Making pasta can teach you a lot about love. Like relationships, fresh pasta requires both enthusiasm and patience. It certainly can be frustrating. Primarily, though, pasta’s lessons concern the development of instinct through experience. To make good pasta, or to fall in love, you first have to trust yourself.
After you’ve kneaded a few batches of dough, you’ll develop a feel for when it’s right. You don’t want it sticky — like a needy lover, one raviolo sticking obstinately to another will kill the mood. Nor do you want your dough brittle, lest the resulting ravioli break apart. Like partners in love, dough should be pliant yet hold its shape.
Pasta comes in countless shapes and sizes, and the ratios of eggs and flour in pasta doughs vary accordingly. This recipe is for making ravioli. There are lots of ways to tell a ravioli love story; this one is about spinach and ricotta filling plus simple tomato sauce and, at the end, some grated Parmesan.
A pasta rolling machine is essential. Though sculpted forearm muscles are certainly a turn-on, unless you’re a professional, rolling out pasta by hand will take too long and leave you with lingering shoulder aches.
makes 24 ravioli, enough for 4
3 cups flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. salt for the water
In a large mixing bowl, stir the flour and salt together, then form a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well and whisk the oil into them. Continue whisking, blending the eggs well and gradually drawing in the flour from the walls of the well. Mix until all the flour is incorporated and a sticky dough forms.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes. The dough should become uniform in texture and stop sticking to your fingers. Add a little more flour if needed. Let the dough rest for a few minutes under a towel to retain moisture before rolling. (Now’s a good time to mix up the filling and sauce.)
Divide the dough into 8 parts with a knife. Keeping the remaining parts under a towel, smush the first section of dough into a flat pancake shape, then roll it through the pasta machine on the largest setting (0). Roll the dough through successively smaller settings, folding the dough in half each time to create a rectangular shape. Sprinkle flour between folds if the dough sticks to itself and cannot be untangled; dab water between folds if it is brittle.
After you reach the second or third thinnest setting (7 or 8), drape the sheet of dough over a broomstick or big wooden spoon handles, placed horizontally, to let it dry. Be sure there’s enough flour on the dough to prevent sticking. Repeat with the remaining 7 parts of dough.
Lay the first section of dough flat on the counter. Scoop a teaspoon of filling onto the center of the dough about 3 inches from one end, then fold the edge of the dough over the top of the filling and press down, pushing out air as you seal the edges. If the dough is too dry, dab water around the edges so that the dough will stick to itself. Poorly sealed ravioli will burst open during cooking. Cut the first raviolo off, along its edge, with a knife and repeat.
One sheet of dough should yield 3 or 4 ravioli. Make them big — smaller ravioli take longer and big ones are beautiful. Set the finished ravioli aside on flour-dusted cloth towels to prevent sticking.
Boil a large pot of water and add salt. Gently scoop ravioli into the pot and let boil for 2-3 minutes. Strain and serve immediately with sauce. (Simple tomato sauce is great with spinach ravioli.)
enough for the 24 ravioli
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 shallot, minced
8 ounces spinach
1 cup whole milk ricotta
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
A grating of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Warm the olive oil in a skillet, add the shallot, and sauté gently until aromatic. Add the spinach and cook to wilt. Drain the spinach well, pressing out all its water. Chop the spinach and stir it into the ricotta, parmesan, and egg. Season with a grating of nutmeg, salt, pepper.
Simple Tomato Sauce
enough to sauce the 24 ravioli
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch red pepper flakes
One 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
Salt to taste
In a saucepan, simmer the garlic in the olive oil, add a pinch of red pepper flakes, and then the tomatoes, crushing them well as you go. Season with salt. Simmer well for a half hour or so while the ravioli come together.