Fresh Ravioli with Spinach, Ricotta and Shiitakes

Virtually nothing has melted. The side streets are still skating rinks. Driving on anything other than main thoroughfares requires 4-wheel drive. Clearly, another project dinner is called for.

We love making fresh pasta, but there are times when one needs more than just noodles and sauce. Those are the times that call for ravioli and the best part is we almost always have some ingredients we can combine to make a decent filling. Around 2 pm, after walking the dog twice and then realizing it was really too early to start drinking, we both looked in the fridge. There was some ricotta, the end of a Costco “pillow” of spinach, and half a small container of shiitakes. “Hey, we can fill ravioli with this stuff,” and we were off to the races.

spinach and shiitakes

Blanch the spinach and coarsely chop. Chop the shiitakes and lightly sauté.

Lightly sauté half a large or 1 medium onion, diced. Toss with herbs such as oregano, basil, thyme and a pinch of salt.

Fold the spinach/shiitake together with some fat dollops of ricotta then fold in the sautéed onion. Once well-blended cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Add 10 ounces of flour and 1 tsp of salt to a bowl and make a well in the center. What flour to use is pretty much dealers choice. We use Bob’s Red Mill Artisan (in the purple bag) as our go-to, but we often have odds and ends from other projects in the back of our pantry that we’ll add in. For pasta, I’ll sometimes use 100% semolina flour, but for ravioli, I tend to use my go-to white and maybe some “type 00” that’s been sitting around from the last time we made pizza. Add four egg yolks and two whole eggs.

Beat the eggs in the well until thoroughly combined and then, slowly, begin mixing in the flour. It can help to keep turning the bowl 45 degrees at a time while stirring briskly.

One the dough is craggy or crumbly, turn it out onto a floured work surface and, using the heel of your hand, work the dough, folding it in on itself and turning 45 degrees, until you get an elastic ball about the texture of stiff Play-Doh. If the dough is sticky, keep adding flour, a little at a time, combining it into the ball. Too dry, dribble tiny amounts of water or, a better way–thank you Serious Eats–use a spray bottle and continue to work the dough. Wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap and rest it at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Now the Real Fun Begins

Unwrap the dough and divide into four pieces. Using a rolling pin or using your hands, squish one section into roughly a rectangular shape, set your pasta machine to it’s widest setting and begin running the dough through the machine. I don’t have photos of this process because, well, it’s hard to run sheets of pasta through our machine and take pictures at the same time.

Kitchen workhorse

We had a hand-cranked pasta machine, but I learned, not having three hands, it’s much easier to process pasta dough if the machine does some of the work. For making sheets this thing rocks. For cutting pasta, we have the exact same complaints as everybody else when they say the wheels don’t cleanly cut into individual ribbons.

Lay one sheet on the ravioli “die” and press the plastic form relatively hard to get a deep depression. You want the bottom of this sheet to be well-floured, but you want the top to be as un-floured as possible. Why? Because you want the outside of the ravioli to release from the metal frame, but you want the inside to stick aggressively to the bottom sheet you’ll place after filling each depression.

Place a scoop of filling into each depression, dip your finger in a bowl of water and quickly run it up/down/side/side to moisten the surface where the bottom sheet will stick.

Cover with a second sheet being careful to have as little flour as possible where the sheets will touch.

Roll the sheets together.

Roll it pretty hard, and the ravioli will just pop out when you flip over the frame.

Ta-dah! Is that not a beautiful sight? With both of us working, we can produce 2 and a half dozen in about 15 minutes, though it seems much longer when actually doing it. Division of labor helps. My job is assisting with the filling, making the dough, rolling and managing the sheets. Her job is filling, squishing and getting out of the ravioli frame. Then my final job is cooking.

These little guys need only 3 to 4 minutes in gently boiling water. Don’t fret if you have seam failures on some. Years ago, our first try resulted in almost all bursting open and spewing filling into the water. The pasta was still fine.

What sauce to use depends on what you opted for a filling. Ricotta-spinach-shiitake well does well with any number of sauces ranging from a bold red (which is what we made for this dinner) to just a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh ground pepper.

We almost always cook all the ravioli we make, but they freeze really well, too. It’s great fun on a crappy afternoon making dozens of ravioli and setting them in the freezer for a super-easy, home-made meal later in the week.