I have always loved Ravioli. Perhaps it is the tender pasta, crimped adorably, hiding a treasure of amazing flavors inside. Perhaps it is the kiss of sauce– just a little to highlight the pasta, itself. Perhaps it is the fact that ravioli comes in so many incredible flavors– from lobster to spinach to four cheese. Although homemade pasta may seem intimidating, never fear! It is easier than it looks, and it’s just so darned fun to make. You can also make any flavor of ravioli you like, ahead of time, and freeze it. Yes. This means that you can whip out Spinach and Sausage ravioli with homemade garlic butter sauce for a special family dinner in about 5 minutes, from your freezer. Seriously. Can you imagine preparing a date-quality meal in 5 minutes after a hard day of work? Let fast food be a thing of the past. This food is fast– but it tastes a whole lot better 😉
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Spinach and Sausage Ravioli with Garlic Butter (adapted from Allrecipes.com)
2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 tsp. olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
2-3 tbsp. water
Ravioli Filling Ingredients:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. parsley
16 oz. breakfast sausage roll, cooked, drained, and crumbled
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
Garlic Butter Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 whole cloves garlic
Directions: To make your pasta, whisk flour and salt together in a bowl. Make a “well” in the flour and place your beaten eggs, oil, and 2 tbsp. water into the center. Gently whisk around the egg, incorporating the flour as you mix around the edges. You may have to add an extra tablespoon or so of water to make the dough come together. When the dough becomes too thick to whisk, switch to a table knife and stir the ingredients until combined into a shaggy dough. Knead the dough on a floured silpat for 5-6 minutes, until smooth and pliable. Wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
For filling ingredients, beat your softened cream cheese, alone, until it is smooth and all the lumps are gone. Mix in ricotta cheese and egg, and then the rest of the ingredients, including cooked and crumbled sausage and wilted spinach (cook spinach in leftover sausage drippings). Refrigerate mixture until ready to stuff raviolis (more on this in a minute). After raviolis are stuffed, boil them for 2-3 minutes until they float to the top of the boiling water. Remove them from the water and serve with garlic butter and marinara sauce.
Now, let’s walk through this process in pictures. Homemade pasta is doable! I promise! Don’t be intimidated! I’m going to show you every step and walk you through this process, with you. Let’s go!
Take a deep breath. You can do this. The thought of making homemade pasta is kind of intimidating, I will admit. But you can totally conquer it! And just imagine how awesome you will feel when you can whip up your own pasta from scratch with the power of a classy Italian Grandma! There is an old Italian saying that always makes me chuckle: “Figliuole e frittelle, quante piu se ne fa, piu vegon belle.” It means, in a nutshell, “Children and food: The more you make the better they come out.” Haha. Seriously! Just take a deep breath and work with this pasta thing. Practice makes perfect.
Traditionally, pasta is made by making a flour mound on the counter and making a well in the center to place your egg. Don’t tell the pasta purists, but I am using a bowl for this part. Sorry– I’m a busy Mom, and less mess is A OK with me. Don’t tell this Italian recipe that my ancestors were English, and not Italian. 😉 Whisk your flour and a pinch of salt (basically 1 sprinkle) together in the bowl, and then make a little well or dip in the center. Pour in the 2 beaten eggs, 2 tsp. olive oil, and 2 tbsp. water into the center. You may need a little more water toward the end, but start with 2 tbsp. and see how it goes. With your whisk, gently stir the edges of the egg, pulling the flour in little by little until you have a shaggy dough.
When the dough gets too thick to continue whisking, switch your whisk out for the trusty ole’ butter knife. A butter knife is always my tool of choice when making dough, whether it be for biscuits, pie crust . . . whatever you like. Use the knife to stir the rest of the dough together. You may have to add a squidge more water– just get it to come together in a stiff dough, without being wet or sticky. It should not have any floury parts– make sure it’s totally combined. It will kind of “clean” the bowl as you stir.
Take the shaggy dough and scrape it out onto a floured silpat. Knead the dough, adding a little flour as necessary to keep from sticking, until you have a nice, smooth dough ball. Kneading the dough smooth takes about 5ish minutes, but we won’t split hairs. When it’s soft and pliable like a human earlobe, it’s ready.
At that point, wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about an hour. If you have time the night before, you can make this and stick it in the fridge overnight so it will be ready for you the next day. You can also freeze several dough balls and let them thaw in the fridge, overnight, the day before you want pasta. Pasta is just like the Italians who embody it– delicious and eager to please.
Now, for my favorite part– assembling the delicious filling! Raviolis are amazingly versatile, and you can stuff them with whatever you like best. No– you may not stuff them with Ryan Reynolds, even if you like him best. Hehe. 😉
A beautiful system is that you can make your dough, pop it in the fridge, and then make the filling and get your ravioli station set up. By the time you do all that, the dough will be nice and chilled and ready to go. It’s like it was . . . meant to be. 🙂
Start by getting your sausage cooking. I am using a cast iron skillet over medium low heat. You basically just want to brown the sausage and scrape off the cooked part, as you go, chopping those bigger pieces up with your spoon to make nice, bite-sized crumbles. When your sausage is cooked and crumbled, use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pan onto a paper-towel lined plate. That way it can drain off some of the grease while you start the next step.
Take your 2 cups of spinach (you can chop it or leave it in whole leaves– I am leaving it whole) and pop them right into that hot skillet. Sausage doesn’t make a ton of extra grease, but there should be just enough still in that skillet to keep the spinach from sticking. Cook the leaves for a few minutes until they are wilted.
While the spinach is doing its thing, let’s start the cheese filling. You want your cream cheese to be soft– I usually get it out of the fridge about half an hour before I need it. Place the cream cheese into the bowl of your stand mixer and beat it, by itself, first, so that it becomes light and fluffy without any lumps.
Go ahead and add your ricotta cheese and eggs. Mix well.
At this point, your spinach should be nice and wilted. Turn off the skillet and just let it sit there until you’re ready for it here, in just a sec.
To your ricotta cheese mixture, go ahead and add your garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, and shredded cheeses. Mmm. Now it’s starting to look like Italy!
Yep– you guessed it– now it’s time to add our sausage crumbles and spinach leaves. I like to use the slotted spoon to remove the spinach from the pan so that I don’t get a lot of extra grease in my ravioli filling. Mix well and refrigerate this mixture until you’re ready to stuff your raviolis. You can easily make your filling the night before, if you know you’ll be in a hurry the next day when you’re ready to finish stuffing your ravioli.
Once your dough has been in the fridge for an hour or so, or long enough to be chilled, you can start the fun part– assembling your delicious, homemade pasta! Cut yourself a small piece of dough– you want this piece to be about the size of a clementine. Roll it well in flour and roll it out with your hands to be longer and thinner– like a steak fry. (Can you tell I cook a lot with all these food analogies? haha).
Flour your “steak fry” piece of dough super well, because rolling pasta can get sticky! Start your pasta roller on the largest setting (mine is 6). Roll it out, once, being careful to crank slowly and steadily so your pasta sheet doesn’t rip. The first time you roll the dough, double it up on itself and roll again. This is the only time you double up the dough– it just gives it added strength for the thinner rolls you will be doing. Flour the dough strip each time on each side so that it doesn’t stick. Roll twice on level 6, twice on level 4, and twice on level 2. Each time you roll another time, flour your dough on both sides, dusting the flour evenly on all parts of the dough with your hands. Each time, the “ribbon” will get thinner and longer. You will be thinking, “How the heck can that teensy little blob of dough become, like, 5 feet long?!?!” I don’t know how, either, but somehow it does. We need pasta to run for Congress– everyone loves it, and it gets a lot done with a little. hehe. Washington could learn a few things from ravioli. 😉
When you’ve finished rolling twice on level 2 (you can use level 1 if you want especially fine pasta, but 2 works fine for me, and it’s a touch easier to work with, as well, because it’s not paper thin), it’s time to stuff our raviolis. I have cut a nice little 8 inch or so piece from my pasta ribbon to show you how to do this, but you can just make yours across the entire ribbon, if you want, to save time. Lay your pasta sheet down on a silpat and brush the top with egg wash (just 1 beaten egg mixed with 1 tsp. water). The egg wash will help the pasta layers to seal nicely so that our delicious filling doesn’t leak out.
You can make the ravioli any size that you want. You can make teeny ones with a tsp. of filling, gigantic ones with 1/4 cup of filling, or you can make medium, standard sized ones, like I am doing today, with 1 tbsp. of filling, each. If you have a tablespoon cookie scoop it really makes this process quick and easy. Just place a blob of filling every inch or so down your pasta sheet. Look at that gorgeous spinach. Oooh . . . this is gonna’ be good!
Next, fold your pasta layer over. Tuck those little fillings into bed and pull the covers all around ’em. 🙂 Use your fingers to kind of smoosh the dough together between and around the filling pockets. Smooshing the dough together just helps that egg wash layer to be able to seal everything in and hold the finished pocket together.
Next use a ravioli crimper (a fork works fine, too) to cut and seal the pockets. You want to crimp pretty close to the filling, without getting so close that you break the seal and burst the pocket. Too close=bursting ravioli, while too far away=doughy, empty noodle. It might take a few raviolis to get your distance down, but don’t worry– this recipe makes a lot of raviolis, so you will have plenty of time to practice. 😉
At this point, if you want to freeze some of these ravioli for later (and it makes a ton, so you totally should!), just freeze them in a single layer on a silpat-lined baking sheet. When they are frozen, move them to a freezer safe bag, and they are ready to pop into boiling water whenever you need a 5 minute dinner. How awesome to pull off an amazing, homemade pasta dinner in the time it takes the rest of your family to get their coats off and whine about who gets the best seat at the table. You’re amazing, Mom (or Dad– whomever is reading 🙂
If you are cooking these now, here is how you do it. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and drop the ravioli a few at a time into the boiling water. The noodles will sink, at first, but when they are finished cooking, they will float to the top. Floaters, in this case, are alive– not dead. 😉 Use a slotted spoon to grab them out of the water, allowing the excess water to drip off before placing them onto a drying rack over a silpat lined baking sheet. When you have the correct number of ravioli boiled for your meal, pop them into the oven at 375 for about 5 minutes, until they are nice and warm, again, and dried out a bit. *Note: if you just need a few ravioli, eating them right after boiling is just fine, too. The baking step just ensures that your ravioli will all be hot at the same time.
Meanwhile, let’s get our delicious garlic butter going. This process seriously couldn’t be easier. Just melt 1 stick of butter and 2 whole garlic cloves together, in a small saucepan. I am using 3 cloves because they were teeny ones.
Allow the butter to simmer with the garlic for a few minutes (just about the time it takes to cook your noodles). The longer you simmer the garlic butter, the stronger the garlic flavor, so experiment and find your perfect “garlic level.” I simmered mine for about 3-4 minutes.
Oooh . . . now it’s time to assemble our plates! I start with a little smear of warm, jarred pasta sauce (any kind is fine– choose your favorite), then 4-5 boiled ravioli. Top them with a drizzle of the garlic butter and a squidge more marinara sauce. Garnish with fresh basil. Don’t forget a nice big fork . . . because you’re gonna’ be stuffing those suckers in at the speed of light, baby.
And as your loved ones shovel in this delicious meal, “Mmmmm-ing” and “Is there any more, Mom?-ing” you can smile to yourself.
You made pasta out of nothing. You made a meal delicious enough to change your name to Nonna Maria from Italia. You whipped up dinner in a flash. And you did it . . . like a boss.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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