Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Homemade Spinach and Chicken Ravioli
Today’s adventure was making homemade spinach and chicken ravioli. We had it for dinner tonight, and I made a lot extra to freeze, which I’ll serve to company at a dinner party in a couple weeks. To me, there’s nothing yummier than freshly-made homemade pasta (or homemade pasta that’s been frozen and thawed!).
I’ll be honest with you…it’s a several hour project to make your own ravioli. But…it’s just as easy to make several batches at once rather than just one. So I make a lot at a time and freeze it, which in that sense is a time saver. Now, in addition to having dinner ready for my family for tonight, I’ve got homemade ravioli frozen to serve to future dinner guests, and it’s all set to go.
I use pasta and filling recipes from a Cook’s Illustrated book, The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles. I have “tweaked” the recipes a bit though. In this blog post, I’ll give you a rundown of the ravioli making operation at my house.
First, I’ll start with the recipes:
3 cups all-purpose, semolina or bread flour
1 tsp. salt
5 large-eggs, beaten
1-2 tsp. cold water
Place flour in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pour in flour and salt. Pulse food processor a few times to evenly distribute salt. Add eggs and pulse until mixture starts to cling together. It should come together in one large mass, without sticking to the sides. Mixture should not be wet. If it doesn’t stick together, add 1-2 tsp cold water, a half teaspoon at a time. Once it holds together, remove dough from food processor. Knead about a minute, until dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 to 60 minutes. This will make the dough easier to handle. While the dough is “resting” in the fridge, make the filling.
Here's a dough ball, resting...
¾ cup thawed, frozen spinach
1 cup cooked chicken breast cubes
1 small onion
2 T. butter
½ tsp. salt
1 cup ricotta cheese (whole or part skim)
¾ cup Parmesan cheese (ideally freshly grated)
Put chicken in food processor and pulse until chicken is coarsely ground. Set chicken aside. Next, squeeze out excess water from the spinach. Then put spinach in the food processor and pulse until spinach is chopped fine. Set spinach aside. Next, dice onion in food processor. Melt butter in large saucepan and add spinach and onion. Stir about 5 minutes, until onion is cooked and tender. Add salt, chicken and cheeses. Filling is now ready. (At this point, you can refrigerate the filling—up to one day—until you are ready to assemble your ravioli. This is actually a good time-saver; making both the pasta and filling for the ravioli, and assembling it, can be too time consuming for one day.)
Here's a photo of the filling, ready to be put into the ravioli:
To assemble your ravioli, you will need a pasta machine (to roll out the dough). It’s also helpful to have a ravioli maker to help you shape your raviolis (If you don’t have one, you can just put one sheet of dough on top of anther, and cut out your squares using a pastry wheel cutter—with a small spoonful of filling in the center of each.). The ravioli maker I use is made by Norpro, and consists of two parts—a metal frame that has 12 “holes” in it, and an indented, egg-carton shaped plastic form.
I’ll post a series of photos here so that you can see the process. Basically, what you do is use your pasta machine to roll out strips of the pasta dough. Start rolling your dough at the thickest width setting, and then pass the dough sheets through the machine several times, each time at a thinner thickness, until you’ve the dough’s been through the thinnest setting. The dough will be thin and translucent.
Next, cut out 12X4 inch strips of dough. Place a strip onto the metal frame (dust the strip of dough with flour first, which will make for easier removal of the ravioli squares when you’re finished).
Use the egg carton-shaped form to make indentations in each square. Fill each of these indentations with a rounded teaspoonful worth of filling.
Then place a second 12X4 inch strip of dough on top of that (again, lightly flouring the dough strip first). Roll across the covered frame with a wooden rolling pin. This will seal the two layers of dough together. The edges of the frame—showing the outlines of each ravioli square—will start to show through as you’re rolling.
When you can clearly see the metal edges, turn the ravioli form over and lightly tap it on the countertop. The raviolis will fall onto the countertop surface. If they don’t fall out by themselves, you can use the edge of a paring knife to carefully pry the ravioli squares out of the form.
Place the ravioli on a cookie sheet lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Freeze for about an hour to harden the ravioli so that they won’t stick together when you’re storing them. You can then put the ravioli in freezer bags and freeze them. They freeze well for 1-2 months. Or, if you’re going to prepare the ravioli fairly soon, you can store the ravioli in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking them.
If you’ve frozen the ravioli, thaw them in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours before cooking them. To cook the ravioli, place them in salted, boiling water. Let them cook for 8 minutes or until tender. Serve covered with marinara or Alfredo sauce.
I like to serve these ravioli with Afredo sauce. Here’s my recipe:
½ cup butter
4 T. cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
2/3 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add cream cheese and stir until blended with butter. Stir in heavy cream and half and half. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.