Cheese ravioli is one of the pleasures of life. It shines through the simplicity of its ingredients. It starts with the basic pasta dough of egg, flour, olive oil, and salt and a lightly-seasoned filling of fluffy ricotta. Then it’s completed with a hearty spoonful of classic marinara on top. Proof that sometimes the best foods are the ones with the fewest ingredients.
Making your own ravioli does take time. It’s a wonderful labor of love that’s worth it, though. You’ll need a pasta machine. I use an old hand-cranked one from Italy that clamps onto the edge of the counter.
A rolling pin is handy as is a large cutting board. The ravioli can be cut and formed many ways. My favorite is free-form, where I lay out a sheet of pasta, place spoonfuls of the filling on top of half, and fold over. Then I use a pastry crimper to seal.
Try not to get too fussy about it. It’s supposed to be fun. If you find it troublesome to make smaller ravioli just shape larger ones. That’s what I do here. But if you feel up to the challenge and have the manual dexterity make them as small as you like!
Some of them probably won’t be completely sealed and may open in the water when you boil them. The cooked pasta alone is just as tasty.
These freeze very well. In fact, unless I’m planning on company I usually set aside what I want that evening and freeze the rest. The best way to do this is to clear out some space in your freezer and lay a sheet of parchment paper down. Place the filled ravioli in a single layer. When they begin firming up you can start to stack them more on top of each other. Finally, when partially frozen, they can be moved to a gallon-sized zipper freezer bag.
You don’t want to stack them together after they’re just made. The moisture in the filling will begin to seep through the dough and you’ll end up with a huge mess that’s nearly impossible to salvage. Also, don’t wait too long to cook the freshly-made ones of the dough may become so wet from the filling that they start to fall apart. I usually just put each batch in the freezer while I make the next ones, then use the last batch for cooking right then.
You can drop them straight from the freezer into boiling water to cook. Reduce to a gentle simmer. Don’t boil too vigorously or they may fall apart. Once they rise to the surface and the water is simmering give them 5 to 8 minutes for perfect pasta. I don’t watch it too closely and it always just seems to work. I wouldn’t do more than 8 minutes, though.
At this step, if you like, you can put the ravioli in a baking dish and cover with sauce. Sometimes I put a slice or two of provolone cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake at 350°F until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Uncover and broil for a minute or two to brown the cheese. Of course, the easiest and best way is just to scoop them onto a plate and add a spoonful of warm marinara and a generous shaving of Parmesan!
You may end up with extra filling when the dough is gone. If so, just put any leftover in a small bag and freeze it. You can thaw and stuff it into a few cooked pasta shells and top with jarred pasta sauce for a quick weeknight dinner or just add it to a simmering pot of homemade marinara.
The best way to master the process is just to do it! Once you’ve got it down you can fill them with anything you like. Ready to have some fun? Let’s ravioli.
Homemade Cheese Ravioli with Cabernet Marinara Sauce
Makes 40 to 50
1 recipe Fresh Egg Pasta made with:
2 2/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
½ cup Cabernet wine
35 oz can tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
3/4 tsp sea salt
15 oz container ricotta cheese
½ cup Parmesan, grated
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Make the Fresh Egg Pasta, but increase the ingredients as listed above. Cover, and let rest an hour at room temperature for 1 hour. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook 1 minute. Add the wine and let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomates, reduce heat, and simmer partially covered 1 to 2 hours, adding water if it gets too thick.
When the pasta is ready, push out on a lightly-floured board and cut into 6 equally-sized pieces.
Fold into a rectangle and run through the pasta machine at the widest setting. This is best to do several times as it helps give the pasta the toothsome chewiness that tastes so wonderful. I just fold over the left side, then the right, then press it down a bit, and roll through the machine.
Keep sprinkling the cutting board and pasta machine with flour. Roll the dough through each setting until you reach the next to the last one. Stop here because you don’t want it too thin. Now you’ll have a long, rough rectangle.
Depending on the length of the dough, you can get 8 to 10 small spoons of filling. Don’t be tempted to overstuff the filling. It will just end up bursting the ravioli during cooking and make a mess of things. I use a small 1½” muffin scoop.
It doesn’t really matter whether you put the filling along the top or bottom of the dough. I’ve tried both and putting it along the top works best for me. What you’re going to be doing is folding the other half of the dough over it.
So place as many scoops of filling as you can, leaving an inch or so between each one. Dip your finger in a small bowl of water and run it around each scoop of filling. This will wet the dough and help you make a seal.
Press gently around each one to seal.
Now you can see the ravioli being born!
Run a ravioli cutter or pasta crimper along the edges to shape your new ravioli.
Discard the excess and gently separate each one.
At this point I usually place them on a sheet of wax or parchment paper in the freezer. You either want to make them cold right away or drop them into boiling water. I think they taste incredible regardless.
The cooking time is about the same, whether frozen or fresh. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop the ravioli in. Immediately reduce the heat.
Stir the ravioli gently so they don’t stick together. A bit of oil in the water helps tremendously with that, but I don’t usually add it. The sauce tends not to stick on the finished pasta because the oil coats it.
Watch them closely because they may stick to the bottom of the pan. Just give a gentle stir and say some loving words over the pot. Some may burst open. It’s okay, they all still taste fabulous. Nobody has ever complained about my homemade ravioli.
It’s time to call everybody to dinner because you want to have these while they’re hot! They can get started slicing the bread and passing it around.
Simmer them gently 6 to 8 minutes. If you like al dente 6 minutes will be enough. For softer, try 8. Also, if they’re frozen you may add another 1 minute to the cooking time.
They’re delicate, so it’s best to scoop them out with a skimmer. Hold them over the pot for a few seconds to let the water drain and then plate each serving separately. (You can leave them to drain a while in a colander, but they will begin to stick together. If you’re careful, you can still pull them apart without tearing them.)
Here you can see our lovely ricotta filling.
Cover them with sauce, sprinkle with shredded Parmesan if you like, and serve while hot!