Read this article, and you will become an excellent stuffed pasta maker!
Things are getting more and more difficult because making stuffed pasta is not a kids play …at the beginning. With a little expertise and practice it will get your strong point and it will impress your guests at the next dinner party.
In Italy, notably in Northern Italy, home made pasta makes you turn back in time- a floured pasta board, the smell of the fresh eggs, the sound of the rolling pin remind you of old times when food and cooking used to means care and love.
You may encounter countless kinds and shapes of fresh pasta. Although plenty of recipes have been registered every family has got their own: tagliatelle, pasta sheets to make lasagna or cannelloni, stuffed pasta whose meat and vegetable filling varies according to the seasons. In this article I will show you the great variety of Italian stuffed pasta, and a few regional specialties. A the top of the ranking, Emilia Romagna offers the widest choice of stuffed pasta, closely followed by Piedmont, where I live and where our culinary journey set off.
Shaping stuffed pasta may need a little expertise as you have to fold pasta sheets with careful, fast and precise movements…everything I am hopeless at, according to my mum’s opinion! She is used to saying that I have stiff fingers; when we make pasta together she often shouts out: “ Bend your fingers if you want to shape these cappelletti as it should!” Well, she is right definitely, I still need a lot of practice to perfect my technique which is still unrefined and clumsy. So, I am working hard to make those wonderful bolognese tortellini with their tiniest hole!
Today, I would like to prepare ravioli which are easy and don’t need many bends. Here, you will find the recipe of the traditional filling, and some toothsome variations: one shape for countless combinations of ingredients, you will never get bored!
First of all: make paper-thin pasta sheet
Have you ever made some pasta with your own hands? Believe, you will get really pleased with yourself? Such priceless satisfaction!
Well, a pasta machine is much faster, yet the movements and the heat of your hands make the dough more elastic, hence easier to roll and shape.
This is the easiest recipe in the world: you will get about 450g of fresh egg pasta, about 6-8 servings-for the traditional Italian “first dish”. It is 4 servings of a main course paired with a nice crispy salad.
How to make stuffed pasta: stuff fresh egg pasta as a genuine Italian cook does
- 3 M size eggs at room temperature
- semolina flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp oil
- Sift the flour to avoid any lumps
- Place the flour on the pasta board and make a well in the center; if you don’t feel very confident you may also use a big mixing bowl, so the mixture won’t run everywhere;
- Lightly beat the eggs with 1 tsp of and salt; pour the egg mixture into the center of the well;
- Using a fork or the tip of your hands gently incorporate the flour from the sides of the well a little at a time;
- When you have incorporated all the flour, blend the mixture using a bench scraper;
- Mix until all the ingredients have been well combined; if the dough is sticky, add some more flour (be careful with the quantity-if you add too much flour, it will get too compact and you won’t be able to knead it properly);
- If you want to use a stand-mixer, put the flour into the mixing bowl and then add an egg at a time. After the first egg has been incorporated add the oil, the salt and then the other eggs. Once you have made your dough, place it onto the board and knead with your hands;
- Tightly hold the dough with one hand and stretch it with the palm of the other hand;
- Knead it until smooth and silky it will take about 10 minutes (good exercise for your arms too). If it gets too dry, ad little oil; whereas, if it gets too wet sprinkle little flour;
- Make a ball, cover it with a tea-towel and, let it rest under an upside down bowl at room temperature for about 1 hour before cutting it;
- Cut your dough into two halves; roll out a half at a time and keep the other one under the tea-towel;
- Using a rolling pin, roll out a thin circle;
- Take the farthest edge of the sheet, hook it to the rolling pin and roll it towards you;
- Unroll it, turn the disc a quarter and repeat for a few times;
- When sheet is thin enough, hang it on clean horizontal broomstick; let it dry for about 10-15 minutes;
- Repeat with the remaining dough;
- If you use a pasta machine, divide the dough into 4 parts, press them out flat and make 4 lumps as wide as your pasta machine; roll the first lump of pasta in the penultimate widest setting.
- Repeat with the remaining lumps. Then fold the pasta sheets into three, and roll them through again. Repeat without folding the pasta sheets for 3 or 4 times, each time click the machine down a setting. Let the pasta sheets dry for 10-15 minutes.
- Do not dry the pasta sheets too much, otherwise you won’t be able to seal ravioli properly;
- Make a 25x20cm rectangle with a thick squared bladed knife;
- Place rounded teaspoonfuls of filling about 1,5cm apart over half of pasta sheet. You should have about 16 small filling “heaps”;
- Brush around the filling with water to moisten;
- Fold the sheet over and press down to seal;
- Lightly sprinkle little flour over a pasta cutter;
- Cut the edges of the sheet to perfect them;
- Then cut into squares around the filling to give the traditional shape of ravioli;
- Place the ravioli onto a floured the tea-towel and cover them with another one;
- In the meanwhile prepare the other ravioli with the remaining sheets and filling;
- Let them rest for one hours, after 30 turn them upside down;
- If you have a ravioli stamp maker cutter, repeat the same operations until you have used all the ingredients.
A few tips to make perfect pasta:
- Choose the right flour: soft wheat type 00 flour, which is made of the central part of the grain. White and pure, it best fits both egg pasta, or stuffed egg pasta. Soft wheat semolina is tastier but more difficult to knead, so start from the flour type 00. When you get more expert, you will mix the two types of flour, or use only semolina;
- Opt for “pasta eggs”, their yolk is bright red which means they are richer in healthy xanthine (they naturally derived from vitamin A): pasta will get a pleasant bright orange like color (the other eggs tends to make the pasta sheets grayish);
- The quantities of the ingredients may vary according to their own quality, the percentage of humidity in the air, and its temperature; measure the flour and the oil according to the recipe directions;
- Flour both your hands and the board when you knead the dough to prevent it from getting sticky;
- Allow yourself plenty of time, the more you knead the dough, the more easily you will roll out the pasta sheets;
- Check for the right elasticity of the dough- put your finger through the dough: if it is stil sticky, add some flour and keep on kneading;
- Let the dough rest wrapped in a cling film, or just under an upside down bowl: it will dry a little and you will roll it better.
How can you fill (stuff) ravioli?
Plenty of toothsome ingredients are combined to make and endless list of different filling. In Italy, our imagination has no limits! Here are just a few very scrumptious examples.
Stuffing for Piedmontese agnolotti
500 gr of beef
500gr of capocollo (pork meat)
300g off spinach
1 a stalk of celery
White dry wine
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
- Put the two types of meat in two separate baking tin with equal quantity of coarsely diced onion, carrot, and celery. Season with salt and roast in the oven for about one hour;
- Occasionally move the tins to prevent the meat from sticking to the bottom;
- After about 30 minutes, add a little white wine;
- When evenly cooked, let meat cool down completely:
- Scald the spinach in plenty of salty water, drain and squeeze well;
- Pass the meat and the spinach through a meat mincer,
- Season with salt and pepper;
- Add the Parmigiano cheese and the eggs;
- Mix throughly: now the stuffing is ready to enrich your fresh pasta sheets.
This stuffing is perfectly paired with butter and sage sauce; agnolotti may also be seasoned with the scented gravy of the meat you have cooked with the carrot, onion, and celery.
Any stuffing left? What don’t you prepare toothsome meatballs?
Stuffing for Genoese pansotti
300g of fresh pecorino cheese
300g of ricotta cheese
150g of Parmigiano Reggiano
2 egg yolk
Salt and pepper
- Grate Parmigiano Reggiano
- Mix all the ingredients in big mixing bowl until evenly combined;
- Season with salt and pepper;
- Place teaspoons of filling on the pasta sheets: you may seal them into squares but they are traditionally round and folded;
Hazelnut sauce well pairs with pansotti: sauté 200g of coarsely chopped hazelnuts and 20g of pine-nuts in a skillet with a clove of garlic a little butter. When the sauces gets thicker add a glass of milk to make it creamy, and season with salt.
300g of ricotta cheese
100g of spinach
200g Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Salt and nutmeg
This stuffing perfectly combines with butter and sage sauce; top generously with grated Parmigiano cheese.
150g of steer meat
150g of mortadella
150g of pork loin or 100g of Parma ham
150g of sirloin
150g of veal meat
100g of Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon to taste
- Grind the meat and mix well with salt and the other spices;
- Let sit for a few hours;
- In a saucepan with very little oil, sauté the meat,
- When the meat has released its juice, remove from the heat;
- Let it cool down completely, and add the parmigiano cheese;
- Mix well until evenly combined;
- Place teaspoons of filling over the pasta sheets, seal and cut your ravioli.
The traditional meat ragù or my own aromatic variation, perfectly pairs with this filling; for a simpler taste opt for butter and sage sauce, or cream.
Chestnut and Grana Padano cheese stuffing
500g of chestnuts
200g of ricotta cheese
2 tbsp of grated Grana Padano cheese
- Boil, peel, and smash the chestnuts;
- In a big bowl, mix chestnuts, ricotta and Grana Padano cheese;
- Season with nutmeg, and salt;
- Let sit at least one hour before filling your ravioli;
It perfectly combines with butter and sage!
How can you cook ravioli?
Cook them into a big stock pot with plenty of salted boiling water for 4-5 minutes. They must not open, of course. Drain with a mesh skimmer not to break them. Season with butter and sage sauce, ragù, or roast meat gravy.