After last weeks Homage to Cow, so to speak, I decided it’s time for a vegetarian dish. Actually, scratch that – I’ve made this one several times before actually paying any attention to the fact that it’s “vegetarian”. To me, this one is proudly wearing the colors of August in our region, highlighting the delicious stonefruityness of the month and (quite literally) wrapping up the deal with a hint of the signature delicacies at home just a little further down south.
You guys probably know that
a) I’m not usually big on pasta – unless the filling makes it worth it~ and
b) I skirt around the “effort” bit of the kitchen-works, any sort of dough in particular, during the hot months of the year whenever and however I can.
In this case the shortcut for those of you so inclined is quite simply: the best storebought fresh and eggy pasta dough you can possibly get your hands on. But, if you like to really dot your Is and cross the Ts on the rare pasta dish coming out of your kitchen, I highly suggest making the dough yourself – pasta dough is quite simple to make and even simpler to tweak to your liking or filling-related needs. In this case, herb’ing it up a bit is a wonderful and wonderfully easy way to boost the aromas trapped inside from the outside~
Here we go, pasta dinner for 4:
These amounts will net you a ball of dough of about 500g:
400g Pasta Flour (Type 00)
100g Semolina – plus some extra for dusting
1 Generous Pinch of Salt
1 Pinch of Fine Baking Sugar
1 Generous Crack of Black Pepper
7 Medium-Sized Egg Yolks
2 Whole Medium-Sized Eggs
1 Tsp Olive Oil
1 Tsp Fresh or Dried Rosemary or Thyme – if you’re using fresh herbs, pick the leaves and finely chop them
1) Sift the flour and the semolina into a large mixing bowl.
2) Sprinkle in the salt, sugar, pepper and herbs.
3) Gently stir through the mix with your fingers until the green herby dots are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
4) Press a well into the center of the fragrant flour heap in your bowl.
5) Crack the eggs into the well and add the previously separated egg yolks and the olive oil – make an egg white omelet or meringues while you’ve got the fresh egg whites on hand~!
6) Knead the mixture inside the bowl, starting in the eggy center and working your way outwards by incorporating the crumbling flour caldera-walls into the newly forming dough, until it comes together in a non-gooey ball of dough, then turn it out onto a floured work surface and continue to knead for about 10 mins until the dough is smooth and elastic. As usual, carefully add a few drops of water if the dough turns crumbly as you work it – or a light dusting of flour if it’s too wet. Go one careful addition at a time to keep the problem to simply switch sides rather than solve itself.
7) Roll it up into a ball once you’re done.
8) Tightly wrap the ball up in a sheet of clingfilm and pop it into the fridge for about 45 mins.
100g Black Kalamata Olives – I always use a tub of Garlic & Herb marinated olives I buy every Saturday at my favorite anipasti-heaven stall at the farmers market. If you’re using marinated or oil-preserved ones too, pop them into a sieve and allow them to drip off the excess oil a bit before chopping them up so the filling doesn’t turn soggy on you.
50g Soft-dried Prunes, chopped
1 Sprig of Thyme or Oregano, leaves picked
1 Clove of Garlic, very finely chopped
1 Tsp of fresh Rosemary Needles, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Cheaty Alt: 125g of your favorite Black Olive Tapenade plus the prunes
Sea Salt, freshly cracked Pepper and Chilli flakes to taste
1) If they’re not already pitted, carefully slice the olives in halves with the tip of a knife and remove the pit.
2) Place a pan just large enough to hold the listed ingredients (sans the ricotta) on medium heat and add the oil.
3) Once the oil is hot, add the olives, garlic, prunes, herbs along with a very generous pinch each of salt, pepper and chilli flakes.
4) Sauté the lot until the mixture starts to bind together in a very fragrant, chunky paste. About 7-10 mins should do.
5) In the meantime, place the ricotta in a food processor or stick-blender friendly container.
6) Once the olive mixture is done, have it join the ricotta and whizz the two of them together until your future pasta filling is very well combined.
7) Have a taste and adjust the seasoning of necessary. Aim for “very slightly overseasoned” since the dough will swallow up a bit of it.
Assembling the Ravioli
The Dough – unless you’re as… ah… challenged as I am with fiddly dough-work, you will only need about 300-400g of it. You can store the excess in the fridge for 2 days and whip up some pasta dish or other – or you could freeze the remaining ball of dough for up to a month.
1 Egg, beaten
1) Grab a rolling pin or pasta machine and work the dough into long, 8-10cm wide and 2-3mm thick ribbons.
2) Dust your work surface with a bit of semolina and horizontally smooth out your first ribbon in front of you.
3) Brush the top half of the ribbon with the beaten egg and drop tablespoonfuls of the filling in neat little piles onto the lower half – make sure the filling drops are spaced about 4-5cm apart.
4) Fold the brushed top half of the dough ribbon over the bottom half holding the piles of filling, align the edges and gently press the blanket around the filling, making sure not to trap air bubbles inside.
5) Once the olive and prune heaps are neatly tucked in, use a cookie cutter or pasta wheel to cut them into individual ravioli.
6) Slide the finished ones onto a tray lined with baking parchment and sprinkled with semolina and repeat the process until you’re out of dough ribbons and filling.
7) Set a wide pot or deep pan onto medium-high heat and add enough water to fill it by 1/3.
8) Add a generous pinch of salt and bring the water up to a simmer – make extra sure it doesn’t work up a boil! The impacts of big bubbles rising could either rip the pasta apart right away or bump the ravioli into each other before the dough had time to firm up – which would also result in potential rips during the attempt to separate them again later on.
9) Add the ravioli in batches just large enough to ensure each bit has enough space to float around in the water a bit without getting close and personal with its neighbor.
10) Allow each batch to cook for 2-3 mins until a test-bite reveals the dough is al dente.
11) Fish them out of the water with a slotted spoon and keep them in a deep dish locked under aluminum foil until you’re done with the whole lot.
12) While the ravioli are simmering to perfection, take care of the sauce on the backburner of your stove~
The Lemon & Pecorino Sauce
2 Unwaxed Lemons, Juice of one and the Zest of both
1 Bay Leaf, crumpled up to help release the essential oils
1 Shallot, finely chopped
2 Sprigs of Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped
100g Pecorino de Pepe, as finely grated as the delicious peppercorns trapped inside allow
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
100ml White Port
3-4 Tbsp Crème Légère or Low Fat Cooking Cream
Salt and freshly cracked Pepper to taste
2 Sprigs of Fresh Oregano
3-4 Tbsp Pine Nuts, lightly toasted
1) Place a medium-sized pot on medium and heat up the oil.
2) Add and sauté the shallot dice along with the parsley and bay for 1 mins.
3) Turn the heat up to medium-high and give the contents of your pot another minute.
4) Deglaze the pot with the port and lemon juice, and allow the mixture to bubble away until it has reduced down to ½ of the amounts you’ve started with.
5) Whisk in the Crème Légère and the lemon zest and allow the mixture to simmer for 2 mins.
6) Add 2/3 of the grated pecorino, a generous pinch of salt and a small crack of pepper.
7) While stirring to keep the melting cheese from sticking to the bottom of the pot, allow the sauce to bubble up and keep at it for 1 min.
8) Take the pot off the heat and whizz its contents with a stick blender until they turn silky-smooth and glossy. If it’s too runny for your tastes, add more cheese – if it’s too thick, balance the scales with lemon juice or cream depending on the results of a quick and careful taste-test.
9) Once you’re satisfied with the consistency of the sauce, have another taste-test and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
10) If you’re somehow not approaching the finishing line with the pasta and the sauce at the same time, keep the sauce warm (not hot!) until the last batch of ravioli comes out of the water.
11) Time to plate up! Divvy up the ravioli and cover them with a thick blanket of the sauce.
12) Garnish the servings with a couple of oregano leaves, the pine nuts and a generous dusting of the remaining pecorino (or more!).
13) Olives or Green Peppercorns could crown the dish as well if you’d like to pile on even more delicious morsels for eye candy.
14) Grab a spoon, lean back and…