Thursday, July 1, 2010

April Goal: Making Pasta!

Pasta. What can I say? The homemade stuff is worth the hassle. Even without fancy equipment to roll out the dough, I had a blast trying out pasta for the first time. The smooth pliability of the dough fascinated me, especially in contrast with the sticky, difficult bread or pastry doughs I am used to working with.

I chose to make an artichoke shallot parmesan filling, inspired by this Smitten Kitchen post. I wanted to do a simple tomato & cream sauce, otherwise I might have gone with something like a goat cheese/sweet potato filling (which I think would have been gone best with a browned butter sauce).

First I mixed the dough with a few quick pulses in the food processor, and let it sit under a small bowl. Then, after cooking up my filling, I pulsed it in the food processor with some parmesan cheese and worked on making and rolling out the dough. Although it certainly took more time and more strength to roll out that a pie crust, this beautiful stuff didn't tear, and it didn't stick. I'd even go so far to say that it was a joy to roll out.

I should say that it was a joy to roll out the first time. After I had cut out my first batch of ravioli, I rolled up the extra surrounding dough in with my second batch. This was not that great of an idea. The dough scraps had already sucked up the flour from the counter, and they were much more dry than the un-rolled-out dough. And more dry means more difficult to roll out. Next time I'll go easier on the flour or not re-use the dough scraps. So my second batch turned out significantly thicker. Boo.

But my little ravioli punch (the wood and metal device in the top of the above picture) worked like a dream. The inside of it is spring loaded, so it expands to allow a big heap of filling. And when the dough was treated with a dab of water, it sealed perfectly.

The experience of making my own pasta has gotten my creative juices flowing. My specialty is dessert, so how about this? Lightly green pistachio ravioli, filled with ricotta, sauced with a chocolate & brown butter sauce: Bam! Cannoli ravioli. It even has pretty much the most awesome dessert name ever.

But as for the here and now. Here is the recipe:

Artichoke Ravioli with Tomato Cream Sauce
adapted from this recipe at Smitten Kitchen
serves 4 as a side dish, 3 as a main dish

for the pasta
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp water

for the filling
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 small shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 (10-oz) box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 2 tsp water (for ravioli sealant)

for sauce (amounts approximate and for half a batch of ravioli)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup white wine (or more)
1/2 cup cream (half and half or heavy cream)
small handful basil, sliced into thin strips

for the ravioli
1. Blend ingredients for pasta in a food processor until the mixture begins to ball up, and add more water, a drop at a time, if the dough is too dry. Process for 15 seconds more. Transfer to a small plate and cover with a small inverted bowl. Let stand for 1 hour to let the gluten relax.
2. Heat butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, until melted. Add shallots and saute until soft, about 7 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and continue to saute for another 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 or 10 minutes.
3. Transfer artichoke mixture to cleaned food processor, and add cheese, parsley, yolk, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped.
4. Separate pasta dough into 4 sections. Lightly sprinkle your work surface with flour (you don't need much). Take one section and begin to roll it out into an approximately rectangular shape. You want the pasta to be thinner than a dime. has some good tips for getting your pasta thin here. See the original recipe at Smitten Kitchen for instructions for rolling out your dough with a pasta roller attachment.
5. Drop filling into evenly spaced mounds on one half of your pasta sheet. Amounts can range from 1 tsp to 3 tsp depending on the size of ravioli you want to make. Brush the egg white and water mixture around each mound, and fold the empty half of the sheet over the top of the mounded half. Press the pasta down around each mound. Cut around each mound or use a ravioli press to form each individual ravioli. Put them on a sheet of wax paper while you roll out and press the other 3 sections.
6. Bring a pot of salted water to a low boil. Boil ravioli for 8 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Freeze remaining any ravioli (which can be boiled for about 10 minutes straight from the freezer).

for the sauce for 1/2 batch of ravioli
1. While your ravioli is boiling, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat (perfectly ok to use the one you used to make the filling). Add garlic and cook until it just begins to turn golden. Add tomatoes and turn up the heat to medium high. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then add white wine. Cook for 5 minutes. Turn heat to low, and add cream. Salt to taste.
2. Lift ravioli from boiling water, and put into serving bowls. Spoon sauce over the top, and garnish with basil chiffonade.

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