"Bring home Italian wine," barked the IM from my other half.
"We’re having Italian food, duh."
Italian food? On a Wednesday? Is it Prince Spaghetti? AAAAAAANNNTHONEEEEEEEEEEE!
No, better than Prince pasta, imagine my surprise upon strolling through the front door to find my very own prince making pasta, diligently cranking dough through our pasta machine. Now, I love making pasta, but this much I can tell you: It goes much easier with an assistant. So I shed my jacket and bag, and returned to the kitchen to lend a hand.
But Anthony, er, DPaul wasn’t content to make mere ribbons of pasta. No tagliatelle or linguine, not even pappardelle. No, he simply had to go and make ravioli. Not that I’m complaining.
We have many recipes for fresh pasta, but this time DPaul selected one from a massive tome blandly titled Italian Cooking Encyclopedia (and loquaciously subtitled, "The definitive professional guide to Italian ingredients and cooking techniques, including 300 step-by-step recipes"). It’s a big, glossy book purchased at a corporate book fair, the kind you expect to be just fluffy food porn, but in fact has absolutely never steered us wrong. Every recipe is flawless. (Edit: DPaul corrected me — the recipe we used came from the Williams-Sonoma Mastering Pasta book. However, the Italian Cooking Encyclopedia is still our main go-to book for Italian recipes.)
The dough was perfect, just enough on the wet side that it could take
on enough flour during kneading and rolling to turn into gorgeous,
silken, yellow sheets, and resilient enough that we were able to rescue
a few mangled strips by compressing them all together and rolling them
back out. In the end, mere scraps were wasted.
We rolled the pasta to setting 8 on our pasta machine, the second-thinnest setting. The gossamer sheets were ephemeral and silken, but also dangerously shifty and prone to sticking to itself. We laid each sheet out to dry a bit before the stuffing began.
After the first couple rounds of laying one sheet of pasta over the other with dollops of filling, DPaul resorted to making agnolotti, folding a single sheet over and cinching along the edges, producing much more regular — and easier — stuffed pasta. So we mixed our ravioli and agnolotti. Who’s gonna tell?
As the ravioli/agnolotti were done, DPaul tossed them into a half-sheet pan, where I gently tossed them in flour to keep from sticking. Because of the thinness of the pasta, moisture from the filling was penetrating through and making the dough gummy. We had to act fast. Once stuffed and tossed, the pan of pasta went into the freezer for a few minutes’ chill to firm up.
We had a few sheets of pasta left over, which I lightly dusted in flour, rolled, and cut into tagliatelle:
As is our wont, we made a large pot of sauce this past weekend. This is what we do in my family — make up a big double-batch of pasta sauce, cook it for hours, then often break it up and freeze batches of it for quick and easy meals. In this case, we still had the whole pot going. A quick seasoning adjustment, and we were good to go.
Water at the boil, DPaul gently lowered the ravioli in with a large spider. In scarcely a minute, they rose to the top, bobbing on the burbling water and begging to be eaten. A quick toss in a pasta bowl with sauce and a dash of pasta water, a scrape of parmigiano and a chiffonade of basil and voila: Midweek ravioli.
And excellent ravioli they were, light as clouds, yet the pasta still had a satisfying snap when you bit through it. Al dente, as they say. In point of fact, we probably could have gotten away with setting 7, which would have made sturdier little pillows, but the lightness of these was nothing short of heavenly.
Now, I would only recommend making ravioli midweek if you are unemployed. The process is lengthy and tedious, though I file it under the category of tedious fun. However, making fresh pasta itself is easy and relatively quick. You can make tagliatelle in about an hour, less if you use the food processor to make the dough (which is what we did this time). Now that I’m newly reinspired to make fresh pasta, I’ll surely do so again in the near future and include a recipe and instructions. But if you want to make ravioli, well, you’re on your own.