My earliest food memory recalls making homemade ravioli with my family as a child. It was typical of Sunday dinner in our household. Everything was made from scratch and everybody pitched in. The task was labor intensive but far more rewarding than buying frozen ravioli from a store. It was an event that brought the entire family together.
Our mother would make the dough by hand and then roll it into long thin strips. My older sister would dot one strip of dough with filling and then lay another strip over the top. I used my hands to form the stuffed strips into little pillow-shaped dumplings. My father would cut the individual ravioli apart with a pastry wheel.
I still make ravioli to this day. Only now it is with my wife Janine. A few modern conveniences have made the process easier but it is still a collective effort. We make the dough in a food processor then knead it by hand. I feed the dough into a pasta rolling machine while Janine guides the long thin strips that come out. I apply the filling while she lays another strip of dough over the top. Together we cut out little scalloped-edged squares with ravioli cutters.
It may still seem like a lot of work, but food just tastes better when everybody pitches in.
Recipe for Cheese Ravioli
Yields 4 servings
For the pasta dough –
- 2 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting work surface
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- Warm water (if necessary)
For the filling –
- 1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup grated provolone cheese
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/4 finely chopped parsley
For the Tomato Sauce –
- 2 28-ounce cans of whole peeled San Marzano Tomatoes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 cup finely diced onion
- ½ cup of finely diced or grated carrots
- ½ cup finely diced or grated celery
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
Place ricotta in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Set colander in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Place flour and salt into a food processor’s large bowl. Pulse food processor briefly to combine. Beat eggs and oil together in a small bowl. Pulse the food processor while slowly adding the egg and oil mixture to the flour. Continue processing until a ball of dough is formed. Add a few drops of warm water if necessary to make the dough pliable. Remove dough from processor and place on a work surface that has been lightly dusted with flour. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for at least 1 hour.
Remove ricotta from refrigerator. Discard any water that has collected in the bowl. Mix together ricotta, all three cheeses and the parsley. Refrigerate until ready for use.
Roll out thin sheets of dough on the countertop or use a pasta machine to create them. Dot the sheet of dough with about one tablespoon of filling every two inches. Using a pastry brush or your finger, moisten the dough surrounding each mound of filling with a little water. Cover with another sheet of dough and press down to remove any trapped air. Seal the edges of the ravioli and cut apart with a pasta wheel or knife. Allow ravioli to dry.
Place canned tomatoes in a large bowl. Crush by hand until desired consistency is reached. Heat olive oil in sauce pot large enough to accommodate the tomatoes. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add carrots and celery. Continue sautéing until vegetables become slightly caramelized. Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until it is reduced to about 4 cups. Taste sauce and season with salt if necessary.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add ravioli and cook until they float to the surface. Remove from water. Add sauce.