Monday, 27 September 2010

PUMPKIN RAVIOLI

My recent visit to Liguria has inspired me! I dusted off my pasta machine - not a hand-cranked one, but a neat automatic device which runs off the motor of my trusty Kitchenaid mixer - and made my own pasta dough. And then I went one step further, and made my own ravioli! I was so chuffed with the result, I had to blog it.

Homemade pasta is relatively easy to make, but it takes a bit of practice, patience and a light touch. It's a little like bread-making, or playing the piano: if you practice, you get better at it! It is also cheap and nutritious, and keeps well when dried.

I use Jamie Oliver's recipe for egg pasta, and I buy pasta flour in Tesco (in the Special section). I used to use strong white bread flour, but its high protein content made the pasta rather chewy. Italian Tipo '00' is the correct flour for pasta. Eggs make it rich. And it needs nothing more: no oil, no water.

Basic pasta recipe:
600g/1lb 6oz Tipo ‘00’ flour
6 large free-range or organic eggs or 12 yolks for a really rich pasta dough

I make the dough in my Kitchenaid, using the dough hook, and then knead it lightly by hand before leaving it to rest, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge. This is an important part of the process and should not be overlooked. At this point, you can leave the pasta until you are ready to use it, or even freeze it.

I roll it through the pasta machine until it becomes silky and smooth, and then I either fit the tagliatelle cutter, or cut it myself to make ravioli. I bought a ravioli mould from Lakeland, but when I tried to use it, I ended up with a sticky mess. This time, I used a circular pastry cutter. The filling for my ravioli was made by roasting a squash in the oven until the flesh was soft. I scooped it out, and added some salt and pepper, and chopped sage. Sometimes I add cheese, or some crumbled amaretti biscuits (yes, really! This is authentic!). The only dressing this ravioli requires is the classic "burro e salvia" (sage and melted butter), and a good handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Four ravioli were sufficient for a filling supper.

The trick when making ravioli is to have a light touch, i.e. not to handle the pasta more than is necessary. I roll out the sheets and then cut the discs to make the ravioli, placing them on a plate dusted with fine polenta. Meanwhile, I set my deepest pasta saucepan on the fastest ring on the hob and get the water boiling. Pasta needs to cook on a vigorous rolling boil. A teaspoon of filling is enough for each ravioli. Seal the discs together by lightly brushing water (note: water, not egg) on one side and lightly secure the sides together. Drop the ravioli into the water and cook for about three minutes. It should be al dente, but not tough. Drain and serve.

Homemade pasta is somewhat labour-intensive, but it's well worth the effort. And it impresses dinner guests no end, for when they ask "Did you make this?" I can reply with confidence, "Of course I did!".

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