I never hide my love of Italian food, but for some reason, I was always a bit afraid of making homemade filled pastas – agnolotti or ravioli. Turns out, it’s not hard at all – but I did learn a few things along the way. Let’s not call them mistakes. We’ll call them Newbie tips. Deal?
There are many different recipes for the base pasta, but I get eggs from my Penn Farm CSA (you should too!) and had to catch up on the eggs I had stockpiling in the fridge. So I chose Lidia Bastianich’s “Rich Man’s Golden Pasta,” an egg-based pasta that’s rich and velvety, barely needing a sauce.
9 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons ice water
2 cups all-purpose flour
In a cup or bowl, mix the wet ingredients well and set aside.
In a large bowl, sift the two cups of flour. With a fork, slowly mix the wet ingredients into the flour until there’s no more flour visible.
Turn the dough out onto a cutting board or flat surface with just about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of flour on the surface. Any more flour and the dough will get too dry.
Knead the flour over itself, over and over, until it becomes smooth and slightly shiny on the outside.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30-60 minutes.
I used a pasta machine to roll it out, but you can just as easily use a rolling pin. You can skip the gym that day if you do.
Divide the dough into 4 equal parts, and work on one part at a time, leaving the rest in plastic.
* Newbie tip #1: don’t roll out all four pieces at once, even though it seems more efficient to do so. The dough will dry out, making it much harder to work with. You should roll it out enough so that you can read the newspaper through it. With a pasta maker, you’ll roll it out twice at the thickest setting, then go two sizes smaller and roll it twice, and then two more times at two lower settings. The more you roll it through, the more elastic it becomes. Newbie tip #2: I didn’t go thin enough the first time. Still tasty, but heavier than you want it.
Now for the shapes. If this is your first time making pasta, you can simply cut it in strips with a pizza cutter and toss with a little flour if you want to freeze or you’re ready to cook. An easy way to do that is to roll the sheet into a tube and cut (see picture). It’s delicious as it with your favorite sauce, or with some butter and sage, or just olive oil, some Italian seasoning and grated Parmesan.
I was in an experimenting mood (and had no ravioli cutters) so I tried a few different things.
There are also a million different fillings if you want to do agnolotti. Since I still had an over abundance of eggs, that’s what I chose. My favorite filling is simply an egg yolk. You cook the pasta for 3-3 ½ minutes, which is also the perfect amount of time to warm the yolk. The butter and sage go exceptionally well with this. Pair it with some lightly dressed arugula and a crisp white burgundy or the White Pinot Noir that Ricky has over at Buyrite Liquors, and you’re all set.
For the rest of the filled pasta, I used this filling – it’s very similar to the dumplings I make for Italian wedding soup.
Roughly 6 ounces of finely grated Parmesan (not shredded or shaved) You can used half crumbled fresh mozzarella if you like.
Beat the eggs and seasoning well. Add the cheese a little at a time until it becomes like a sticky dough, wet but not runny.
For flat, square agnolotti, lay out your just rolled quarter of the dough. Cut the ragged edges off to make it easy to shape the pockets. I cut the scraps into strips and saved it for later. Place some filling at equal intervals on the sheet of dough. Fold one side over the over, but don’t seal yet. Using your fingers, press the air out of the dough in between each dollop of filling. Seal the long side, then make your cuts to separate the individual ravioli. Pick each up, pressing the edges between your fingers to make sure it’s completely sealed. Set aside on a towel or on a little flour while you prepare the others.
My favorite shape, however, was the “Big hats,” the Capelli Grande – they’re fun to make and you get as much pasta as filling in each bite, which I like.
With your just rolled sheet laid out in front of you, cut the pasta into 2 ½ - 3 inch squares (remembering to keep the scraps for later). Place about two teaspoons of filling in the center of each square. Newbie Tip #3: Don’t overfill the pasta – it will come apart in the pot and ruin the shapes. Trust me.
Pull the diagonal two corners together, then the other two, squeezing the top together in a slight point.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop up to 10 pieces in at a time, stirring gently to keep them apart. As soon as the pot comes back to a rolling boil, cook the pasta for 3 to 3 ½ minutes. Dress as you see fit.
Newbie Tip #4: Before you bring everyone to the table to eat, sit down, pour a glass of wine and be very, very proud.
(I had so much fun making this pasta, I know I’ll be experimenting on many more - especially since I ordered a bunch of ravioli tools - apologies in advance - Terry)