I have always been fortunate to have worked at so many different places and gain experience in different aspects in hospitality sector. With that I was exposed to a variety of cuisines and cultures. During my tenure on board cruise ship allowed me to travel across the globe in a short span of time. While visiting beautiful Italy I tried to explore as much as possible the neighbouring places and the food destinations associated with it. I visited Napoli, Sicily, Venice, Livorno, Rome, Florence and some more places and explored their local delicacies, food products and locally made extra virgin olive oil. Ravioli is one of my favourites when it comes to Italian cuisine.
The word “ravioli” refers to all kinds of filled Italian pasta where a thin layer of dough wraps around a filling. Ravioli are poached and dished out with their accompanying sauce or are served in broth. The pasta layer, most commonly made with durum wheat and egg is rolled into thin sheets, the filling is carefully secured in different shapes and portion sizes and can be prepared in advance and stored. Common fillings may include meat, cheese, vegetables and vary greatly between the countless local regional recipes. What may be surprising to most of the readers is that Ravioli or pasta did not originate in Italy, it was introduced by Chinese travellers in the form of noodles, wontons, dim sums. Then due to the localisation of the food, durum wheat was introduced instead of the all-purpose flour and local ingredients like cheese, meats, vegetable and other such filling were used to make ravioli. The creative chefs of wealthy Italian families started experimenting and incorporated pasta in different shapes like circles, half-moons, hats, stars and other such shapes. Whatever may be the shape of the pasta, ravioli is basically a thin sheet of pasta stuffed with choice of filling, served with a sauce. Fillings can include but are not limited to variety of cheeses, nuts, breadcrumbs, seafoods, meats, game meats, herbs and seasonings and many more.
Although every single step in preparation of any dish is important for the success of a perfect dish, but I consider there are two most important steps in making a ravioli. Firstly, making the sheet pasta, the pasta must be smooth and even. The dough needs to be at the right thickness where it is not too thick or too thin. Making a pasta dough requires practice and patience. And secondly to enclose the filling in the sheet so that it does not oozes out while cooking. The filling has to be substantial enough to flavour and make the pasta appetising and should not be too less in quantity.
Butternut Squash Ravioli
For the filling
Butternut squash 500 gm
Parmesan cheese 2 tbsp.
Goat cheese 2 tbsp.
Nutmeg, powder a pinch
Egg yolk 1 no.
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Thyme leaves few sprigs
Unsalted butter ½ cup
Egg pasta sheets 400 gm
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Garlic 3-4 cloves
Black olives 3-5 nos.
Heavy cream ½ cup
Salt to taste
For the pasta sheets
Pasta flour 2 ½ cup
Sea salt ¼ tsp
Eggs 4 nos.
Olive oil 2 tsp
Basil few sprigs
For the filling, preheat the oven at 350 Degree Fahrenheit, Cut the pumpkin and prick with a fork.
Rub salt and oil on the pumpkin and roast for 40-45 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender and cooked.
Allow the pumpkin to cool down and scrape the flesh from the peel, chop using a knife to a medium coarse texture.
Transfer the pumpkin puree to a bowl and add egg yolks, parmesan cheese, goat cheese, nutmeg, thyme leaves and salt.
Mix well and add breadcrumbs as required to bind the mixture, keep aside.
For the pasta sheets, sift the flour and salt on a work table.
Combine eggs and olive oil and pour over the flour, combine well to make a smooth soft dough.
Add more flour if it is too sticky and gradually add some more egg if the mixture is too dry.
Keep the dough covered for 30 minutes, Divide the dough into two equal parts and roll using a rolling pin to a smooth pasta sheet.
Place the prepared sheet on work table and grease with egg and place 1/2 tbsp. of the prepared filling almost 2 inches apart from each other.
Carefully place the other layer and press gently on the space between the filling.
Cut along the edges of the filling and press again with fork to secure each piece.
In a large pot boil water with salt, add the ravioli and simmer over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, Check with knife to see if the pasta is cooked.
In the meanwhile, heat olive oil in a heavy bottom pan and add crushed garlic, olive oil and heavy cream, adjust the seasoning.
Drain the ravioli to remove excess moisture, place it in a plate, pour the prepared sauce on top.
Garnish with basil sprig, serve hot.
* Chef Tarun Kapoor, Culinary Mastermind, USA. He may be contacted at [email protected]
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