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What is your favorite stuffed pasta filling?

I'm including manicotti and crespelle in my definition of stuffed pasta because those too offer fillings that could work in ravioli. I made some large ravioli last week with some leftover short ribs, mushrooms and herbs that came out quite well. So what's your special filling or do you keep it classic?

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  1. I'm devoted to the classic ricotta filling. It's very nostalgic for me since I used to make ravioli with my grandmother at Easter. No recipe -- just by taste, and the taste (yes, I taste it with raw eggs and have my whole life, and I'm still here!) is something so wonderful. Now that's not to say I wouldn't enjoy those fabulous short ribs ravs, but when I crave 'em, I crave the classics.

    3 Replies
    1. re: roxlet

      Do you add spinach? How about Parmigiano or other cheeses? Ricotta filling is my fallback, but that means making a trip to the store since I don't keep ricotta in the frig. Must admit I also love butternut squash ravioli with brown butter and sage sauce; unfortunately my husband doesn't like butter sauce....sign.

      1. re: escondido123

        I make the filling with ricotta, Romano, eggs, parsley and sometimes some finely chopped mozzarella. I don't add spinach. It's really simple, but I could eat it by the spoonful!

        1. re: escondido123

          Butternut squash is good that way but I've also had good pumpkin and good sweet potato filled with that preparation. One of our favorite restaurants tops the SP version with ricotta salata and amarretti crumbs in addition to the sauce and sage.

      2. That sounds delicious!

        Roasted butternut squash with ricotta or goat's cheese and fresh sage, as you've mentioned also.

        Spring pea puree with creme fraiche.

        Roasted carrot puree with a spicy oil drizzled over it (i.e. annatto, chile, pumpkinseed).

        1. Manicotti is traditional... ricotta, egg, parmesan, parsley, basil, oregano, S & P... preferably with a creamy vodka sauce.

          Ravioli, though my favorite is ricotta alone, has wiggle room:
          wild mushroom minced and sauted with onions, garlic, and filled with ricotta and gruyere or jarlsberg, with light pesto or simple browned butter sauce
          Spinach, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, ricotta, basil, oregano, parmesan and mozzarella.

          1. My current favorite is a blend of ricotta, reggiano, chopped herbs, minced or ground veal, and chopped spinach. Pretty classic. I also like repurposing leftover braised meats and poultry, as you propose. One of my most popular offerings when catering has been a shredded-duck ravioli in a long-simmered ragu - 1 large rav. per person, as the pasta course before a not too rich dinner. Then there's the vegetarian option I worked out for a friend: chopped braised greens mixed with several rich cheeses, served with a very light fresh tomato sauce, best attempted in Summer when the good 'maters come out.

            1. Has anyone else done the ravioli with an egg yolk inside? It took me a couple tries to make just the right "bed" out of the ricotta to hold and protect the yolk, but cutting into that and having the yolk ooze out was pretty impressive served with roasted asparagus.

              5 Replies
              1. re: escondido123

                So impressed that you make these. I saw them made on a show recently and my mouth was watering. Do you serve them with a sauce?

                1. re: EM23

                  I think they recommended a brown butter sauce, but my husband doesn't like that so we did a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of Meyer lemon--mixed with the yolk it made a nice sauce

                2. re: escondido123

                  Could you please tell us how you make these? I know the dough part, but the rest? This sounds divine.

                  1. re: cwitzke

                    I can give you a general idea. These are large, round ravioli--about 4 inches across--and I cut the dough into circles before putting them together, going to the last setting on the roller and then flattening the outside edge with the fingers. Have your eggs ready to separate. I used a standard filling of ricotta, Parmgiano, heavy cream, s&p though you could add spinach, herbs etc. I put a small scoop of that on the bottom round and then used a spoon to create a well in the middle deep enough to hold the egg yolk. (I separated each egg into a dish and then carefully slid it into the ricotta. Then I gave the top circle one quick pass with a rolling pin, to stretch it a little, dampened the edge and carefully draped it over the filling, sealing the edges like you do any ravioli. Cooked them in a wide, shallow pan until done. (I find the trick is to get the edge of the ravioli as thin as possible or else you will have to cook them too long to avoid chewiness and then the egg yolk gets overcooked.)

                    1. re: escondido123

                      Thanks for the info. I will be trying to make these.

                3. I make these at Christmas. They end up as tortellini (more work) or agnolotti (less work). For the filling:
                  6 oz well trimmed pork loin
                  4 oz Italian mortadella
                  4 oz Italian posciutto di parma
                  1 to 1 1/3 cups freshly grated reggiano parmesan cheese
                  large pinch nutmeg
                  (fresh rosemary leaves, minced cloves of garlic and salt & pepper for the
                  pork loin plus butter to cook loin).

                  Slice pork loin in half lengthwise and season with salt & pepper. Spread
                  fresh rosemary and minced garlic all over the meat. Wrap tightly in plastic
                  wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. When ready to cook pork
                  loin brush off herbs, garlic and excess seasonings. In a skillet over
                  medium high heat melt butter and cook pork loin till done, turning as
                  necessary. Cool then coarsely chop pork and process briefly in the food
                  processor. Don't let it be turn to mush. Remove from processor and add the
                  mortadella and prosciutto to the processor. Process till minced and
                  combined. Add the cheese, nutmeg and the pork and process to combine. Wrap
                  in plastic and refrigerate till needed. I let it sit overnight in the
                  fridge then fill the pasta the next day.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: KateBChi

                    Sounds wonderful, and could certainly be a great dish to make when one has leftover roasted pork. What did you make for a sauce?

                    1. re: escondido123

                      Sauces vary but for Christmas I serve it "in brodo". which is usually made up to several weeks ahead of time and frozen. The broth is a two day affair and is very rich and flavorful made from turkey wings, beef shanks and cut up chicken along with vegetables and aromatics. A healthy handful of grated parmesan cheese rounds out the dish.

                      My family also likes this with a meat (pork & beef) and mushroom ragu which is a more tomatoey version of a Bolognese sauce. The prep is essentially the same including the reduction of wine and the reduction of milk but a lot more tomato is added for the final long simmer.

                      Another way I love to sauce it just "alla Panna" which is a simple sauce of butter, cream & parmesan cheese.

                  2. I'd second a lot of the previous suggestions, but I would add that like others, I like using ravioli as vehicles for leftovers. I have some in the freezer now that are filled with a beautiful hot pink beet and gorgonzola filling, because i happened to have leftovers of both of those ingredients.

                    1. Wow, I just saw a beautiful recipe for Shrimp Shells on Crabgrass. It's a cutesy name, which usually sends me running, but I'm glad I looked: shrimp-stuffed pasta shells on a bed of spinach and crabmeat. Wow. This is a beautiful dish for catering or home parties. Yum.

                      1. Best stuffed pasta I ever had, hands down was the goat cheese ravioli at Volt's Table 21 tasting menu. Creamy, tangy, rich with a butter and sage sauce. Simple as can be and completely addictive!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: aletnes

                          Since my first experience at Volt a couple years ago I've been doing stuffed shells with a ricotta/goat cheese filling. Gets rave reviews and very simple. 50/50 ricotta/goat cheese, plus egg and fresh lemon zest.

                          1. re: aletnes

                            Most likely because my parents don't eat goat cheese our Table 21 experience lacked it but our ravioli was chestnut ravioli maitake mushroom, butternut squash (sauce) and sage (might have been the foam). Delicious!

                          2. From the LL Bean Cookbook:10 cooked manicotti stuffed with: 1/2 lb chopped italian sausage , 1 chopped onion,1 chopped red red bell pepper, all sauteed until cooked then mix with 2 cups chopped cooked broccoli, and bind with 1 cup white sauce.
                            Layer manicotti in buttered dish in single layer, cover with sliced mozzarella, then 1 cup white sauce, then 2 cups of tomato sauce- sprinkle parm on top and bake 30 min at 375 f.

                            I like this better than ricotta and I LOVE ricotta.

                            1. Here is my favorite. VEAL-MUSHROOM FILLING FOR CANNELLONI. I do not remember where i found this recipe so apologies to anyone who should be credited.

                              Glug of olive oil
                              Small onion, diced
                              1 stalk celery, diced
                              2 carrots, diced
                              1/3 c. chopped pancetta
                              ¾ c. diced fresh porcini (or other fresh mushrooms)
                              ½ c. dried porcini, rehydrated in 2 c. very hot water and chopped, ½ c. soaking liquid reserved
                              3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
                              1 lb. ground veal
                              1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, cooked and squeeze-drained
                              1 lg. or 2 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (canned is fine)
                              1 c. whole milk ricotta
                              1 egg
                              1 ½ c grated parmesan, separated ¾ c + ¾ c
                              ½ tsp salt
                              1 tsp pepper
                              pasta squares or rectangles (about 12)*
                              about 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, broken into small pieces
                              3-4 c. your favorite marinara sauce
                              ¾ c. cream

                              Coat heavy-bottomed pot w/a thin layer of olive oil. Add onion, celery, carrot, and pancetta, and over med. heat, cook until pancetta crisps. Add fresh porcini; cook another 1-2 minutes. Add rehydrated porcini and garlic; cook another minute. Add mushroom soaking liquid, raise heat, and cook another 1-2 min. Add veal, breaking it up as it cooks. Once veal browns, add spinach; cook another 1-2 min. Add tomato; cook another 1-2 min. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, whisk together ricotta, egg, parmesan, salt, and pepper. When meat mixture is cool, add cheese mixture and mix until blended.

                              For each cannelloni tube, put a few pieces of mozzarella in a row lengthwise down the center of a pasta rectangle (or square). Spoon filling over mozzarella, leaving space on either side of pasta sheet for folding. Fold sides over, w/edges slightly overlapping, to form tubes.
                              Spread a layer of marinara sauce into your baking dish(es). Lay filled cannelloni, seam sides down, in dish. (At this point, for do-ahead, you can cover w/plastic wrap and store in fridge until ready to bake.)

                              Preheat oven to 375F. Pour marinara sauce and then cream over cannelloni. Sprinkle with remaining ¾ c. parmesan and remaining bits of mozzarella, if any. Bake, covered w/foil, for 30 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another 10-15 minutes.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ctfoodie

                                Two questions. Have you ever tried this with another meat besides veal? The tomato sauce topped by cream in interesting. I assume you get a pink sauce once cooked?

                                1. re: ctfoodie

                                  i actually have only tried it with veal but my experience tells me it would work with most ground meats. Yes, the cream gives you a pink sauce but, truth be told, more than half the time i forget the cream and just use red sauce.

                                2. I've made raviolo stuffed with lamb's tongue, swiss chard, and young pecorino. Excellent.
                                  I make a court bouliion of water, white wine, anise, lemon, mint, and garlic and poach the tongues until tender, then chop them up with blanched swiss chard, mix in an egg or 2 and some nutmeg with the pecorino.

                                  I serve this with a light mushroom sauce.
                                  Toss quartered brown mushrooms into a dry pan with a pinch of salt. This draws out their moisture, concentrating the flavor, and leaves some good browned fond in the pan. Once they reduce in size, drizzle a bit of olive oil, a whole peperoncino (dried or fresh), and a clove of garlic into the pan to start sauteeing. Once the garlic turns golden, remove and discard. Deglaze with a little bit of the court boullion used for poaching and a hit of white wine and let reduce. Drop in a TBLSPN of cold butter at the end to thicken and hit it with some fresh chopped parsley.


                                  1. butternut squash and ricotta cheese. fried sage and brown butter on top. AMAZING

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: LN2008

                                      I love that dish though I use Parmgiano with the squash and no ricotta. A Gorgonzola cream sauce is also heavenly.

                                      1. re: LN2008

                                        Try adding a touch of Amaretto to squash...

                                      2. I haven't made it in a long time, but I have a recipe for ham manicotti with Swiss and Parmesan sauce that's tasty. Something a little different, maybe use up your Easter ham.

                                        It's egg, ricotta, ground cooked ham, minced scallions, Worchestershire, rubbed sage, marjoram, garlic, a few dashes of hot sauce if you like. Stuff the cooked manicotti. Cream sauce with the cheeses. Sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13 pan, line up the filled manicotti, sauce over top, sprinkle with more shredded cheese. Bake at 350 about 30 minutes.

                                        1. Jamie Oliver's Cauliflower and Broccoli stuffed cannelloni are delicious - the stuffing is also good in raviolis


                                          I'm just starting to experiment with liquid filled raviolis - any experiences?

                                          1. older thread but wow, short rib+ sounds incredible!
                                            cheese fillings still wow me but mushrooms and onions is my favorite with spinach a close second. and, much to my pumpkin loving surprise, pumpkin filled pasta was a bummer.

                                            1. My first one I ever made, a classic: drained ricotta, egg, spinach (out of which every last drop of wetness must be squeezed), nutmeg, parmigiano-reggiano, S&P. Sometimes I've put in scallion, but I'd rather not.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                very interesting! i'm new to ravioli-making so this tip about draining/squeezing out water is useful

                                                1. re: treestonerivershrub

                                                  If your filling is too wet, it will seep through and the dough may break open during cooking.

                                                  It helps to cook ravioli in slightly less than boiling water, and drain it and sauce it ASAP.

                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                    amazing! thank you so much!
                                                    i knew that air bubbles could cause possible breakage, but not the water content issue. it really makes sense though.

                                                    and i will try the water temp suggestion too!

                                                    curious, what kind of past maker do you use/ what setting do you roll the dough to?

                                                    1. re: treestonerivershrub

                                                      I use the Imperia machine now. I set it to either the last (thinnest) setting, or the one before it. If the dough feels as if it's too wet -- and it takes time and practice to feel this in your fingertips -- I usually don't go beyond next to last.

                                                      However, I used to own this pasta machine, the Hoan Marcato Ampia, in the tan and brown box, and I was always able to get to the last setting. I liked using it more than I like using the Imperia.

                                                      I don't think the Hoan is made anymore, but if you don't already have a machine, you might look for the Hoan on eBay or Etsy.

                                                      Also, with the ravioli, I prefer using a slotted spoon to remove each piece (maybe two) from the water, as opposed to dropping the entire batch into a colander.

                                                      Sometimes I have luck with a Chinese strainer (spider), but many of those can cut into your pasta dough, so I use a regular slotted spoon.