Handmade, No Machine

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:Pasta Cylinder

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:Pre-Ravioli

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.


Chicken-Spinach Ravioli

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.



36 thoughts on “Handmade, No Machine

    1. Thank you, Tamara! After accepting for decades what other people though would be good fillings, a chance at last to call the shots. Truly empowering, and I was surprised at how relatively easy it was.

      How about you, Tamara – what ingredients would you choose?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And how!

        You know me, Tamara – poultry and shellfish have me in such a state, but if I ever were to go vegan, mushrooms would be the only thing which would make it possible. Sure, asparagus, artichokes, corn, raspberries and peaches all would have something to say, but the ‘shrooms are make or break!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The fun part, Crystal, is that it really is simple! The processor does most of the work, making kneading and rolling quick and easy.

      Oh yes, mushrooms. The next time I make this, that will be the filling. Dice them well, sauté them and minced garlic in a little butter and salt and pepper to taste. Oh, and maybe a little fresh thyme, chopped fine. Mmm…mmm….mmm! Great suggestion, Crystal!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. cooking is one of the all-time fav things to do in the universe right there with reading! and making my own pasta… a dream I hope to achieved when my kids can drive themselves to places and I get some of my life back! 🙂

    We (the kids and I) once yeeeeears agoooo made pumpkin gnocchi with browned butter and sage sauce and we all LOVED I! I’ll make this recipe the next one we make together!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great idea, Mar, though your experience sounds much more creative and delectable than is mine. Why not incorporate pumpkin and sage into the pasta itself, fill the ravioli with minced shrimp and garlic, then drizzle it with browned butter? It’d be perfect for the “R’ months (that is, September through April). To the point, you just might spend the summer hoping for cold weather, just so you can try this treat again.

      Inspired, Mar! You are a writer, after all, no matter whether you create magic with novels, or with recipe cards!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Tiffany, though very little agony was involved. Promise!

      Into the processor all the ingredients went, and out came a cohesive dough which was quite cooperative. Then, as you know, the fun part comes in cutting and filling each morsel.

      Hey, I thought life wasn’t supposed to be like this – nominal work, and then good times. Oh, and we haven’t come even to the REALLY fun part, eating. What am I missing here?


  2. Believe it or not but I have made ravioli from scratch at home before in my adventurous culinary days. It’s so incredibly delicious but I also know how much work it is. I’m sure it was nothing for you though with your wizard-like skills!
    Did you roll the dough by hand? I had a pasta roller for a while. It was rather fun. It was the old crank type though so it was still a bit of work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well then, JoAnn, you know just how satisfying – dreamy, actually – homemade pasta is.

      I gotta tell you, though, making the dough from scratch has an appalling reputation, one which thoroughly intimidated me. When the current recipe presented, with the food processor eliminating steps A through T, it seemed way too good to be true. Still, the idealist in me wanted to give it a try.

      Sure, I still had to do some rolling (rolling pin), but chilling the dough for a while helped immeasurably. Just like that – 1, 2, 3 – the ravioli was waiting to be filled and cut.

      Major regards to you, JoAnn, for attempting the daunting project as well. Particularly as you pursed the “old school” techniques, and all before your current derring-do. Hip, hip, hurray!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Rachel!

      It took maybe half an hour, if even, skipping the time the dough hung out in the fridge and preparing the filling. Part of that was a learning curve, too, as I never made ravioli before. It took, say, fifteen minutes to assemble the first three, and after that I was used to it, and the next couple dozen flew out of there in the following fifteen.

      Turns out, making ravioli is easier than is making jiaozi (potstickers) or momos (Tibetan dumplings), as there’s no pleating or special folding involved. All three, major Yum!, though!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for asking, Rachel! Just one, huh? Then it’d have to be jiaozi, if for no reason other than its endless varieties. The pleat-folding skills could use lots of work, though.

        The cool thing, so to speak, about any of the dumplings is how well they take to freezing. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and dinner is ready in five minutes.

        As we’re on the topic (sort of) of Asian cuisine, do you have a favorite dish? Either homemade or takeout, little matter.

        I don’t think we ever discussed this before. Please, don’t feel pressured to name something, either. If you can’t decide, or if Asian cooking really isn’t your thing, I understand!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nice, Rachel! So much for you to discover, too.

        For that matter, there’s so much out there I haven’t tried yet, either. With each week, one question mark fewer for each of us.

        Of course, each question answered launches three or four others.

        Anyway, absolutely, mochi counts! Why wouldn’t it? It’s so wonderfully innovative, so wonderfully Japanese! Good choice, though a bit unexpected. …In a good way.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Heh, indeed. Though I suppose one could say that with an infinite number of questions, we can count on there being an infinite number of answers.

        I figured mochi might be a bit of an odd choice — I don’t really think of it as a “dish.” But it is absolutely amazing. You ever try making some yourself?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Not yet, Rachel. Sure, it’s on my wish list, but then, so are fifty thousand other things.

        Why wouldn’t Mochi be a dish? Dessert has a much of a place at the table as does anything else. In fact, it could be argued everything else leads up to it.

        ….and crating Mochi certainly involves ample skill and attention to detail. Much more than just an afterthought.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. That’s very true, and I agree heartily, I just don’t always imagine other people thinking the same as me. Except for when I do, in which cases I’m often wrong (or so I think)… But anyway, it’ll be interesting to hear what making mochi is like from you, fifty thousand other things or so later.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Should it surprise me you’re distinctive, Rachel? Let the herd trample cuisine underfoot, mangling it to featureless mush. Someone like you thinks for herself, savoring every dish in its turn.

        Although, I do share your doubts occasionally, idealism notwithstanding. Sometimes I fear others sharing my beliefs invalidates them. Not that I disdain other people, but rather, I’m afraid I’m not clever enough to reach the same conclusion they have.

        Of course, that was the old me. The new me carefully avoids both excesses, gullibility and suspicion. While I certainly try not to squeeze, mindless, into that herd, I also avoid reflexively rejecting it. After all, sometimes things rise because they are good, actually. Just don’t tell me “everybody” likes it though.

        Oh, thoughts of mochi being among the 50,000 are encouraging. Do the math. At a little over fifty entries a year, it’ll take about a millennium to reach the launch site. It means much you have faith the site still will be going at that point. Even better that you still anticipate reading.

        In fact, I’ll promise you something. If I haven’t made mochi by the time we’re a hundred, it’ll be the first entry after our birthdays.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Oh, I’m far less of an individualist than you give me credit for. I may be something of an isolationist by habit and philosophy, but not necessarily by inclination.

        And by “philosophy,” I mean that application of logical thought to certain situations and experiences, which has revealed me to be absolutely terrible at avoiding such excesses as you mention. Thus, I applaud your aspirations toward balance.

        Ha! You’re right. Well then, we’ll have to hope for the invention of a youth serum. And I’ll have to hold you to that promise.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Even someone only vaguely aware of your creativity, expressiveness and style would appreciate your soul’s uniqueness, Rachel. Even if you don’t credit it yourself. We’ll have to change that, won’t we?

        As for mochi, now that you’ve got me thinking about it, I just may have to accelerate its premier. Maybe something will appear when we’re in our eighties. Bet that’d surprise the heck out of you, huh?

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Wise woman, your MIL. Think of all the things she did which led to her son meeting you. You don’t think all that was an accident, do you?

        In other words, she knows a valued addition when she sees one. That woman knows her stuff….

        Liked by 1 person

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