A few weeks, back when I first dipped my toe into the beauteous pool of homemade pasta, I commented that we were looking forward to experimenting with ravioli but that we didn't feel prepared to take it on without having ravioli-making equipment. Several of you wrote in to encourage me to make the ravioli by hand and to share the results with you. Thanks everyone for that encouragement because I have listened, and have made not one but two (two!) types of ravioli I can now well you about.
Mr A&N's brother and his wife were off galavanting in New Zealand at Christmas and New Year, so we had them around for a post-holiday dinner and gawp at our kitchen on the first free weekend we all had. Rob and Fay are big food lovers themselves, so we had even more reason to come up with a good menu that validated their journey of an hour and a half around London to come see us. I thought long, I thought hard, and I had a brain wave: we'd have ravioli, both to start and end with. A savory Spanish ravioli with chorizo and manchego cheese for the first course, and a chocolate and hazelnut ravioli for dessert.
Like so many ideas that skirt the boundary between madness and genius, the average person wasn't sure if they were yet ready to embrace the concept of two types of ravioli at dinner. Mr A&N made a variety of faces all which communicated "No" with different levels of repugnance depending on what mood I caught him in. The chorizo ravioli he had little problem embracing, but he thought it would be all too much with the chocolate version. The tide was turned when I showed him a recipe on Epicurious for chocolate pasta and he finally understood that I wasn't just suggesting normal pasta with a chunk of chocolate bar in the center. With the approval of guests Rob and Fay (or was it just resignation...?) and the deliberate lack of any other dessert in the house, chocolate raviolis were on the menu as were the Spanish raviolis.
We first put Rob and Fay to work helping us make the meal (we know how to be good hosts). First to prepare would be the Spanish ravioli. The filling came from crumbled fresh chorizo sausages sauteed with chunks of manchego cheese and a bit of finely chopped onion and garlic. The sausages we bought weren't very strong with chorizo flavor, so we topped it up with a bit of saffron and sweet paprika. Trying to stuff the filling into our petite ravioli tray and emerge with lovely little sealed ravioli was a challenge too far, though. The pasta wouldn't seal and wouldn't lift out of the tray, and rather than risk losing more pasta/filling, we went freestyle and instead made large ravioli pressed together by hand. The four of us debated what to top the pasta with (simple tomato sauce and a saffron cream sauce were two leading contenders) but due to the very generous gift from Rob and Fay of both a black and a white truffle, we decided to share the bounty and dress the pasta in olive oil in which some of the black truffle had been sauteed. More on the white truffle another time.
The chocolate pasta was nowhere near as easy to handle as the normal pasta. It was much moister and less robust, and each time I tried to feed a batch through the thinnest setting on the pasta machine the dough was ripped into ribbons. Frustration levels ran high and I only succeeded in getting one of the six segments as thin as possible; the others stayed on the second-thinnest setting which didn't ruin it, but which did produce slightly more hearty rather than delicate pasta. It was filled with a dollop of nutella and a smattering of chopped hazelnuts, and topped with a chocolate and raspberry sauce.
The two ravioli were obviously very different to each other. The chorizo filling was a big hit and might make an appearance again on top of another pasta or as part of a Spanish lasagna. The pasta in the chocolate ravioli was very subtly chocolatey rather than tasting as if you'd just boiled up a Hershey bar; the sweet nutella filling and chocolate sauce topping balanced this out nicely, then. The main complaint about the chocolate pasta was that we didn't press some of the ravioli closed well enough and so there was at least one water-logged piece per eater. We realized when making them that they would be quite filling so we decided on three large ravioli per person and froze another dozen waiting-to-be-ravioli rectangles which we will happily fill with more sweet goodies the next evening we feel like being just a bit decadent and unpredictable.
As luck would have it, these nutella ravioli coincide with World Nutella Day, an effort by Michelle at Bleeding Espresso and Sarah at Ms Adventures in Italy to remind us all of the importance of this wonderful spread. It being Shrove Tuesday / Pancake day as well, I suggest we do as the French would and make a nice crepe with a smear of nutella to commemorate the occasion.
Chorizo Ravioli Filling
Makes enough for about 2 dozen large ravioli
- 1 small onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 fresh chorizo sausages
- about 120g machego cheese, cubed into 1/2 inch / 1 cm cubes
- small serving of saffron (about 10 strands)
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat with a dash of olive oil.
- Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry gently until the onions begin to soften.
- Add the sausages and immediately start to crumble them with the stirring spoon (you may need to cut into the skins to do this).
- Once the sausages are mostly cooked and coloring everything a bit red, add the cheese.
- Allow the cheese to begin to soften but not to melt entirely. Taste the mixture and see if you need to add any additional saffron, paprika, salt, or pepper.
Makes about 2 dozen large ravioli (3 ravioli were plenty per adult, so serves about 8)
The Dough (from Epicurious)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 3 large eggs
- Nutella (you'll use 1/3 - 1/2 the jar if making all the ravioli)
- 100-125 g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 100g of good quality dark, bittersweet chocolate
- 75g unsalted butter
- 2 tsp seedless raspberry jam
220g / 1C sugar for the boiling the ravioli
- Prepare the pasta by sifting together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt (either in a large bowl or on a clean and clear countertop)
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and place the eggs into the center.
- Using a fork, slowly incorporate the eggs with the dry ingredients until it is all combined.
- Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface (if it's not already on one) and gently knead for 3-4 minutes until the dough lightly springs back at the touch. You may need to add more flour to make less sticky.
- Place in a owl with plastic wrap covering it and allow to sit for 30 minutes in the fridge.
- When it is done resting, take the dough out and divide it into manageable sections (about 4 or 5) and start feeding it through your pasta machine from thickest to thinnest setting. Keep the rest of the unworked dough covered during this time. (Note: my pasta was still quite sticky and I had to dust it with flour in between each time I fed it through the machine).
- Place each sheet of pasta on a lightly floured surface once done.
- Cut the pasta into roughly 3 inch segments working lengthwise along the sheet. You should get about 6 segments per sheet.
- To fill the pasta, add a small dollop of nutella (about 1/2 a tsp) to each segment, and top with a smattering of chopped hazelnuts.
- Fold the pasta over, and seal well on the three open sides.
- Bring about 8 cups of water to the boil, and add in the 1 cup of sugar.
- Meanwhile, make the chocolate sauce by bringing some water to boil in either a double boiler or a medium sized pot. Place the chocolate and butter inside the top of the double boiler or in a metal bowl sitting on top of the pot with the boiling water.
- Stir the chocolate and butter together until they're melted. Add the raspberry jam, stir well, and remove from heat.
- In the large pot with the sugared water, add the ravioli once the water is boiling and the sugar dissolved. Cook for about 5 minutes.
- Remove the ravioli with a slotted spoon and allow the water to drain from them.
- Serve three ravioli per person, with the chocolate sauce drizzled (generously, depending on the sweet tooth) on top.