Qualcosa bolle in pentola!!!
That’s Italian for “something boils in a saucepan”– a delightful idiom meaning “Something’s up!”
So, qualcosa bolle in pentola here in Huntington Beach.
Huntington Beach’s two wild and crazy cooking divas (and a small sweet dog named Juliet) are back in the kitchen and we’re making handmade raviolis and a piquant tomato sauce. (My friend Sarah is the pretty lady in the foreground.)
Before we launched into our pasta-making marathon, I did a bit a Internet research about the origins of ravioli. The first site I pulled up said that the first reference to ravioli in written history was in “14th century Venus.” ( Venus. Venice. Close. Reminded me of some of the bloopers I read in student papers when I taught history for more years than I care to admit. One of my favorites was a kid who wrote a paper about that improbable duo: “Marx and Lennon.” That one still makes me laugh. )
More reliable history (or, at least, more reliable word processing skills) confirms that ravioli was served in European kitchens in the 14th Century, both in Italy and in Northern Europe. Some food historians connect the dish to one served earlier in Arab kitchens.
My pasta search also unearthed this wonderful old photo of JFK enjoying (?) pasta in an Italian restaurant. I think the photo is a good example of pasta photography gone terribly wrong. You’ve got to wonder if JFK had to change his suit after that shot. Here is the photo.
Back here in Huntington Beach, Sarah and I made an eggy pasta dough for our ravioli, using my antique Kitchen Aid mixer, the Kitchen Aid pasta attachment and our prodigious hand kneading skills. We also used a ravioli cooking mold, a Ravioliera, that I bought at Sur La Table. (If you don’t have a ravioli mold there are ways to work around that. See the link posted below.)
While Sarah and I worked the dough for our ravioli, our conversation ranged from national politics and world affairs to neighborhood news. Whenever the conversation veered into politics, I noticed that our dough kneeding skills improved significantly. If you are in need some serious post-election therapy, a ball of pasta dough just might get you through the hard times.
The pasta and sauce recipes we used are adapted from recipes taught at Costa Mesa’s wonderful Sur La Table Cooking School.
Also, for those of you who are visual learners (like me), here is a link from the Serious Eats blog with clear directions on how to make homemade ravioli:
And…here is our final product. Something was indeed boiling in the saucepan and it was delicious down to the very last drop of sauce. Buon appetito!
Homemade ravioli with ricotta and basil filling
- Pasta Dough
- 2 1/2 C. "OO" flour
- 1 t. fine sea salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
- Semolina flour (for dusting pasta and surfaces)
- For Filling
- Sea salt
- 6 ounces (about 4 cups) fresh spinach
- 2 ounces mozzarella (shredded)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 T. thinly-sliced basil leaves
- 1/8 t. freshly grated nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For Sauce
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 medium shallot (finely minced)
- 1 medium clove of minced garlic
- 1 twenty-eight ounce can of peeled plum tomatoes with juice (coarsely chopped)
- 1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 T. minced thyme leaves
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped parsley and shaved parmesan for garnish
- For Dough
- Place flour, salt, eggs and oil in the bowl of a large mixer (I used my Kitchen Aid mixer. Mix for 30 seconds until ingredients are incorporated. (Use the paddle attachment for this purpose.) Alternatively, you can make a well in the center of your mound of flour, add the other ingredients and mix your dough by hand.
- When the ingredients are fully incorporated, change your mixer attachment to the dough hook. Process for several minutes with the dough hook until the dough forms a ball in the mixer bowl.
- Move dough onto a solid surface and knead it for approximately ten minutes until the cough becomes smooth. Wrap dough in saran wrap and let it rest for a half hour.
- Run your dough through your pasta machine following the manufacturer's directions for ravioli dough.
- Here is a good link from Serious Eats about how to make homemade ravioli:
- To make the ravioli filling, briefly (30 seconds) boil fresh spinach in salted water. Then, quickly move the spinach to an ice bath. Remove spinach from ice water and squeeze out as much of the water as you can. Coarsely chop the spinach and set aside. Add mozzarella, ricotta, basil, nutmeg and black pepper to a bowl. Add the chopped spinach and stir the mixture to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- To make the sauce, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add shallot and garlic to the hot oil and sauté for about two minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic burn. Stir in the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and thyme. Simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to season.
- To cook the ravioli, add prepared ravioli to salted boiling water. Boil for approximately four minutes. When the ravioli float to the top, they are almost done. Use a spider or a slotted spoon to remove the ravioli from the pan. Blot with a paper towel. Plate and dollop a bit of sauce on top of the ravioli. Garnish with chopped parsley and parmesan.
I bought OO flour online through Amazon. It is also available at Whole Foods. In a pinch, you can substitute all purpose flour.
I used a can of Cento brand San Marzano tomatoes from Trader Joe's. To my taste, this a very good tasting tomato for all sorts of recipes.
To help seal the ravioli, I brushed some water on the edges of the lower layer of dough before sealing the packet with the top layer of dough. Alternatively, you could brush some egg whites on the dough to seal it.