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Weekend Project - Ravioli

With the upcoming President's Day Weekend I find myself with an entire Sunday and Monday to spend time with a visiting childhood friend and nothing to do except cook. (I'm very excited about this) I've been wanting to try homemade pasta and Ravioli seems the obvious choice for sheer variety. No pasta machine, so we'll be rolling it out by hand.

I'm thinking three varieties. One with a braised meat filling, one mushroom (and cheese?) and one Cheese/Herb or Veggie. I'd like to end up with a freezer full of yum for weeknight meals.
Also thinking about making beef stock while I'm at it...or a delicious long cooked pasta sauce. Since we'll be in the kitchen anyway, might as well have something simmering on the back burner.

So anybody have any recipes for the dough and/or fillings? Flavor suggestions? General ravioli making tips? Fabulous all-day sauce that I would love to have in my freezer?

Thanks in advance 'hounds!

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  1. Check out Hazan's dough recipes- easy to handle, esp if you're not using a machine... 2 pointers- Make sure
    1. Your fillings are not too moist- the excess moisture ruins the pasta dough and it all just falls apart.
    2. Pasta is well sealed. If not, the filling runs out during cooking.
    Filling wise?
    Love beet and goat cheese, squash with sage brown butter, and mushroom with a cream sauce...But that's just me!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bunnyfood

      Which Hazan book am I looking for here? My library has 4 different ones...

      Alternately, could somebody paraphrase the recipe or point me at an online source?

    2. If you're rolling by hand, keep rolling and rolling and rolling. When you think it's thin enough, roll some more!

      Before I had a pasta machine I made ravioli by hand a few times and I never got the dough thin enough. It's really difficult, it should be almost thin enough to see through (if you hold the dough up to the light the shadow of your hand should be very pronounced. Rolling by hand is very labor intensive, be warned and best of luck!

      1. I sure wish Ann Burrell, Mario Batali's sous chef would give us her tips to make pasta, she makes it look like kids play. Obviously doing it over and over is the answer. Does she have a site?

        1. One note is that I have found that I prefer a fairly smooth filling. Ravioli should be smooth and melt in your mouth, and meat textures can get in the way of that. So I tend to throw them in the food processor before filling. It's really a personal preference, but it's something for you to consider.

          1. spend the 29$ and get a pasta roller at bed bath beyond or linens and things, best 29 you'll ever spend even if you use it only once.

            I also second the meat filling in a food processor, otherwise its too "clumpy" like taco meat and "crumbles out" when you take a fork to it.

            Also, with the meat, you want it to be like a mini meatball and stay together, an egg or 2 will work...not too much though, and if it still doesn't hold together in a little ball then a little seasoned breadcrumbs wont hurt.

            either cook right away or freeze right away, no fridge.....and when you freeze, place on a cookie sheet and in freezer until they get a little "hard" then you can put them in a freezer bag.

            remember that they "grow" when cooked so don't make them too big.

            4 minutes when fresh 7-8 when frozen or until they float to the top.. (make sure there is no air in there.

            5 Replies
            1. re: RPMcMurphy

              Run, don't walk, to your local library or bookstore and get "The Lost Ravioli Recipies of Hoboken" by Laura Schenone. This is the ULTIMATE ravioli book with many tips throughout - great reading plus authentic recipies from the old country. Definitely a must have for anyone who makes ravioli on a regular basis.

              Or you could try the St. Louis way and fry those puppies up for something different :>

              1. re: TwoPointers

                Ok, no available copies at the library, but I've got a hold request on it now. Hopefully it will come back sometime in the next 2 days! :)

              2. re: RPMcMurphy

                Our budget is a little tight for me to even get the extra groceries for this project. The $29 dollars for a pasta roller is definitely not in the budget.

                The comments about processing the meat filling are interesting...since that's what I had planned to do until I read an older thread about meat fillings in ravioli's and everybody said that a un-ground braised meat filling was much better. I guess it's a toss up.

                Thanks for the reminder about growing...I always have a hard time managing the size of anything with a filling (tacos, omelets etc). I just add one more little bit until the thing explodes.

                1. re: wawajb

                  To be 100%, perfectly honest with you, I'd recommend toning down the expensive ingredients (like whatever you'll be braising, the mushrooms, the fresh herbs, etc), going half-sies on a pasta machine, and just making plain ricota ravioli. I can almost guarantee that a plain ricota ravioli made with a pasta machine will come out better than anything you've stuffed without it.

                  If you don't get the roller, make one batch first and test-taste. There's a VERY strong chance it won't taste right due to dough thickness. Use that as a basis of comparison for the next batch.

                2. re: RPMcMurphy

                  I second the No Air in There advice. The one time I made ravioli I had a real problem with air trapped in the filling pocket. They burst and it was a mess. We didn't even see big air pockets beforehand - they weren't obvious - so be diligent about keeping the air out.

                3. We make tons of ravioli and here's one of the faves:

                  2 1/4 cups grated pecorino romano
                  6 eggs
                  8 oz grated mozzerella
                  1 bunch swiss chard
                  3 cloves garlic, minced
                  3 lbs ricotta
                  salt and pepper to taste

                  Saute the garlic in a little olive oil and drop in the swiss chard and saute until fully wilted. Chop up the chard by hand or in a food processor. Mix all the ingredients together and you have your filling.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Den

                    That must make an industrial size number of ravioli!

                    1. re: Den

                      About how many ravioli would you expect that to fill? It sounds like a TON.

                      1. re: wawajb

                        That recipe will make about 180 ravioli 1 3/4". Ravioli freeze well so if you're going to go to the trouble to make them, make a lot!

                        You can also buy the 1 pound container of ricotta and make just 60. Just cut the recipe down into thirds.

                    2. Ditto what people have said about the labor intensiveness of rolling by hand. As recipes for pasta go, I like Lidia's. It's basic and simple:


                      1. If freezing, freeze first on a cookie sheet so they don't freeze together. Then transfer to a ziploc bag after frozen. You'd hate to put in all that work and them stick.

                        How about a spinach and ricotta filling? I'd add some parm too and garlic.

                        Maybe a roasted eggplant filling?

                        So many creative choices. Maybe some dessert ones?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: scuzzo

                          Thanks for the freezing tip. My plan is to lay them out in 9 x 13 pan (because a cookie sheet won't fit in my side-by-side. I HATE that fridge.) and then seal them up with a borrowed foodsaver once they're nice and firm.

                          Would it work to lay them out in layers in the pan separated by wax paper or parchment paper or plastic wrap (and which of those would work best?).

                          1. re: wawajb

                            I would forget the foodsaver and just put them in zip locks. The pressure of the foodsaver breaks the edges. Aside from that you end with this frozen mass of ravioli. When you use the zip lock, you just pull out the pieces you need and drop it in the water.

                            As far as the layers, you'll flaten out the ravs but you can do it. Use the parchment or wax paper and flour the tops of the ravs before you layer them. We use full size hotel pans and put 3oz dixie cups in each corner of the pan and put another hotel pan on top with more ravs and put the whole thing in the freezer.

                            As far as your dough, I've made 10's of thousands of ravioli and have never rolled the dough out by hand with a rolling pin. Someone else mentioned Laura Shenone's book the Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken and I've emailed back and forth with her a little and rolling out the dough totally by hand is not as simple as you think. Making dough is easy. Consistency of thickness is not at all easy to acheive for a novice when rolling out the dough. You're probably going to achieve much better initial results by buying an Imperia or Mercato pasta machine and rolling out uniform sheets of dough.

                            1. re: Den

                              I really appreciate the concern on the rolling out. I don't expect it to be easy, or for them to turn out anything other than too thick and probably lumpy on my first try (or first 10 tries). But I really really cannot afford to buy a pasta machine right now. The ingredients I can justify spending money on because it comes out of our food budget, which has some wiggle room in it this week. (and it will be dinner eventually as long as they are still edible) The unnecessary kitchen equipment budget DOES NOT EXIST.

                              Thanks for the layering tips though! :)

                        2. I also agree with everybody who said not to roll by hand. It's really difficult to do. If you don't want to get a pasta maker, have you considered using wonton or dumpling skins?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            I have considered wontons, and decided to try hand rolling anyway. I know it's labor intensive, but I think it's worth trying at least. I actually like my ravioli on the heftier side rather than with feather light skins, so I don't think i would like wonton skin ravioli.
                            I'm really not terribly concerned about the difficulty, my rolling pin and I are very good friends. I'm the designated pastry chef of the family and have been since I was about 10 years old. If it can be rolled thin enough by hand (and I'm pretty sure generations of home cooks have been doing it) then I think I can manage it. Besides, the entire point of this project is to make something challenging totally from scratch. The other contender for weekend project was homemade croissants, so I fully understand the physical labor part of what I'm planning here. Thanks for the concern though. :)

                            All that said...the pasta roller kitchen aid attachement IS on my wedding registry.

                            1. re: wawajb

                              I understand about the satisfaction one gets from making something totally from scratch. I guess if you like your ravioli on the hefty side, rolling the dough yourself wouldn't be that terrible. For me, I prefer my pasta to be lighter. Good luck this weekend! Please let us know how it comes out. : )

                          2. I always make some kind of stuffed pasta over the holidays. It's a lot of work, but certainly satisfying. This year I made up a filling of mushrooms and walnuts. They turned out great with a fairly plain tomato sauce. The amounts I"m giving are a best guess since I was winging it.

                            -20 oz. sliced mushrooms of your choice, sauteed in butter and/or olive oil with garlic, salt, pepper & thyme. After the saute, mince fairly fine.
                            -1 cup minced toasted walnuts
                            -1/2 cup grated parm.
                            - Truffle oil for added mushroom kick

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jwolf

                              thats definitely a great combo, though i add caramelized onions to the mix too.

                              butternut squash is a wonderful filling as is pumpkin or sweet potato.

                              for a mexican twist, try ground turkey or chicken, monterey jack and cheddar and green chiles

                              another onion mixture includes mushrooms, ginger, seasoned rice wine vinegar, chives, and a bit of grated carrot, and soy/bragg's.

                              a little ricotta and apple pie filling

                              olive tapenade and brie or blue cheese

                              salmon w/ eggplant and roasted pepper tapenade

                              personally i like a simple ricotta w/ sweetener, cinnamon and vanilla, then serve w/ a maple reduction

                            2. Ok, so I've been thinking about the overwhelming advice that with handrolling it is going to be difficult to impossible to get decent results. And...I'm still going to give it a try. But i'm going to start off with a half recipe with just a simple cheese filling and try that out. If that goes well then I'll start the mass production and spend the rest of my day making ravioli. If that turns out as thick gummy inedible lumps with some cheese hiding inside...then I'll spend the rest of my day making something else.

                              The catch is that the something else has to make up for the sad ravioli failure. And ideally use some of the same ingredients (eggs, flour, mushrooms, some sort of braise-able meat) plus pantry staples. Any recommendations for fun all day cooking projects? One obvious thing would be to make whatever meat we pick up for cheap (probably just some chuck roast), but that doesn't exactly keep me busy for the day. So what else?

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: wawajb

                                You could still play around with pasta dough and go for fettucini or lasagna noodles. I buy giant shells and stuff them with my own fillings- they freeze beautifully. I like Mary Anne Esposito on PBS for home made pasta - she often free rolls and has a number of good cookbooks.

                                1. re: wawajb

                                  I agree w/ ginny. You could just start rolling the dough. If you get it right, make ravioli. If not, make lasagna which is much more forgiving and you could still use the filling ideas. Den's filling would probably make a great lasagna. You could also make gnocchi. That takes time to roll into the right shapes. And, serve braised meat stew over it.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    Great Idea ginny and chowser. That will work perfectly I think...and we love lasagna almost as much as ravioli. And! it freezes nicely. Ok, plan B is in place. I'm really looking forward to this weekend...

                                    1. re: wawajb

                                      If you haven't made pasta before. Here's a thought. As you roll out, cook some in boiling water first so you know how thick it will get when cooked. Just cut a little strip and boil it. Also, the gluten will relax more with time, if dough is not giving much, let it rest, then roll some more.

                                2. I think that Lidia's book called Lidia's Family table has an excellent section on ravioli with great options and technique. fayefood.com

                                  1. Reporting Back:

                                    Rolling out pasta dough by hand thin enough for good ravioli is hard, but doable. The small of my back and the lower joint of my thumb are both a bit sore...BUT...I have about 5 meals worth of ravioli in my freezer. And while I wouldn't necessarily serve them to company, they are pretty darn tasty. They aren't very pretty though. Getting the dough thin enough was just a matter of patience and elbow grease...but then manipulating that dough into properly shaped and consistent ravioli was a bit hard. So I have some very misshapen little pockets in there. I ended up deciding not to make the meat filling, and just ate the braised short ribs for for dinner last night. So I made a very large batch of 3 cheese & herb and a smaller batch of mushroom.
                                    (and a batch of beef stock, two loaves of bread and a pan of sticky buns. And braised short ribs with spaetzle and asparagus for dinner last night. It was a fun weekend)

                                    I found that the hardest part is getting the filling side of the seam thin enough. (does that make sense...not the outside edge, but the part where the seam ends and the pocket begins) Right there the two pieces of pasta just barely touch, but aren't really pressed together some of my test rav's were chewy. Same feel as when you get two pieces of linguine stuck together (but cooked through, not crunchy) in a thin band around the filling. Not that bad, but not really a good thing.

                                    I used Lidia's recipe here:
                                    for the dough because it was most descriptive one I found that I could still follow. The Hazan description of making dough by hand sounded like I needed 7 hands and a much larger kitchen counter so I read it for general info, but then ignored most of what she said. It was very easy to work with and actually fun to knead. It reminded me of play-dough, only springy.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: wawajb

                                      That is massively impressive that you made the ravioli full stop, and then that you made so many of them, and wrote back!!! I have seen the women that have been making ravioli for a lifetime, both at home, and the ones that would go to a restaurant in the morning, to roll out all of the pasta for them. It is like a ballet. The rolling pin is impossibly long, and it is rolled at all angels, and right up to the elbow. I have tried it because I feel it's important to try, but every time, I end up with loads of bruises and a thankfulness in my heart for my pasta machine. fayefood.com

                                      1. re: fayehess

                                        After reading Hazan's description of the hand rolling (with a 36 inch pin!!) I think it's something I'd love to see. My future BIL is going away to Italy next year on a cooking internship and I'm hoping he'll at least get a chance to see it and then maybe we could figure out how to do it between ourselves.

                                        1. re: wawajb

                                          I'm impressed with your efforts. I like Lidia's fresh egg pasta recipe, too. And, whether they're pretty or not, fresh pasta always tastes amazing. As for that little pocket where the skin seems too thick when they're pressed together, you get the same thing even if you use a roller because it's all uniform. Pat yourself on the back!