Friday, February 8, 2013

A Labor of Love!

We all aspire to do great things, right?  And sometimes, no matter how much effort we put into it, we fail.  But I am not one to give up.  I am a very determined individual, and I am also very competetive.  Just ask my husband.  We compete at everything, even who will win American Idol or Survivor.

So my great challenge for myself this week was homemade ravioli.  I've attempted it numerous times and failed.  Either the pasta is too dense or the filling bursts out or the pasta is too thin.  Discouraging.  But, after two tries this week, I finally got it right.  I did research on pasta recipes.  I Googled why ravioli bursts open.  I found many helpful answers.  And...I made the dough in my mixer.  You heard me right.  Many Italian women right now are probably very unhappy with that last statement since authentic pasta is always kneaded by hand.  But I did it, and it worked.  Here is my formal apology to all you wonderful Italian women who follow the traditional way of making pasta.  I'm truly sorry I used my mixer, but I'm not nearly as patient as you.  Please don't hold it against me.  Please.

So back to the story...Now, this is not a beginner's recipe.  However, if you're a beginner and you like to challenge yourself, try this.  Trust me.  It was really amazing how it all came together.  There are three important things you need to follow with this recipe.  1.  Let the dough rest for an hour.  I don't know why, something to do with glutens relaxing.  2.  Flour flour flour your pasta sheets.  We had a terrible experiment earlier this week with wax paper and sticky dough.  It wasn't pretty.  3.  Bring your water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  This is the key to keeping the ravioli from bursting open.  And, 4. (sorry, I said three), only cook four or five ravioli at a time.  Time consuming, yes, but it works.  Drain them on a towel on a sheet pan until they are all cooked.  Oh, and 5. (just thought of one more), don't pour the water and the ravioli into a collander.  Carefully remove them from the water with a slotted spoon.  Okay.  That's all.

This recipe was made in a large quantity, so feel free to cut it in half.  And I used a pasta maker to roll out the pasta.  You can use a rolling pin too.  Just make sure you roll it out pretty thin, not so thin that you can see through it, but somewhere right before that.  Helpful, I know.

HOMEMADE SIX-CHEESE RAVIOLI WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE MARINARA

DOUGH:
4 C flour
5 eggs
1/4 C water
2 teaspoons salt

FILLING:
32 ounces ricotta cheese
2 C Italian six-cheese shredded blend
1 T garlic powder

MARINARA:
4 C Basic Marinara Sauce (recipe below)
2 lbs Italian sausage, hot or mild, casings removed
2 T fresh basil, chopped

ALSO NEEDED:
2 eggs
1/4 C water
1 C Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Mix the dough ingredients in a stand mixer until it becomes a smooth ball.  Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and let it sit for an hour.

Mix the filling ingredients together in a bowl and set aside until you're ready to use it.

After your dough has rested, divide it into eight equal portions.  Keep the portions covered with a towel while working with the first portion.  With your pasta maker, set the sheet setting on the widest setting.  Mine is 7.  Flour your counter top well.  Roll out the sheet on 7, turn the setting down to 6 and repeat, making sure the dough is floured each time.  I continued reducing the setting until I rolled it out on the 3 setting.  Keep the sheets covered with plastic wrap until they are all done.  Now mix the 2 eggs and 1/4 C water together for an egg wash.

Mound tablespoons of the filling along one sheet about 1/2 inch apart.  Brush the egg wash all around the filling.  Lightly lay another sheet on top of that.  Cup your hands around each mound to press out the air.  Use a knife or pastry cutter to cut out squares around the filling.  Be sure not to get too close to the filling.  When they are all stuffed, cook four to five at a time on a simmer for 3-5 minutes or until the dough is tender.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a towel on a sheet pan to drain.

Preheat a skillet over medium high heat and add in a little olive oil.  Cook the sausage, breaking it apart as you go, until it's done.  Turn down the heat to medium.  Pour in the marinara sauce and cook until it starts bubbling.  Add in the basil and remove from heat.  Plate the ravioli with the sauce over it and dprinkle the shredded Mozzarella over the top.

BASIC MARINARA SAUCE

3 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
6 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes (San Marzano is preferable)
10-12 cloves of garlic (a whole bulb), minced
1 T beef bouillon
1 C red wine (any kind you like)
1/4 C fresh basil, chopped
1/4 C fresh Italian parsley, chopped
6 bay leaves
Red chili pepper flake, to taste
Salt & pepper
Olive oil

For the marinara, heat a really big stock pot over medium heat.  Drizzle olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot.  Add in the onions, carrots, and celery.  Cook about 10 minutes or until tender.  Add in remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, over medium low heat for at least an hour, longer if desired.  Remove all the bay leaves and blend.  I use an immersion blender, but you can blend it in batches in a blender.  Transfer with a ladle to plastic containers (I use the rectangle ones that lunchmeat comes in) and freeze the marinara.  I got 8 3-4 cup containers of sauce.

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