Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ravioli! (Eventually)

Aimee bought me the ravioli-maker attachment to my pasta machine for my birthday.

(My fiftieth -- a half-century on planet Earth!)

It took me a few days to have the time and mental capacity to risk wifely ridicule, and try to make some ravioli.

Unfortunately, ridicule was forthcoming anyway. And, I suppose, not without warrant, since this mess was the result of my first try. Not proper ravioli by any stretch of the imagination. Aimee laughed and laughed. I like to hear her laugh, so I didn't mind so much, but I wanted some proper raviolis!

However, a little tweaking and reconfiguring and learning of technique, and we had it down. The key seems to be to make sure you have slightly stickier pasta sheets than are normal for regular noodles (fettuccine noodles are what I usually make), and that your filling is very regular and smooth in composition. My first attempts used filling that had big chunks of grated zucchini, which got in the way of the roller edges and so prevented the sealing of the ravioli pockets. I blended the same filling down a little, used slightly stickier dough, and it worked fine.

The second-last photo, a little blurred, shows last night's dinner of home-made ravioli with home-canned tomatoes, homemade pesto and a thick slice of home-made wholewheat bread. Very tasty, filling, and nutritious.

The final photo shows the frozen noodles the next day. This was a great success, and bodes well for future mass-production. If you dry them a little on pastry sheets, flipping them once to dry out each side, they seem to freeze well in Ziploc bags. (This would be a good place to use those Ziploc bags with the vacuum pump, so you might squeeze out all the air and prevent freezer burn.)

I think I like my ravioli maker. It's also a great way to use up surplus eggs, of which we usually have plenty. Eggs go into both the noodle dough and the filling. If I used rolled wax paper or parchment to catch the finished pockets, I could make sheets of finished noodles several feet at a time, let them dry, and freeze them. Currently Aimee buys me bulk frozen ravioli and tortellini. It's an easy dinner when you come home late from work, and goes well with our homegrown tomatoes and pesto. But now I can make our own ravioli instead, enough for three or four dinners at a time.

I expect this to become another winter pastime, like knitting with our knitting machine. And the noodles will dry quickly whenever the woodstove is going.

The next question is, "what to put in the filling?" I need some good recipes for filling that use other local or home-grown ingredients we have on hand and in good quantities. Ground lamb and tomatoes with rosemary would be one good possibility. Bacon and mashed potato? Pesto and cheese? The possibilities seem extensive.

What did I do with the mushed-up monstrosities that were my earlier attempts? I popped the worst messes in the blender with some mashed potato and ground it all down, then called it gnocchi dough, and froze it for later. The second tier messes, the ones that actually had some shape to them, I cooked up and kept for snacking on later.

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