One fond memory I have of the holiday season as a child was visiting my grandfather and our extended family to share in a homemade Italian meal for Christmas. I was pretty young when we gathered for these visits with the family but I remember the love and care invested into the family meal. My grandfather was 100% Italian and he would make his own pasta noodles and sauce, raviolis, pasta a fagoli and Italian sausages. There would also be a plentiful supply of pizza frittes and pizzelles as I recall.
In an effort to reclaim some of those fond Italian traditional goodies, I got it into my head to start making my own raviolis. One of our good friends kindly bought us a ravioli press (right) and pasta book (below) for Christmas and we’ve been cranking raviolis out ever since. (We surpassed 200 raviolis so far!)
Here’s the sweet book we’ve been working with so far. I was particularly excited to read the section on wheats and grains! Sorry to those avoiding gluten because you’re not going to care much for this post. Gluten is your FRIEND when making pasta dough…and in general really. The world needs to embrace gluten a little more than it currently does in my opinion. Anyhow…
Our first few batches of pasta dough were ‘Basic Egg Pasta Dough’ and ‘Whole Wheat Pasta Dough.’ We became huge fans of both. I’ll include the recipe for each at the bottom of this post but for starters, lets chat about basic pasta dough making tips.
The dough is simple in terms of the list of ingredients; flour, eggs and water. Start with the flour and add your beaten eggs. When you start to mix the dough, add in the water. The challenge when making dough is all in how much water you add. Too little and the dough will be hard and tough. Too much and it’ll be a pain when rolling out and forming the raviolis. Add just enough water to bring the dough together into a ball. That ball of dough should be firm enough that you can knead it without needing to flour the kneading board/table yet soft enough that you can knead it by hand without too much force. We kneaded our dough by hand for a solid 10 minutes per batch. We made each batch separately to allow for easier kneading by hand. Lengthy kneading is important to allow the protein in the gluten to bond with the moisture in the water and eggs and form a strong, elastic dough.
After the dough has been kneaded for at least 10 minutes , let it rest for 30 minutes sealed in plastic wrap to ‘relax’ the gluten without letting it dry out. Resting the first batch of dough will give you time to start on the next batch 🙂
Roll the dough to make it as thin as you can but not too thin that you can see through it. We found that peeling the dough up off the table after rolling it out each time and slapping it back down on the table helped the dough roll out easier rather than just smushing out from where it was stuck to the table. (When you roll out pasta dough, this will make sense.)
You shouldn’t need to flour your working surface, flour will only make the dough more firm and dry. When you have the dough rolled out thin enough and in a shape large enough to cover your pasta press, place it over the floured press and press in the wells to allow for
space for the stuffing.
Carefully and neatly spoon your ravioli stuffing into each well. Use your fingers to apply an egg white wash to all edges of each well to act like glue when applying the second sheet of dough to the top of the stuffed wells. Use a small rolling pin (ours came with the ravioli press) to join both layers of the dough together and to begin to separate each ravioli from the others. Use a fork to carefully lift out each individual ravioli. Place the raviolis on a floured pan (separate each layer of raviolis with wax paper or saran wrap that has also been lightly floured.) The beautiful thing about homemade raviolis is that you can make a ton all at once and freeze them for later use. We stacked ours in an aluminum pan and froze it for several hours until all the raviolis were completely frozen and then we were able to store them in freezer bags for later use.
- 1 pound of cooled browned ground beef (or Italian sausage)
- 2 pounds of ricotta cheese (mixed with 2 whole eggs, 2 Tablespoons of parsley, salt and pepper)
- 8 ounces of wilted baby spinach (cooled also!)
Combine these three items in a bowl to use as your stuffing. This quantity of stuffing will be enough for approximately 4-5 batches of pasta dough, yielding about 200 raviolis. We ended up making 2 batches of Basic Egg Pasta Dough and 3 batches of Whole Wheat Pasta Dough with just a little dough remaining to make some fettuccini noodles (just for fun!)
Basic Egg Pasta Dough
- 3 cups of all-purpose white flour
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 egg yolk
- 2-3 Tablespoons water, room temperature
Whisk the eggs and yolk together and add to the center of the flour. Add the water 1 Tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together to form a ball.
Whole Wheat Pasta Dough
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 egg white
- 6 Tablespoons water, room temperature
Combine the whisked eggs and egg white with the 6 Tablespoons of water and add to the center of the mixed flour. Begin to combine the dough. You will need to keep adding additional water (between 7-9 more Tablespoons) until the dough comes together and forms a workable ball.
Boiling the Fresh/Frozen Raviolis
- Fresh or frozen raviolis: Boil approximately 10 minutes for the Basic Egg Pasta Dough raviolis and 15 minutes for the Whole Wheat Pasta Dough raviolis. (My mom always said when all the raviolis are floating at the top of the water, its time to pull them out.) Liberally salt your water.
- If you have extra cooked raviolis leftover, store them in the refrigerator separately from the pasta sauce. The sauce tends to overwhelm the pasta dough and they don’t taste near as good the second time around if they’ve been ‘tainted’ overnight by the sauce.
At the moment, I don’t have a ‘beauty shot’ of the final cooked raviolis. They were immediately devoured as soon as sauce was applied 🙂 Perhaps I’ll add a photo later.