Thursday, July 14, 2011

July Daring Cook's Challenge: Handmade Pasta

Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess.  Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine.  She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!

My version was a whole wheat ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and sun dried tomato, topped with caramelized onions and truffle pate. It was delicious! Despite it historically being a poor person's food I love the little surprise you find when you bite into a chunk of ravioll, with so many different fillings you never know what you'll find. So i have to hand it to the ingenious people who tried to re-use leftovers inside their pasta.
 So far as Italy is concerned, the earliest records of ravioli appear in the preserved letters of Francesco di Marco, a merchant of Prato in the 14th century. The pasta is described as being stuffed with pork, eggs, cheese, parsley and sugar, and during Lent a filling of herbs, cheese, and spices was used. There were both sweet and savory kinds. The city of Cremona claims to have created ravioli. But Genoa claims that too, insisting that the word ravioli comes from their dialect word for pasta, rabiole, which means "something of little value" and referred to the practice of poor sailors who suffered leftovers into pasta to be eaten for another meal.

Remember to make the filling and topping for the ravioli before the pasta dough.

One of my instructors in pastry school has her own cooking school specializing in Italian cuisine. She taught me that making pasta is really dead easy. It seems intimidating but it is just time consuming, not fought at all. There are only two ingredients to making pasta, flour and eggs.

I used 500g flour and 6 large eggs.
The ratio is typically 100g flour to 1 egg, but whole wheat flour is drier and needs the extra boost of egg. No matter what, the main ingredient is the flour, not the egg, so if your dough looks fine and you still have one egg to dump in, don't! The dough will look a little like bread dough if you've ever made it before.
Use the hook in a stand mixer and mix till elastic and shiny.

Separate the dough into 3 parts if you are using a pasta machine, handling too much dough at once will cause it to tear. And if you have someone to help you out, even better.

Clamp down the pasta machine and make sure it doesn't wiggle. If you don't have one, just use a rolling pin and roll the dough out very thinly over a flour dusted surface.

Dust a little flour on either side of the dough to prevent it from sticking inside the machine.
Stretch a few times and fold over itself until you get a smooth consistent dough. Only after should you start putting the dough through thinner settings.

Once you have the desired thickness (leave a little thicker for ravioli since it can tear with a filling) place the filling (recipe follows) in the centre of the dough. Fold the dough over sealing the edges with water. And cut.
At this time, either cook or freeze with parchment paper separating the different ravioli.

Boil water. Gently lower each ravioli in one at a time.
Cook till al dente. The time varies depending on the thickness of your dough. It could be anywhere from 2 minutes to Over 5.

Place raviolis onto a serving dish, top with caramelized onions and a teaspoon of truffle paste and dig in!

Hydrate 1 cup of sun dried tomatoes with hot water. Drain and chop into little pieces.

Mix with 1 cup of ricotta cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Stir together.

Variations: try a pumpkin ravioli by mixing ricotta, pumpkin puree and nutmeg for a filling. Then top with a béchamel or a light cheese sauce.

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