Food history tells us that ravioli is Genoese (think Genoa and Liguria) in origin. According to the great food writer, Waverley Root, until the beginning of the 19th century, this form of pasta was called rabiole, which in Genoese dialect means things of little value or, in this instance, kitchen leftovers. The story goes that on shipboard, in days of sail, making use of leftovers was important; if they were thrown away, a ship might risk running out of food if the voyage was unexpectedly prolonged. So, on Genoese ships, those leftovers were chopped or minced and stuffed into envelopes of pasta.
To buy or to make your own is the burning question when it comes to ravioli. My quick answer is "buy." Time saved is money earned. Making your own ravioli can be very labor intensive, so have your distributors sample out frozen ravioli for your taste tests. There are some excellent brands of frozen ravioli out there, and the depth of filling choices seems to get better and better as time goes by.
On the other hand, if you want to make your own ravioli it does set you apart from the pack. Also, it gives you the opportunity to create a few signature ravioli specials that will give your customers something to talk about.
Here are some ideas when working with ravioli-buying or making your own-to keep you on top of the pasta game.
• When making ravioli, always make the filling first, this will eliminate the possibility of the pasta dough drying out and not sealing properly.
• When cooking frozen ravioli, take them directly from the freezer to the boiling water. Do not allow them to thaw. Generally speaking, frozen ravioli will take 8 - 10 minutes to cook.
• If you are making your own ravioli in big batches and wish to freeze them, follow these steps: Dust a sheet pan lightly with flour. Lay the cut and sealed ravioli on the sheet to dry. Turn then over after 10 minutes. Put the sheet pan into the freezer. Within 2 hours the ravioli will be frozen. Portion the ravioli in freezer bags. Seal the bags and return them to the freezer. If stored and sealed properly, ravioli will hold up well in the freezer for 2 months.
• The pasta "envelopes" that hold the filling can be made using freshly made pasta (test batch below). Another viable and perfectly acceptable short cut is to use wonton skins. Wonton skins come in two sizes: 6-inch and 3-inch. Either size works fine.
• Using a metal ravioli form is one way to fill, cut and seal ravioli in a timely way. These forms are readily available in specialty cookware stores. Using this form, one person can make no fewer than 200 (or more) ravioli in about 6 hours.
Homemade Egg Pasta for Ravioli
1 ∏ cups all-purpose flour
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
Carefully measure the flour and put it in the workbowl of a food processor. Break the eggs into the bowl. Run the processor until the dough balls up and cleans the sides of the work bowl. This will make a 1-pound ball of dough, or enough pasta, when sheeted to make 22 ravioli, each about 2 inches square.
Once you have made your pasta sheets, spoon the filling onto one sheet of the dough in heaping teaspoonfuls about 1 inch from the edge and spacing the centers of the filling mounds about 2 inches apart. Moisten the dough around the mounds lightly with water. Drape another sheet of dough over the mounds of filling. Cut and seal three sides of each ravioli by pressing down on the dough with your fingers, forcing out any air through the open end of the dough. Press and seal the fourth side. Ravioli are now ready for freezing or cooking to order.
Black Bean Ravioli with Chipotle Cream Sauce
2-3 dried pasilla or chipotle chilies
2 cloves garlic, peeled
π cup chopped yellow onion
2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
π cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
Place the chilies in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak until very soft, 15-20 minutes. Drain and remove stems. Place the chilies, garlic, onion, beans and cilantro in a food processor. Process until smooth.
Make and form the ravioli as directed above.
Chipotle Cream Sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup chipotles in adobo sauce
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups whipping cream
salt to taste
π cup fresh coriander (cilantro)
In a skillet set over medium heat, warm the oil for 1 minute. Add the chipotles and garlic. Stir and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, crushing the chipotles with a wooden spoon. Stir in the whipping cream. Raise the heat to medium-high an simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced to about 1 ∏ cups. Add salt to taste.
Arrange the cooked ravioli on heated pasta plates or bowls. Drizzle the sauce over the ravioli. Sprinkle on the cilantro.
Chicken and Spinach Ravioli using Wonton Skins
12 ounces fresh spinach
1 pound chicken breast, cooked and finely chopped
∏ cup finely chopped roasted red peppers
π cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About ∏ package 3-inch wonton skins
1. Cook the spinach in a small amount of water. Drain and pat dry.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach roasted red peppers and Parmesan cheese.
Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Form the ravioli by laying half of the wonton skins on a sheet pan. Brush the wonton
liberally with water. Put about 1 heaped tablespoon of the filling on each of the skins.
Place the other skins over the filling, and press down firmly with your fingertips to
seal the edges. Run a pastry cutter around all sides to further seal the ravioli.
4. Freeze as directed above, or hold in the cooler for that day's orders.
Makes 26 to 28 3-inch ravioli. Recipe can be scaled up in direct proportion.
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