Imagine, first time making pasta, no machine in sight, nor an Italian grandmother. Guess what happens next. Watch as hilarity unfolds? Maybe, but not from the countertop, thanks to a nice recipe for Ravioli featured in Cook’s Illustrated‘s May/June 2019 issue.
Specifically, today’s entry is Chicken-Spinach Ravioli, as the magazine’s ricotta-based filling didn’t inspire culinary interest. Instead, stuff the pasta with ground chicken, spinach, Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic and herbs. When properly seasoned, the ravioli pair splendidly with the butter and pine nut sauce the magazine recommends.
Start with a good dough. Just a few simple ingredients listed in the recipe that follows. It comes together easily, without all the fuss that could’ve been necessary. Here’s today’s portion, just minutes after starting, and before it’s wrapped and rested for a couple hours:
Next it’s rolled into strips and is stacked, separated with parchment paper. Working with a piece at a time, filling is applied, the pasta is cut and folded over it and the edges are crimped shut with the handy tool pictured here:
Contrary to what’s instructed elsewhere, there’s no need to moisten the edges to get the pasta to seal. In fact, additional water is a bad thing here, as it makes the pasta gummy and difficult (nearly impossible, actually) to manipulate. It is advisable to force out as much air as you can before sealing the dumpling, then the crimping tool forces together the two dough layers and makes them one. Just like that.
The beauty of this recipe isn’t just in its ease, but in its versatility. It admits nearly any filling the cook’s mind can imagine. Chicken-Spinach is an obvious choice for a poultry fiend, but other varieties beckon and guarantee there’ll be a next time…or four…or a hundred-and-four. Mushrooms would be excellent, and how about seafood? Why, yes! What else? “The task of filling up the blanks I’d rather leave to you.” (Of course. Use any pretext for a Mikado quote.)
Yes, good homemade pasta is possible, even without specialized equipment, or an Italian family to register approval – or not. All you need are two hands, a good recipe and the deliberation to try something this kitchen’s never seen before. It all comes together and leads to speculation that maybe there’s a little Italian ancestry in there somewhere.
For the pasta:
- 2 cups flour, plus more as needed for dusting
- 2 large eggs, plus 6 yolks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until a cohesive dough forms, about 45 seconds. Turn dough onto a dry counter and roll with a lightly-floured rolling pin for about a minute. Form into a six-inch cylinder, cover in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for a couple hours.
Using a pastry knife, cut the cylinder crosswise into six equal pieces. On a lightly-floured surface and using a lightly-floured rolling pin, form each piece into a 12-inch by 9-inch rectangle. Take care to roll always in the same direction. In other words, don’t go back-and-forth. As each sheet is formed, stack it on a baking pan, separating each layer with a sheet of parchment paper or a generous piece of wax paper. Next make the filling (directions for the chicken-spinach variety follow).
Chicken-Spinach Ravioli Filling
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 2/3 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained
- 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons cream
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and combine with a rubber spatula.
Take a sheet of pasta and lay it flat on a surface running it lengthwise across from you (see photo above).. Put a tablespoon or so of filling along the dough’s length, closer to you (again, reference the picture). Space each about half an inch from the bottom and one inch apart.
Using a knife, slice the pasta crosswise, about midway between each dab of filling. Working with one piece at a time, fold the upper end of the dough over the lower end and the filling. Be careful to keep the edges aligned, more or less, and lay the upper half on lightly until you’ve had a chance to press out any excess air from around the filling.
This accomplished, press down lightly around the edges with your thumbs. Run a crimping tool around the perimeter, about 1/16 on an inch in from the edge. Repeat paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 until you run out of pasta, filling, or probably both.
Next make the sauce, the recipe for which is…
Browned Butter-Pine Nut Sauce
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (*1)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Place a medium skillet over a medium-high flame and add the butter. Cook, swirling skillet constantly, until the butter is dark golden-brown and has a nutty aroma, about 3 minutes. Off the heat stir in the pine nuts, salt and chopped greens.
Meanwhile, fill a large saucepan 2/3 of the way with warm water. Add a dash or two of salt and place pan over a high flame. Once water begins to boil, reduce flame to meduim0low, maintaining a gentle simmer. Add six to eight ravioli and cook until tender, about 12 minutes.
Drain the ravioli in a colander, then place them in a shallow bowl. Distribute halved grape tomatoes (*2) around the pasta and pour on some of the sauce, taking care to give everyone some pine nuts (or, alternatively, keeping them all for yourself). Grate some more Parmigiano Reggiano on top, serve and enjoy.
1 – You might want to use cilantro instead, as it isn’t bitter.
2 – Grape tomatoes work because they’re good year-round, juicy and tomato-y whether they’re called forth in July, or in January.