There's some debate as to where the first stuffed pasta was created. The consensus is that it hit the Italian culinary scene in the Middle Ages. Tomato sauce (tomatoes hailing from the New World) arrived a few hundred years later, but early ravioli, tortellini and agnolotti would have contained savory and sweet fillings that delighted diners.
Once you form pasta into sheets, there are only a few techniques and guidelines to remember: Eliminate air during sealing (it will cause ruptures during cooking), and use water for sealing edges (egg will harden in boiling water). Follow Tochtrop's guidelines for pairing flavored doughs with tasty fillings, or experiment with your favorite ingredients to create something all your own.
Apple-Cinnamon Fried Ravioli
Serves | 6 |
- 1½ lbs Jonagold or other crisp green apples
- 1 cup Riesling
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 cup mascarpone
- ¼ cup toasted chopped walnuts
- 1 recipe basic pasta dough, flavored with the cinnamon variation
| Preparation | Finely dice apples, and sauté over high heat for 2 minutes. Deglaze pan with Riesling. Add salt, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Reduce to a syrup. Remove from heat and cool completely. Fold in mascarpone and walnuts. Set aside.
Prepare the cinnamon pasta dough through the sheeting stage, finishing on the No. 2 setting. | 1 | Using a ravioli mold,* cut 2 pasta sheets so there's a 1-inch overhang of dough by placing the mold facedown on each sheet and cutting around it. Drape one sheet of dough on the mold. | 2 | Press the dough gently into the wells, and | 3 | fill each well with the apple mixture. Drape the second sheet of pasta over the top, pressing gently to eliminate air around the filling. | 4 | Seal the edges, putting pressure on the top of the form to complete the sealing process and separate the ravioli.
| 5 | Place on a bed of semolina on a plastic-wrapped and parchment-lined tray and allow to dry for 15 to 30 minutes. If making ahead, refrigerate for up to 3 days on the tray, or freeze in tightly sealed plastic bags for up to 1 month.
When ready to cook, fry ravioli in 350°F oil for 3 to 5 minutes. They will float when finished. Ravioli may also be boiled for 2 minutes and finished in a pan with brown butter. Serve with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.
Flavored Pastas and Flavored Fillings
Note: Doughs flavored with chunkier additives like truffle shavings or sunflower seeds aren't good choices for filled pastas. The dough will tear when rolled thin.
- Fill black pepper dough with braised lamb shoulder, beef short ribs or pork belly.
- Pair lemon-pistachio pasta with seafood or chicken cooked with plenty of fresh herbs. Also try it with a goat cheese filling.
- Red wine pasta works well with eggplant, mushrooms, pancetta, crispy prosciutto or coppa.
- The earthiness of squid ink pasta works well with lobster filling in large ravioli.
*NOTE: *Ravioli molds are available at specialty stores such as J. Viviano & Sons Inc. and Di Gregorio's Italian Market.
Butternut Squash Agnolotti
By Jamey Tochtrop, Stellina
Serves | 4 |
One of a multitude of filled pastas, agnolotti originated in the Piedmont region of Italy and is named for the priest's cap it resembles.
- 2 medium butternut squashes
- 2 Tbsp melted butter
- salt and white pepper
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- 1-2 Tbsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 10 amaretti cookies,* crushed
- 1 cup mascarpone
- cayenne pepper
- 1 recipe basic pasta dough, available here
| Preparation | Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds, brush with melted butter, and season with salt and white pepper. Lay squash cut side up, and roast at 350°F for 45-60 minutes (until soft). Cool. Scoop flesh from skin, and puree in food processor until completely smooth. Add remaining ingredients, and set aside. Filling should be made before pasta is sheeted to avoid drying out the pasta.
Prepare pasta dough through sheeting stage, finishing on setting No. 2 or 3. Begin with a long, 5-inch-wide sheet of freshly rolled pasta on a lightly dusted work surface. Fill a pastry bag with the squash mixture (or use a gallon-size Ziploc bag with one corner snipped off to create a one-inch opening). Pipe the filling in a continuous line about 1 inch away from the edge nearest you. With a pastry brush, paint a line of water on the pasta on the other side of the filling. Roll the dough over the filling to meet the moistened dough side, pressing lightly to seal along the entire length of the sheet. Roll the dough over itself once more to create a cylinder (the pressed first roll should not be visible). Cut the far top edge with a fluted pastry wheel by running fingers as a guide against the cylinder (You should have about ¾-inch of dough between the cylinder and the top edge). Use your index finger and thumb to pinch 1- to 3-inch sections of filled pasta. With a pastry brush, wet the tableside edge of each section. Then separate the sections with a pastry wheel by cutting away from you through the pinched indentions. Cook immediately. Refrigerate for up to 3 days on a bed of semolina on a plastic-wrapped and parchement-lined tray, or freeze in tightly sealed plastic bags for up to 1 month.
When ready to cook, add agnolotti to boiling water. Boil for about 2 minutes, until agnolotti float. Finish by sautéing in brown butter.
*Amaretti cookies are available at specialty stores such as J. Viviano & Sons Inc. and Di Gregorio's Italian Market.