Stuffed pastas have been with us since they were brought from northern Italy in medieval times. In the book, The Geometry of Pasta by Jacob Kenedy and Caz Hildebrand, it is written that there are numerous claims and legends to the invention of Ravioli. It is claimed that they developed from manti under Arab influence from the invasion of Sicily in the 1100’s. Genoa holds a claim, insisting that the name derives from the word rabilole, or “thing of little value”, which refered to the meals of the sailors, who turned scraps of leftovers into an entire meal of pasta. It is also said that the name could also derive from the word rabbiola, or “root vegetable”, ricotta and vegetable dumplings wrapped in turnips tops. With the most likely scenario being simply from the Italian avvolgere, or “to wrap”. Wherever their origin, there is little argument in the fact that the ravioli has taken its place as the undisputed king of Italian stuffed pastas.
Those of you that have read my About page know that the very first memory that I have actually helping my father in the kitchen was with making the ravioli on New Years morning. Ravioli was our traditional New Years dish, and we had gluttonous eating contests every year to find who could eat the most ravioli. Our ravioli were not your typical ravioli, they seemed to be at least twice the size of normal ravioli, filled with ground beef, ground pork, ground veal, spinach, ricotta, romano and parmesan cheese. They were atomic weapons to your midsection, but my God, were they delicious!
My MexItalian spin on my fathers ravioli is not quite as nuclear, but I have incorporated some flavors of my past with some flavors of my present to bring what I think is a lighter, more interesting version of classic Italian ravioli! The pasta dough, for those with food allergies, is egg-free, as is the filling. The filling, which was inspired by Rick Bayless’s Ricotta-Stuffed Ancho Chiles with Red Wine Escabeche, uses requesón, which is a latin version of ricotta cheese, you can either make it at home in your kitchen, or you can cheat like me and buy a deli-fresh ricotta, do not substitute with the store-bought ricotta. The effort involved with this dish is a bit intensive, but the finished product is so delicious that you will easily forget! Buen Provecho!
Requesón and Cilantro Ravioli
- 1 cup Semolina
- 1 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 2/3 cup warm water
- 1 cup fresh cilantro (loosely packed)
- 3 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 16 oz. Fresh Requeson or Ricotta Cheese
- 1 teaspoon Cracked Black Pepper
- Salt to taste
- Roast the garlic cloves on a comal or iron skillet until nice and soft, once they are cool, peel and mash in a bowl with a fork.
- Wash and dry the cilantro, be sure to dry very well, as you do not want to add any liquid to the filling, then chop the cilantro.
- Let the Requeson or ricotta drain in a colander or sieve for about 10-15 minutes.
- Combine the garlic, ricotta, cilantro, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in a mixing bowl and mix well, season with the salt and pepper.
- Cover and place in fridge to chill.
- Combine the two flours and sift together to combine.
- Mound the flour in the center of the countertop or a large wooden cutting board.
- Make a well in the center of the flour (I make a volcano!)
- Add a little water at a time, stirring with your hands until you form the dough.
- As you continue to add water, be sure to keep the volcano shape by pushing the flour up along the sides as well.
- Keep adding the water until you have a shaggy mass. At this point, more than half of your flour should be incorporated. The dough should feel elastic and just a bit sticky.
- I add a bit more water and then start kneading using the palm of your hands.
- Once the dough is one mass, continue kneading for about 5 minutes. Keep dusting with flour if necessary.
- Wrap with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
- Attach the pasta roller to your Kitchen Aid mixer and put it on the widest setting (1).
- After the dough has rested, cut in half and form a small rectangle about 1 inch thick.
- Put the mixer speed on 2 and feed the dough through the roller. Each time dusting a bit with flour and folding to get the best separation. I usually need to feed it through at this setting about 5 or 6 times, each time dusting and folding.
- Continue and feed the sheet through each setting until you get to setting 5, at this time you have the proper thickness for the sheet.
- I usually cut the sheet into a length no larger than the width of my countertop, so cut the sheet after about 1 meter portions.
- Continue this process with the rest of the dough.
- Starting with one sheet, brush off any flour from the top of the sheet and take your filling out of the fridge. Measure one scant tablespoon of filling and place it along the center of the sheet about every 6 inches. Continue placing a tablespoon every six inches until you get to the end of the sheet. You want enough filling in each ravioli to have a nice shape, but not so much that you will have trouble sealing the edges of the pasta.
- Mist with some water for adhesion.
- Place another sheet over the top and slightly flatten each pocket of filling, then start with gentle pressure to press out any air and to form a seal around and between each pocket of filling.
- Once all the air pockets have been removed and each pocket of filling is nicely formed, you can cut each ravioli using a cookie cutter, a pastry roller, or a ravioli cutter.
- Place the ravioli in a single layer on a cookie sheet dusted with semolina. At this point, if you want to freeze the ravioli for later, place the entire cookie sheet into the freezer. Once the ravioli has frozen, you can remove the pasta and put them into bags.
Tomato Poblano Sauce
- 5 medium vine ripe tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 chile poblanos
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Roast the poblanos over a open flame or in the oven, then remove the stems, seeds, and veins and place in a blender.
- Quarter the tomatoes and place in the blender.
- Puree the tomatoes and poblanos.
- Put 3 tablespoons of the olive oil into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Crush the garlic with the back of a knife and fry with the red pepper until it just begins to color.
- Remove the garlic and pour the contents of the blender and quickly fry for about a minute.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for about 20 minutes or until the water is slightly reduced and the tomatoes no longer have that “raw” taste.
- Apply a liberal amount of salt and pepper to season, and finish with the rest of the olive oil.