I bought a pasta maker with a gift certificate from last Christmas. Almost a year later, I’m finally using it. So. Typical.
In my defense, I tried to use it two other times over the past year. Both times, the dough just wasn’t working for me. I had an artistic handicap of not using a bowl and just making dough right on a flat surface. I don’t know, it just seemed more romantic. Also, the pictures. I did it for the better pictures. The vanity! You’d think after my first attempt, when the well I made in the flour wasn’t deep enough and egg went everywhere, I would have learned my lesson. Well, I didn’t make the same mistake twice, but I overanalyzed all the different dough recipes and articles out there and my dough just didn’t turn out the second time either. It ended up coming together, but it wasn’t pretty.
For classic Italian recipes, I’ve started turning to Gennaro Contaldo. Gennaro is a kooky Italian chef who is…was… (?) Jamie Oliver’s mentor. Those two are still thick as thieves and Gennaro stars in lots of “FoodTube” videos (Jamie Oliver’s own branded YouTube channel, lol). As goofy as he is, Gennaro is a very accomplished and old school chef who manages to stay engaged with the times. He’s one of my favorites to watch, even if I have to do it with the volume turned down. He doesn’t just talk with his hands. He definitely talks with his mouth, too.
I’m not indiscriminate with the cooking shows that I watch. It takes a special kind of talent to host cooking shows. I would argue that it doesn’t even all have to do with the recipes, though that is a big part. I has to do with the host who brings you those recipes. Although Ina is my number one (duh), she’s not my one and only. Also on my list, in no particular order, are Nigella, Jamie Oliver, Gennaro, Debi and Gabriele, and a lot of the videos over on Food52.
What really gets me sucked into these shows is the way they handle and approach the ingredients. They’re authentic in their choices and descriptions of the food they make. I even like the way they handle the food literally. They’re so familiar with what they’re using. That might be a weird thing to say, but food is an all-sense experience, y’all. I get sucked into YouTube blacks holes watching these people all the time.
BUT ANYWAY, long story short, I used Gennaro’s incredibly simple fresh pasta dough recipe and it worked like a charm. I had some pasta flour that I snagged from my parents’ house during the big move, and the charming (yet insanely expensive) butcher/grocer/cheese shop down the street from me, Foster Sundry, had “00” flour stocked when I went in to get my $7 farm fresh eggs. It’s a simple combination of those flours (which I think are easy to find most places) and eggs. And that’s it. The key is to use your hands fairly early in the process. Don’t try to get all the flour incorporated before you start kneading. By really getting in there with your hands, the flour and eggs will incorporate much easier that just using a fork.
The filling is a rough recipe that you can make to your taste. I have leftovers, so if you make this pasta recipe, I’d cut the filling recipe by half. The sauce is a simple butter-sage sauce. Which means it’s melted (maybe even browned) butter with sage and pine nuts in it. Easiest thing ever.
Handmade pasta, while not effortless, is actually pretty easy to make if you have a pasta maker. Don’t let yourself get bogged down by all the different how-to’s online. Just do what Gennaro does!
Pumpkin & Ricotta Ravioli
Serves: 3-4 people
*Note: You’ll need a pasta maker and a ravioli press/stamp or pasta cutter for this recipe. If you want to try using a rolling pin, good luck!
Homemade Pasta Dough (You’ll need semolina/durum wheat flour, Italian “00” flour, and eggs. Gennaro has two different recipes. I used this one and there’s also this one.)
For the filling:
About 15 oz. pumpkin puree
½ cup ricotta (mine was homemade, and therefore very thick)
A drop of olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the sauce:
3-4 tablespoons butter
Handful of sage, some chopped and some left whole
A handful of pine nuts
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Parmesan or pecorino, to finish
- Add the pumpkin to a sauté pan and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Then add the olive oil and the garlic to the side of the pan cooking for another minute or two. Mix it all together and cook for another few minutes. We’re trying to cook some of the moisture out of the pumpkin while adding the garlic at the same time.
- Allow the pumpkin to cool for a few minutes and then add it to a medium mixing bowl. Add the ricotta, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Mix together thoroughly.
- Roll out your pasta according to your pasta maker’s instructions. I rolled mine out until setting 3 or 4. If you’re using a rolling pin, good for you. You’ll want a pretty thin dough, but sturdy enough to hold the filling. You should dust your pasta sheets with some semolina until you’re ready to work with them.
- Using a small spoon, dollop small scoops of the filling evenly spaced onto one sheet of pasta dough. If you have a pasta cutter, you can use one pasta sheet and fold it over. See Gennaro’s video here for a better idea.
- Dip your finger in a glass of water and draw it around the filling. Place the second sheet of pasta over the first, covering the filling. Press down around the filling, pressing all air out in the process.
- Using your ravioli press, cinch the edges together and cut out your ravioli.
- Place formed raviolis to the side or on a try dusted with semolina. From here you can go straight to cooking, or place the tray in the freezer to freeze the raviolis before transferring them to a plastic bag.
- If you are cooking the ravioli, get a pot of water boiling and salted. Fresh pasta will cook very quickly, so you’ll want to get the sauce going before you put the raviolis in to cook.
- In a sauté pan, add the butter, sage, pine nuts, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat. If you want a browned butter sauce, let it go a minute before adding the pasta to the water. If not, get those raviolis in there from the get go. They’ll only need 2-3 minutes to cook. I let them cook until the rise to the top and float for 20ish seconds. If you really want to test one, take it out and try to cut only a little edge of pasta off.
- Once the butter is to your liking, add the cooked raviolis and toss gently a few times. A little bit of pasta water in the butter won’t hurt.
- Plate a few of those raviolis up, making sure to get some extra sage on there. Top with parmesan, pecorino, or both, and go to town.
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