Thursday, March 12, 2009

Holy Ravioli!

I like to cook. It's a relatively new hobby for me, but one I really enjoy. I've made some things I never thought I would be able to do. Dishes like a stuffed pork chops or chicken Kiev. I've really had fun finding new dishes to attempt. Having them turn out successfully has been that much better. That was until I tried to make ravioli the other night.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I make dinner for myself and a couple of friends. They've had the opportunity (I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing) to partake of my culinary creations. This week we were having trouble figuring out what we would have for our weekly meals. We asked around and it was suggested I attempt making ravioli. I thought it would be easy enough. I could find a recipe and a video on YouTube on how to do it. Piece of cake. Surely I couldn't do a worse job than Chef Boyardee.

I found a ravioli recipe with fairly simple directions. I borrowed a pasta roller from a friend. I thought I was ready. I made the pasta dough according the recipe. So far so good. While I was letting the pasta dough rest, I made a spinach and ricotta cheese filling. Things were still going well. Then came time to roll out the pasta dough into a sheet. For those of you who don't know, when using a pasta roller, you can't just set it the the desired thickness and start rolling. You have to start the roller on the thickest setting and progressively work the pasta dough thinner and thinner until the desired thickness reached. As I was attempting to roll the dough, I ran into my first problem. The thinner I rolled the pasta dough, the more it fell apart. The pasta dough wasn't elastic like it was supposed to be. I had to throw it away because it got so bad. No problem though. I thought ahead. I had made two batches of pasta dough, just in case I messed the first one up.

As I started rolling out the second batch of pasta dough, things went much more smoothly. The dough was elastic and stretching out like it was supposed to. I had the dough rolled out in a sheet on the table to my desired thickness. I was ready to cut the pasta dough, add the filling, and seal those little suckers up.

After I cut out all of my individual ravioli squares, I began to place a small amount of filling on each one. Still no problems. I began to cover the filling with another piece of pasta dough when it happened. Every single piece of dough I tried to pick up was stuck to the table. I thought I floured the table sufficiently to keep the pasta dough from sticking, but I was so wrong. I tried various techniques to get the pasta dough unstuck from the table with minimal damage to the cut out squares. I tried a slow steady pull resulting in stretched out pasta dough pieces. I tried quick and fast, like a band-aid, which resulted in even more stretched out or torn pasta pieces. I tried a spatula, which tore the pasta pieces and bunched them up so they couldn't be used. After about a half an hour, I was done. I had been defeated by the pasta dough. I was so frustrated that I swore off Italian food altogether. Of course that didn't last long. We ordered pizza as a replacement for the ruined ravioli. Foiled again by Italian cuisine.

Last night I decided I would try the ravioli again. I must be a glutton for punishment. I found an episode of Good Eats on YouTube to see how Alton Brown would make the ravioli. I watched as his technique involved using an ironing board. Weird? A little bit. Effective? Absolutely. Apparently the pasta dough doesn't stick as well to the cloth of the ironing board cover like it does hard table and counter surfaces. After watching the episode, I was filled with confidence again. I was ready for a rematch. One on one. Mano y ravioli.

I made fresh pasta dough and made sure to let it sit extra long to allow the gluten to form. I made a new filling, this time with some beef. Because who really wants to eat pasta without meat anyway? I know I don't. I rolled out the pasta dough with the pasta roller just as before. And just like on Good Eats, the dough wasn't sticking the cloth. Yes! I could smell victory. Actually I couldn't smell anything, because I wasn't cooking anything yet. But I knew success would come. I placed the filling on the pasta dough and then folded the other half of the pasta dough over on top of the filling. I sealed them up with an egg wash, and then I cut them out. It so much more efficient and easy compared to the first attempt.

The nice thing about fresh pasta is that it only needs to cook for about 2 minutes in boiling water. After I had my little raviolis formed, I cooked them up and put a little bit of homemade marinara sauce on them. They turned out oh so good. The ravioli's weren't pretty (hence no pictures), but I think they'll begin to look better with more attempts. Or maybe next time I'll try making tortellini instead. I'm confident I will no longer be defeated by pasta. HA!

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