one part at a time (keeping the rest in the dish towel until ready to work)
3. ROLLING OUT BY HAND. To roll out your pasta you need a wooden pin, or mattarello. Dust each piece lightly with flour and roll out to the desired thickness. Work quickly because the pasta dries much quicker than you might think. Cut the pasta into rectangular sheets according to the raviolatore size
4. ROLLING OUT BY MACHINE. A hand-cranked pasta machine is the best to use. Kids especially love this part. Start out using the widest setting. Run the pasta through 6-7 times, until the dough is smooth. If the sheet tears dust it with flour. Continue to run each sheet through the machine, reducing the thickness a notch at a time, until you reach the desired thickness, about notch 5. At this point follow the same procedure as for rolling out by hand
5. Dust the ravioli form – raviolatore – with some semolina flour and place one sheet of pasta on it, with some extra on each side
6. Remove the filling from the refrigerator and fill each hole, about a scarce teaspoon. Brush the adges of a second sheet of pasta lightly with some water and place it on top of the filling to cover. Lightly press the two sheets of pasta together with your fingers and roll the rolling pin on top
7. Remove the ravioli, still attached one to the other. Lay on working surface (wood is better, or else a clean cotton cloth) dusted lightly with semolina flour, until the pasta dries a little bit. It will be easier to separate the ravioli. Separate them using a pasta wheel
8. Boil plenty of salted water and cook ravioli for 5 minutes. Before removing you should taste, the pasta should be al dente. Gently remove with a skimmer and serve with your favorite sauce. I suggest with butter and sage.
Note: This recipes makes about 5o ravioli (2, 5 X 2.5 cm, 2 x 2 inches), it can serve 4 abundant portions or 6 regular ones. I would recommend to eat it the same day. – Paola