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Friday, March 12, 2010
Fresh Ravioli with White Bean, Bacon & Leek Filling
Italian food has become part of every language. In particular, spaghetti, lasagna, penne and ravioli… these are all words which need no explanation. They are a staple on restaurant menus, and not just Italian restaurants. In the all-day, we-serve-everything restaurants, there is usually at least one pasta. But somehow, it ends there. We seem to forget that there are so many other Italian dishes, like Ossobuco, Veal Milanese, pork belly, fish stews… I mean, the list goes on and on.
Anyway, I am no Italian connoisseur, but I do love Italian food. And like most everyone, I love pasta. But instead of throwing on a pot of boiling water and dumping in a package of my favorite dried pasta, I decided to make some fresh.
Yes, I have tried it before, and to be honest, it never really turned out exactly as I would have liked. Usually, the dough is too sticky, and the strips of pasta just stick together in a clump when I drop them into the boiling water (or sometimes, even before they make it to the water). And then I end up eating them anyway because I can’t bear to waste food, and it ends up as a gummy, soggy, chewy mess, which I just admit is my sorry attempt at homemade pasta. The only real success I have had so far are the Ravioles du Royans that I made for my husband. Perhaps they were just too small to stick together…
But today, I rolled up my sleeves and decided to try again. And this time, with a new focus… to make fresh semolina pasta. Semolina is a courser grain flour that is ground from hard wheat. I heard that it was more difficult to work with, but that it would produce a drier dough. So, I decided to try it. I didn’t want to use 100% semolina because I was worried it would really be difficult, so I searched for a recipe that used equal amounts of semolina and white flour. I found a recipe, tried it, and, it worked. Very well, in fact. So well that it surprised me. My only tip here is that you need to work fast. Since I did everything by hand (manual pasta roller, and manual filling and cutting of ravioli), I could feel the dough getting a little dry as I was working. So work fast, and only roll a small piece of pasta dough, stuffing and cutting it before rolling the next piece.
For the filling, I decided to make a hearty white bean, bacon, and leek mixture. I wanted the ravioli to be wintery and filling, but without using too much meat. Also, I didn’t feel like doing the traditional spinach and ricotta. Sometimes, we crave a little change.
So, give it a shot. It does take some time, but it is well worth the effort!
Fresh Ravioli with White Bean, Bacon & Leek Filling
Makes about 70 ravioli (cut 2.5 inch round)
For the Filling:
8 ounces of bacon, cut into pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups Leeks
For the Fresh Pasta:
(Recipe from: http://www.recipezaar.com/Fresh-Semolina-and-Egg-Pasta-35605)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semolina flour
1 pinch salt
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Making the Filling: In a large pan, cook bacon over medium high heat until just chewy. Drain most of the fat (keep about 2 tbsp in the pan). Add the garlic, leeks, salt and pepper, and cook until the leeks are wilted. Add the beans which have been cooked and pureed. Stir to incorporate. Stir in the cilantro. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
**For the white beans, you can used canned, drained and rinsed beans, however, I prefer to cook my own.
Making the Pasta: Sift together all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and pinch of salt. On a clean surface, make a mountain out of flour mixture then make a deep well in center. Break the eggs into the well and add olive oil. Whisk eggs very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well. When mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading with your hands.
Knead dough for 8 to 12 minutes, until it is smooth and supple. Dust dough and work surface with semolina as needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. Wrap dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
**If you don’t have time to make fresh pasta, you can use won ton wrappers instead. They make a great alternative! However, I really suggest you try fresh pasta at least once!
Assembling the Ravioli: Roll out dough with a pasta machine to #2 thickness (not the thinnest, but the 2nd thinnest). Cut in half so that you have 2 equal sized rectangles. Place 1 of the halves on a lightly floured counter. Using your cookie cutter (I used a 2.5 inch round cutter), mark the dough (lightly press the cutter on the dough just so you can see the light outline of each circle. This is so that you know where to place your filling). Place about 1 tbsp of filling in the centre of each marked circle. Brush a little water around the mounds of filling and gently place the second half of the pasta dough on top. Press your fingers around the filling to seal the two pieces of pasta together, working from the filling outwards, trying to push out all the air. Then, using the round cutter, cut the ravioli. (Of course, you can use any shaped cutter you like, or even just use a knife and cut the ravioli into squares). Repeat with remaining pasta dough and filling.
Cooking the Ravioli: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add some salt (a couple of teaspoons). Reduce the heat to a light simmer. Add the ravioli, ensuring that you don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook pasta until they float. They should be tender, but not mushy, about 1-2 minutes (2-3 minutes if frozen). Drain immediately and serve with a drizzle of olive oil. These would also taste good with a simple tomato sauce.
Freezing the Ravioli: Place between layers of parchment paper and freeze for up to 2 months (if they last that long!!).