Monday, March 15, 2010

Improvisational Ravioli

I know I'm a little late. What can I say? I'm still adjusting. I've also been living off of one big bowl of brown rice salad that I will discuss a little later in the week.

But better late than never, that's what I always say.

And I do want to talk about improvisation because improvisation is the backbone of my cooking. I think people are scared of improvisation (like I was, until recently, with baking), but it doesn't have to be scary. It can be fun and exciting and challenging. You just have to be comfortable with the fact that sometimes things don't always work out just right.

But really you just look in the fridge and you say, OK. I have some tomatoes and some garlic and boy do I like both of those things roasted.

So you sprinkle them with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and some basil and oregano. Or whatever you feel like. Improvisation is about you. It's nice.

Then you pop them in a 350 degree F oven and wander back to your fridge to see what else you have.

That leftover ball of dough is just screaming to be made into ravioli with your brand new ravioli mold, so all you have to do is figure out what to put inside of them. (You can make ravioli by hand to, just follow the same basic instructions from my pierogi recipe.)

And there are those shiitake mushrooms that you just HAD to have over the regular mushrooms you usually buy. Who can resist? I have my eyes on some porcinis for next time.

And what's in that styrofoam take-out container? Leftover pork shoulder from that awesome Columbian place Dan's dad likes to go to? Well that's the perfect thing my bacon-craving-self was looking for. A few generous chunks of pork-shoulder finely diced will go nicely with those diced shiitake mushrooms.

Don't pretend. There's a half an onion in there also, from maybe four days ago. Dice it up!

Heat some oil in a pan, get the onions cooking, then add the mushrooms, and then the meat.

Since this is the filling - and because I'm roasting tomatoes, that must be what I will make the sauce out of - something needs to be added to bind everything together. I had some ricotta and heavy cream in the fridge for various reasons, so I put some of those in. I was very light with both, Dan doesn't like things super creamy. It was just enough to hold everything together and add a nice cheesy, but not overwhelming flavor.

But, if you like intense cheese flavor, by all means, add more ricotta and heavy cream. Ravioli filling can handle a lot of cheese. Thinking about it, a thick yogurt and cilantro sauce also would have been delicious inside these.

Then you let that cool.

You take your tomatoes and garlic out of the oven (and forget to take a picture of them) and allow them to cool as well.

This is a good time to roll that dough out. It needs to be about medium thinness. I rolled it out to a 5 on my pasta maker.

You also get out your cute little ravioli mold.

Then everything comes together very easily. I wound up with enough dough for 12 ravioli and a lot more filling (which, I mixed with couscous for the next few days as a quick dinner after work. Delicious!).

These are average size ravioli (maybe a little smaller than average), so I only needed a teaspoonful of filling for each one.

This was my first time using the ravioli mold, so now I know when the box says to roll the top layer lightly, they really mean relatively firmly. I was way too gentle and had to finish cutting the dough by hand with my dough cutter thing. Which was easy, but a little redundant. Also, because I was too light with the rolling, I wound up with some air inside the ravioli. It's not a catastrophe, but moisture collects in them; it would have been better if they had been air tight.

I actually cooked them like they were pot stickers, which worked great! Frying the bottom a little, then adding some water and steaming, and then uncovering and let the water evaporate.

Remember those tomatoes and garlic from before? Well, I threw them into my blender along with just a touch of a chili in adobo and pureed them. I didn't even warm it up. I left the sauce at a cool room temperature to go along with the ravioli. Between the garlic and the adobo, the tomato sauce was nice and smoky, while the ravioli were chewy, earthy, meaty, and just a little bit cheesy.


No recipe! You can use the pasta dough recipe I used in my pierogi post. Or this one:

Make a well in 2 cups of flour.
Add in three eggs plus 1 yolk.
Make hand into a claw.
Mix in slowly from center in a circular motion.
Knead for ten minutes, adding flour until dough is not sticky, but velvety.

But beyond that, go crazy. No one knows what you like better than you, so get rid of some of that stuff in your fridge and have fun! You'll realize that you can cook a much wider variety of things than you initially thought when you just kind of say "To hell with it" and just allow your palate to guide you through your fridge and onto the stove.


  1. All I can say is I am incredibly impressed that you made your own raviolli. I think I would be far too afraid!

  2. I haven't made homemade pasta in far too long...I feel inspired! And not just pasta, but ravioli? Improv? Very impressive indeed. (: It sounds wonderful.

  3. Thank you both! And ravioli is very easy to make without a press... you basically just do the same thing but instead of rolling the top layer over, I would just lightly press down on top of each mound with your palm (to squeeze all the air out) and then with your fingers seal around the edges and then cut around them with a sharp knife or a pastry knife thing (I don't know what they're called).

  4. You're making me hungry and it's only 8 am here. Woah. I love this idea. You are a great cook! And, I love your sweet blog. What a find!

  5. Looks delicious! Nothing beats fresh pasta!

  6. Just got back from Italy and order ravioli a couple of times. Both times the ravioli was cooked just the way you explained, like pot-stickers. They were pretty tasty, but your filling sounds a lot more interesting and tasty.