Sunday, February 5, 2012

Homemade Beef Ravioli

If asked what my last meal on earth would be, I'd likely choose ravioli. What's not to adore about pillows of fresh pasta stuffed with savory meats, seafood or cheese? It's the ultimate comfort food. The first time I had fresh, homemade ravioli was as a little girl living in Adelaide, South Australia. My dad's friend and fellow gardener, a gregarious Italian named Enrico invited us to his home one Sunday to enjoy his wife's insanely delicious and labor intensive Sunday meal. As I recall, they had just opened a market of some sort near their home. This was also an exciting night for me because I got to pick my first pet, a little black and white kitten from their new litter. He looked like he was wearing a tux. The day he arrived a few weeks later to my home I picked the oh so original name, "Fluffy". Fluffy and I grew up together.  I had him through a deathly bout of meningitis when I was six, (he alerted my parents when I had a seizure in the night), he endured a lengthy quarantine during our move to America, comforted me through my parent's deaths as a teen and was a close companion until he finally passed away when I was 21 years old. I am not a fan of cats in general, but Fluffy was the best one I've ever known. He was a good little man. 

I was around five years old the night I had that tremendous meal which left my slender mother riddled with guilt about the excess. I passed out during the car ride home with a shirt speckled in sauce and a smile on my face. The fact that I remember this hearty and fabulous dinner all these decades later says something. For some reason the thought of hand making pasta has always intimidated me. My Kitchen Aid has laid dormant since my wedding in 1999 until last year when I started baking breads on the Big Green Egg. It was time to bring out the pasta maker attachment. I can happily say I wish I had done this sooner!! While pasta is a guilty pleasure, I've realized making it is as much fun as eating it! I'm sad I lost touch with Enrico's family since we moved to the states, so I could get Mrs. Barone's recipe, as I've yet to have as delicious and pillowy ravioli since then. Here's a good substitute:

I found a terrific recipe for pasta from my Mozza cookbook.

2 1/4 organic all purpose flour
3 whole eggs
6 egg yolks (reserve the whites for an omelette the next day)
1 pinch sea salt

In a standing mixer with the paddle, combine ingredients until they are all incorporated. If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of water. Mix about 5 minutes. Switch to a dough hook and mix until the dough is silky and smooth. About 25 minutes.

The dough should look like this after 25 minutes. Lightly dust with flour, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes to a day at most.

Meanwhile, make your filling. Today I chose to do meat and cheese. I browned .5 pounds sirloin, 1 slice diced pancetta, a small diced onion, 6 cloves minced garlic and dried oregano, basil, fresh italian parsley and a dash of red wine. Salt and pepper to taste. I wanted the filling to be smooth, so in a food processor I minced the browned meat with one egg, .5 cup fresh ricotta and .5 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese. I minced it until it looked like, food. Fluffy would have loved it. Store in a container in the fridge until you are ready to make the ravioli.

Once you are ready to make the pasta, insert the pasta sheet attachment in the Kitchen Aid mixer. Cut the dough into four pieces, flatten the first piece with your hand so it fits on the blade and run it through on level 1.

I folded the dough in half and re-inserted it with the folded ends facing up, another two times. I then switched the setting to a 2 and inserted folded dough. Dust with flour between passes. I switched to level 3, didn't fold it then ran it through 4 until I could see my hand through it when held up to the light. If it tears, just re-dust with a bit of flour, fold it and run it through a lower setting. If it gets too wide to pass through the attachment, trim the sides or they will tear and get ragged.

Now that my dough was ready, I cut it in half, placed it on floured parchment paper, scooped the meat mixture over the bottom sheet in neat little balls with a.5 teaspoon scoop.

I then lightly brushed the top pasta sheet with water and placed it, wet side down over the bottom sheet and molded it around the meat balls, being sure to flatten any air bubbles. I got out a 2 inch cutter and made little circles around the meat balls and there you have it! Perfect little raviolis!!

I "cured" them on a sheet in the freezer for about 30 minutes and then stored them in ziploc sous vide bags. They should keep a month in the freezer. To cook, simply drop them frozen in salted, boiling water about 5 minutes until they are floating -about a minute or two. Serve with fresh marinara sauce and a grate of cheese. I made a total of 60 raviolis.

To make the sauce is super easy. In a dutch oven add 2 tbs olive oil, 4 cloves minced garlic. Turn on the heat and raise to medium. After about three-four minutes the garlic should be fragrant. Do not let it burn! Add a can of Italian Marzano tomatoes, 1 tsp sea salt, red chili flakes to taste and warm the sauce. About 15 minutes. Stir in freshly chopped basil leaves before serving. Freezes great too. Enjoy.

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