Felt it was time for another go with my pasta machine – any excuse really.. there’s something so satisfying about rolling pasta and watching it transform from a thick slab of dough to a nearly translucent sheet of pasta. Today, I thought it was time to up the ante and try a flavoured pasta. So I did some internet searching and decided on spinach ravioli. I couldn’t find a recipe that gave me all the elements I wanted, so I’ve ended up borrowing from a couple – the spinach pasta recipe from Lidia’s Italy.com and the ricotta filling from Anna Olson at Food Network. The herb butter is a basic recipe to which I’ve added thyme and walnuts.
My pasta dough came out beautifully – I made life easier for myself by using fresh baby spinach that comes vacuum packed and already washed. All the same, and despite the fact the spinach was dry, the resulting dough was still pretty sticky (I actually reckon the recipe should be 1-1/2 cups flour, not 1), but by adding more flour into the kneading process it soon came right. I loved the ricotta filling (I really didn’t add enough though!) and actually thought it might be nice next time to add a bit of dried apricot into the mixture. And the herb butter sauce… well, what do you say about cooked butter… is there anything better in the world?
SPINACH RAVIOLI WITH RICOTTA & HERB-BUTTER SAUCE
Serves 4-6 entree serves (double recipe for 4-6 mains)
For the ricotta filling
- 1 ½ cup ricotta cheese
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 pinch ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
For the spinach pasta
- 140g (5 oz) spinach, chopped or baby spinach *(see notes for preparation tips)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling (I think it should be 1-1/2 cups, but start with 1 and add as needed)
- 1 large egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
For the herb butter sauce
- 120g (2¼ oz) unsalted butter
- 40g (¾ oz) walnuts, roughly chopped (or any nut of your choice)
- 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or herb of your choice)
- Extra Parmesan cheese, grated
- For the ricotta filling: Stir together all the ingredients and chill.
- For the pasta: Put the spinach into the food processor bowl and purée it thoroughly (as my spinach was completely dry to start with my mixture didn’t puree; it simply chopped it very finely – see image below – which is fine), scraping it off the sides. With the spinach and the blade in place, add the flour and pulse to blend with the spinach, scraping as necessary.
- Whisk together the whole eggs, yolks and oil in a bowl or measuring cup with a spout. With the food processor running, pour in the liquid ingredients on top of the green flour. Process for about 30 seconds, and scrape down the bowl. Process another 20 to 30 seconds, until the dough has started to come together in a ball on the blade (if the dough remains too wet and doesn’t form a ball, continue to add flour until it does).
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until it’s smooth. Wrap well in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes before rolling. **(see note about storing).
- For the herb butter sauce: While the dough is resting, melt the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the nuts and herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until the herbs are crisp and the butter is golden. Remove from heat (this can be reheated again when the pasta is ready to serve).
- Assembly: Roll out the pasta to workable sheets (if you’d like a step by step list of instructions for rolling your pasta out by machine, you can find it here). Place one long pasta sheet on a lightly floured surface. Place heaped teaspoonfuls of chilled ricotta mixture, at 5cm intervals on the pastry sheet (depending on how wide your sheet is you may be able to do 2 rows), leaving a 2cm border around the edges. Use a pastry brush to brush the pasta around the ricotta mixture with water.
- Top with another pasta sheet and press the edges together to seal, ensuring there are no air bubbles. Use a ravioli shaper or knife to cut between each dollop of mixture to make squares. Repeat with remaining pasta sheets and filling.
- Cook about 4 ravioli squares at a time in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes or until al dente. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining pasta. Divide the ravioli among serving bowls and spoon over the butter sauce (alternatively, you can add the cooked ravioli to the pan of butter sauce for a quick stir, and then transfer to serving plates). Grate Parmesan cheese directly over top. Serve immediately.
*Preparation of spinach (with thanks to Lidia’s Italy):
FROZEN SPINACH: If you’re using frozen spinach, start thawing it a day or two before making the pasta. Take the frozen block out of the box, put it in a colander over a bowl and let it thaw completely and drain for a couple of days in the refrigerator, or overnight at room temperature. Squeeze the thawed spinach by handfuls to press out as much liquid as possible.
FRESH SPINACH: If you’re using fresh spinach, try to start a day ahead: Wash it thoroughly in several changes of cold water, remove the stems and cook it for 5 minutes or more in a large volume of boiling water. Remove the spinach from the pot and let it drain and cool in a colander, then squeeze out as much water as possible. If possible, let it drain and dry in the colander overnight. Squeeze the spinach again the next day.
**Pasta dough can be stored for 2 days in the refrigerator or for 3 months in the freezer.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting