I like my pasta with sweat

A few evenings ago I had a strong desire for fettuccine with my some of my awesome alfredo sauce. Nothing fancy, fairly quick, and rather delicious. I thought about it for a few minutes, finishing up some work, trying to find a good pausing place. When I finished, I was filled with much anticipatory joy for the dish. Unfortunately I nearly started breaking things when I saw that my pantry lacked, of all things… pasta. I had a few options: give up, eat something else; go to the store and buy some pasta; or… make some, of course!

I had never made pasta before. I didn’t really know how to other than “add some flour, add some eggs.” So that’s what I did. I started off with way too much flour and not enough egg. Slowly I seemed to balance everything out correctly… my dough was smooth and elastic. I was so worked up in getting the right texture, that I didn’t really think to add anything to it, which I suppose is fine. After about an hour of playing and kneading, and another 40 minutes to let it settle, I had about 5 pounds more than I needed. I broke some off – a workable chunk – and realized that I didn’t have a dough roller. That sucked, but I ended up dismantling a table with a smooth cylindrical leg, which worked fine.

After about 20 minutes of rolling, the dough was flat enough to start cutting. By hand I cut enough fettuccine-esq pieces to satisfy my appetite, and well, tossed the other 5 pounds of dough away – a good learning experience – at least now I know a good ratio. Then after about 10 minutes of boiling, I tossed it with my sauce, and – eugh. It was “okay.” The pasta was way over done and just creepy. But the sauce was good, and I was hungry, so I ate it.

But this experience left me curious. I wanted to make good pasta, and tonight I struck gold. I decided this time to try ravioli – at least it wouldn’t be as annoying to cut by hand. I also decided to play with flavor and color a little too, and strove to be less messy (use a mixing bowl, instead of the counter). What I ended up with was just amazing, and honestly probably one of the very best pasta dishes I have ever had. I guess the whole point of this post is to share my new-found-impromptu ravioli, so here it is:

The Pasta

In a large mixing bowl, mix together very well:

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • ~1 teaspoon salt
  • A few good shakes of fresh ground pepper and paprika
  • A small handful of finely chopped fresh spinach

In another bowl, mix:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • About half of another egg yolk for darker color, save the white for glue later

Then pour the egg into the mixing bowl, and mix, knead, pound, sweat, roll, fold, and stir, dusting with flour as you go. I did this by hand for about 20 minutes non-stop until it was smooth and elastic. Mold a nice ball, dust with flour, and brush on some olive oil. Cover in plastic wrap, and let it sit for about 40 minutes. Move on to the filling.

The Filling

Three words: beef, spinach, cheese. Delightful. Brown some lean ground beef, season lightly. In a mixing bowl, combine one “thing” (tub, maybe a cup, cup and a half) of ricotta cheese, about two cups of mozzarella, and maybe a cup or two of fresh parmesan. Splash in some olive oil, salt, pepper, whatever and mix. Add the ground beef when it’s done, make sure it’s really broken up. Then grab two or three handfuls of fresh spinach, and coarsely chop and add to the beefcheese. Mix it all well.

The Delight

After the dough is ready, roll it out, really thin, and mark the dough in half. Cover one half with a light coating of egg wash (the saved egg white from earlier). On the other half, place generous portions of filling, spaced about 1.5-2 inches apart. Fold the egg-washed side of the dough on top of the filling side, and press into individual raviolis. Cut them out, but leave most of the excess dough on the piece — it’s delicious. Boil them for about 5-6 minutes (FRESH pasta, something I should have thought about with the fettuccine). As soon as you start boiling, begin preparing the plates. I put a light layer of mozzarella and parmesan on the plate with some fresh chopped parsley. When the ravioli is done, place them on the cheese plate, and coat with more cheese, a light coating of olive oil, cracked pepper, and some more parsley. I prepared them large enough that 2-3 pieces is filling and large enough to cover a plate.

EAT. It was amazing.

I wasn’t sure if I should make a sauce or not, but honestly, I didn’t have the timing of the meal down properly to allow for making a sauce without letting something sit when it would be better consumed hot and fresh. But the pasta itself has so much flavor, that a dusting of cheese and oil is all it needs. The filling melts in your mouth. It’s just awesome.

The recipe left me with about 12 pieces of large ravioli. I only cooked and ate three, and am going to see if they keep in the fridge for tomorrow for lunch – just need to boil them. I wish I had taken a picture.

So now I’m thinking…

Dear Lazy Web: I need a pasta machine. I like making pasta now, but spending an hour making the dough, and another thirty minutes rolling it sucks. Any suggestions?

Oh, I’m releasing Banshee 0.11.0 next Monday. MUCH more to come on that, very soon. Readers be warned :-)

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12 Responses to I like my pasta with sweat

  1. Lorenzo says:

    My grandmother use to have an Imperia one. To fill ravioli try spinach&ricotta. I like also pumpkin ones: more sweet but also more delicate.

  2. Thanks for making me spit coffee on my screen. “Cyllindrical table leg worked fine”, sheesh!

  3. Ian Williams says:

    Stick with the manual dough-making and rolling! Slow cooking makes for better programming – it induces that state of mind in which problems are solved, and great ideas percolate.

  4. I find using a food processor for the initial mix of flour and eggs saves a lot of time. You still knead the dough once its been combined, but it takes less than 10 minutes to have good dough.

    As for the rolling, I have a generic hand-cranked machine from John Lewis (generic department store in the UK). Not much to say about it – one end rolls the dough, the other end lets you cut it for fettuccine or linguini depending which sized cutter you run it through.

    Its worth experiementing with flavoured pastas as well. Finely chopped spinach in the dough gives you a nice green pasta. Chillies are interesting as well. I have even read of chocolate pasta – but haven’t tried that yet.

  5. Jan Schmidt says:

    Dude! I’m drooling just reading it.

    Now I’ve gotta try making my own pasta sometime too :-)

  6. jensen says:

    Jamie Oliver uses this one to make the dough very thin: http://www.cookware-online.co.uk/ishop/930/shopscr1304.html

    It’s in almost all his tv shows so it must be ok.
    19.99GBP is about 37USD or 29EUR.

  7. Nermal says:

    Mmmm.. thanks for this :)

    Any particular flour that needs to be used or is plain flour ok ?

  8. Tim says:

    We use the standard Imperia (plus electric motor–cheating, but we got a good deal, and it’s so convenient!) with a few different cutting attachments. We use a Kitchenaid mixer to do the dough. Works pretty well but it’s sometimes hard to get the initial dry dough to start to stick together. Don’t add too much liquid, though, otherwise it will be impossible to roll and cut properly.

  9. Nermal: Strong ’00′ grade flour is best I find.

  10. Brian says:

    The Imperia is the oldest, and still the best. My grandmother is a first-generation immigrant from Italy; she bought one before she came over in the 1940s and still uses it every Christmas Eve. The dough is a snap with a KitchenAid, too.

    http://www.amazon.com/V150-Imperia-Noodle/dp/B00004SPDH

  11. I really do enjoy putting the work into the pasta, and yes Ian, I found that while I was working the dough, thoughts were flowing freely and I found going back to work after dinner for a bit was very productive.

    Also, Ian, my main problem is a lack of counter space, so rolling the dough is overly cumbersome and frustrating. Using a table leg to do this doesn’t help because it’s way too wide :-). I think I’m going to buy the Imperia hand machine just for the sake of getting nicer looking and more uniform pasta, and it eliminates the counter space issue.

    I don’t want a fancy electric one that does the mixing, kneading, and rolling for me though – that’s no fun! Jakub, I’m going to buy a real dough roller too, so I can put my furniture back together!

    While I’m at it, might as well pick up a drying rack too so I can make a good amount in one pass. Making pasta for just for one meal doesn’t seem like a good use of time.

  12. Rhea says:

    Oh my…reading this makes me feel that I just fell into the rabbit’s hole.

    Curious…

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