Sarjano talks us into making ravioli but lets us choose our favourite variation
A great mystic once said: ‘I have always felt a great affinity for Buddha. I love him. He is very close to me. But with Lao Tzu it is different. It is not just a question of affinity or understanding. I AM IT! We are one, for I speak Lao Tzu.’
Well, you may ask, what this has to do with ravioli. The answer is that I feel the same way, that’s what! No, no, I don’t mean that I feel an affinity for Buddha or Lao Tzu, but I see myself in the same situation when it comes to lasagne and ravioli.
I could say, ‘I feel a great affinity for lasagne. I love it. It is very close to me. But with ravioli it is different. It is not just a question of affinity or understanding, I AM IT! We are one, for I speak ravioli.’
I hope you like my touch of spirituality this morning, because with ravioli we do enter the realm of mysticism.
First of all, what do we define as ravioli?
In Italy, there are at least a dozen names for the same thing. From tortelli to agnolotti; from ravioli to tortellini; from panserotti to ravioli; they are all names for what is basically the same thing—home-made pasta rolled thin and cut into squares or rectangles as for lasagne, filled with something, and closed somehow. Names change only according to the filling, shape, size, or the method of closing them.
My favourite shape is a triangle, not too small, nor too big. The middle path is best for ravioli. As far as fillings go, I have millions of favourites, so I’m not even going to talk about them!
Let’s see what we can make together. I guess one of the first things that come to mind is some mixture of vegetable and cheese. Right? Right! In Italy, for instance, the most common filling is made like this:
Ravioli di Spinaci e Ricotta
for 4 servings
Boil or steam the spinach, drain it very well, then chop it finely.
you will need
500 gms spinach
250 gms ricotta or paneer
50 gms parmesan
salt to taste
500 gms home-made pasta (see recipe here…)
gruyère in place of ricotta
broccoli, pumpkin or asparagus in place of spinach
asparagus and camembert in place of spinach and ricotta
crumbled tofu with herbs
grated ricotta (use paneer if you can’t get ricotta) and parmesan (or any other cheese such as gouda).
Mix the spinach with the cheese, egg and salt and your filling is ready.
Before making the filling, you would have made long strips of pasta and cut them to the size you like (I make little 8-cm squares).
Then, with your own clean hands (if you get my drift…) pinch off a bit of filling, roll it into a small ball and place it in the centre of the pasta square.
I’m teasing you! Because, if you place the filling in the centre, how can you fold the square in two so that it becomes a stuffed triangle? It would be nice to put it in the centre, but that would be geometrically incorrect, may I say.
Try again, and find out where you should place your filling in order to fold it into a perfect triangle, safe enough to prevent the filling from leaking out. It has to be closed gently and carefully, by applying pressure with a fork along the edges. Naturally, if you press too hard, you smash everything, and start again.
Once the ravioli looks safe and sealed from every angle, make sure that the border of pasta is not too wide. A border should be there. It should be clearly seen and felt in the mouth too. (Since there is an overlapping of pasta along the borders, when you cook ravioli the borders remain harder than the rest, and that is its grace.) At the same time the border should not be too wide, because then it will look like a big ravioli with a little filling. Tacky to the max!
Ravioli needs to be boiled for 2-3 minutes, drained and slipped into the pan with your sauce. Cook it for 30 seconds to give it a mantecatura.
Ravioli with spinach and ricotta is quite boring, but it is indicative of the way to start your journey along the sacred path of ravioli.
For instance, for this preparation there are quite a few vegetables that I would prefer to spinach. One of them is broccoli (for a strong palate), and the other is pumpkin (for a gentle palate). Then there is asparagus (for a rich palate), or even carrots (for a boring palate).
But the real beauty is that ravioli are such small things, that you can fill them with anything. It’s not like lasagne, where you blow some layers with your stupid experiments and you have to throw away a huge tray of food after much preparation and frustration and so on. Not at all! Here you can try one raviolo, boil it, taste it and see if you like it! Isn’t it fantastic!
Ricotta and paneer are quite mild, so you may decide to have a stronger cheese inside your ravioli. This will be great, because spinach and gruyère taste much better than spinach and paneer.
Or you may try a filling of asparagus and camembert (yuuhhmmmmmm), or you try what you like!
Are you a lover of tofu? You can create your own filling with crumbled tofu and herbs of your liking, then. And this goes for anything you may wish to try.
More recipes for ravioli coming up soon!
From the book ‘Food is Home’ by Sarjano