I’m one of those Americans that is a bit lost in her heritage, or maybe I should say my lack of heritage. I didn’t have an Italian grandmother who taught me how to make noodles from scratch or an Ethiopian family who shared recipes centuries old. I am who I am – a 100% American raised person.
I sometimes wish that I had more of an ethnic upbringing so I would have more to share with my future children (or future cookbooks) but I appreciate what I have learned throughout my cooking adventures. I think of cooking as a learning experience of a lifetime. I learn something every single time I create or recreate a recipe and homemade ravioli was no exception.
Now, this wasn’t my first rodeo with fresh pasta, but it did take me a few batches to get the hang of things. Even after resting my dough was very springy. I had to trick it into sticking to my countertop with a little water so I could add the filling. I eventually figured everything out… except one little thing. I knew this would be a tedious process so I made a double batch of the filling and the dough in hopes of freezing an extra batch. Thing is, even with the double batches, I ran out of dough.
Mister came up with a good idea for the leftover filling. I predict a goulash recipe in the near future. It’ll complement this gorgeous marinara sauce too. A new favorite – simple yet sooooo finger licking good. Simmer, simmer, simmer. It’s worth the wait!
First, crack some eggs, add some flour and get messy, like so:
Wrap your dough and let it rest while you prep your meat filling (if you are using meat) and kick butt marinara sauce.
For the meat filling, chop your veggies, make ’em sweat and add your beef. Drain and add seasoning.
Drop the mixture into a food processor (preferably one bigger than mine) to make a meat paste.
(Vegetarians are freaking out now)
Set the paste aside. Make your delicious meat-free sauce, cover and simmer. I recommend spraying the bottom of your pot before doing this. That was a lesson learned…
Chop of piece of dough from your dough ball, recover and roll the chunk out as thin and as long as you can. If you like large ravioli, roll out two of these (one for the top and one for the bottom). Add your filling, drag a bit of water around the filling with your finger, cover with the second strip of pasta dough and press the ravioli around the filling to seal.
For smaller ravioli, you can use one of these pasta strips, add a little less filling, and stretch the pasta around the filling, like so.
Snip excess dough and combine with your large dough ball or save for later to make scrap noodles. Press the edges down with a fork if you’re feeling especially decorative.
Bring some water to a boil and add your ravioli. They are done when they float to the top. Pour some sauce on them and devour immediately.
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil, or to taste
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
extra virgin olive oil
Meat Filling (Optional)
1 pound 85% lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
With a stand mixer, beat the eggs and salt. Attach dough hook and add flour a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase the speed and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes, until the dough is smooth, soft and pliable.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Flour your hands lightly and knead the dough for a minute or two. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
Note: Making the dough with a machine requires a little less flour than making it by hand. Reserve 1/2 cup or so of the flour. After the dough is kneaded, touch it. If it is silky and slightly moist, it is ready; if it is too sticky, work in the reserved flour.
Saute onion and garlic in oil. Add crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning and basil. Stir to combine.
Add crushed tomatoes and stir. Fill about 1/3 can with water and swish around to clean tomatoes from sides and then pour into the next can and do the same thing. Add to pot. Stir and add sugar and pepper.
Let the sauce come to a boil, stir gently. Reduce heat and let sauce simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Meat Filling (Optional)
Sweat onion, garlic, carrot and celery in oil. Once vegetables soften add ground beef, breaking up the meat as you add it to your pan. Cook until browned and cooked through. Drain the fat and add the mixture to a food processor, pulse until smooth. Add egg and cheese and pulse to combine.
Lay the pasta sheet on a floured surface. Place your meat or cheese filling about an inch apart on one half of the sheet. Use less than 1 tablespoon of filling (more if you want bigger ravioli). Dip your finger in water and drag your finger around each filling. Place the unused portion of the dough sheet over the half with the filling. Press out all of the air from around the meat and press down lightly on the dough to seal. Cut with a round biscuit cutter or cut into squares.
Make sure you save all of your scraps of dough. These are always nice in soups or with sauce for lunch later. Cut into strips and cook these in salted boiling water for 3 minutes.
To cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully add ravioli (if they were frozen you do not need to defrost) to the pot and stir. When ravioli float to the top they are ready.
To Freeze -
Sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour or cornmeal. Place ravioli on the baking sheet in a single layer. Place in freezer for at least a half hour, or until frozen through. Place in large freezer bags and lay flat. You do not need to defrost these when you want to cook them.
As my good friend Willis would say, “It’s all about the saauuuuuuwwwwwssss!!”
Making a red sauce from scratch might seem intimidating but it really is a simple process. The key to a good red sauce is time. Allowing everything to simmer long enough for the flavors to really meld and build is extremely important. I’ve heard of some Italian recipes that require you to simmer you sauce all night. I have yet to try doing this (in a crock pot) but it’s on the “to-try” list!
This is one of the best marinara sauces I’ve ever tasted. I love using wine, a bit of heat and the balsamic to add depth to this sauce. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.
1 (28-ounce) can Plum Tomatoes or San Marzano, crushed
1/2 cup red wine, Chianti preferred
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small onion, diced
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 large sprig fresh basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
dash of garlic powder
dash of onion powder
dash of paprika
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
dash of salt and pepper, to taste
dash of red pepper flakes, to taste
dash of cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon sugar (to cut down acidity)
Mushrooms, bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium/low heat. Toss in onions and red pepper (if using) and salt. Saute until onions begin to sweat. Add in any optional vegetables.
When onions are translucent, add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about one to two minutes. Pour in the wine and turn up the heat to boil off any alcohol. Add the tomatoes, remaining seasonings, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Top with fresh basil sprig, cover and let simmer on very low for 30-60 minutes. Stir your sauce occasionally or it will stick to the bottom of your pot. Remove the basil stem and serve with your favorite pasta or with crusty bread.