A taste of Italy
PREP TIME: 30 mins
COOKING TIME: 20 mins
DIFFICULTY: easy – medium
IDEAL FOR: any meal
What is ravioli?
Just so we know which pastas we are on about with so many varieties of pasta.
Ravioli is two layers of pasta that form a pillow-like shape.
Sometimes confused with tortellini. But that’s folded into hat-like shape, more similar to a dumpling.
And to make it fresh is much easier than you think.
Find my guide to making fresh pasta, here.
A brief history of ravioli
China often gets the credit for inventing pasta with its variety of noodles.
However, from what I can uncover, it’s all a bit murky on the history of pasta and it depends what you read.
One food myth that makes China the ‘inventor’ of pasta comes from the 13th-century explorer Marco Polo.
It was apparently a misinterpretation of a famous passage in Polo’s Travels.
Much of what I’ve read says pasta was referenced in Italy back in the Middle Ages with lots of Mediterranean trade.
Pasta for the rich
In the 16th Century, pasta was considered a dish for the wealthy, taking pride of place in aristocratic banquets during the Renaissance.
For example, ravioli filled with a paste made of boiled pork belly, cow udders, roast pork, Parmesan cheese, fresh cheese, sugar, herbs, spices, and raisins.
Only the wealthy could afford such (interesting) delicacies.
Pasta for the poor and the increase of its popularity
In the late 17th century, pasta was becoming the main staple of the common diet.
The lower standard of living amongst the common people, meant their access to meat was limited.
But wheat was sold relatively cheaply so pasta was a cheap dish to make.
But the main reason for pasta’s dramatic increase was when industrial production took off.
The torchio (a pasta/wine press) was originally hand turned but then the hydraulic press was invented and pasta making became industrialized.
A lot has changed over time with the types of fillings and flavours.
Sweetness has been replaced by savoury.
Sugar swapped out for vegetables.
And although we think of tomatoes being quintessentially Italian.
It wasn’t until the beginning of the 19th century, tomatoes were added to pasta.
Types of ravioli
Ravioli is typically stuffed with ricotta, meat, cheese, and vegetables then served with a sauce.
- Ricotta e spinaci (ricotta and spinach),
- Ravioli scapolesi is filled with sausage and chard.
- Pumpkin ravioli
A raviolo is a single ravioli, usually a pretty big one.
Agnolotti is small pieces of flattened pasta dough, folded over with a filling and have a slight curve and pinch in the back wall.
So, it’s as good a time as any to give pasta making a go.
It really is simple and mostly very satisfying and you can really be inventive about the fillings you want to make for your ravioli.
Let me know what your favourite filling is, drop me a line or leave a comment.
Homemade ravioli with sausage meat & ricotta
- fresh ravioli dough (see recipe link below)
- 2 spicy Italian sausage, take their casings off
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 2 eggs, light beaten
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese,
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Over medium-high heat, brown the sausage meat in the oil while breaking it slightly in a frying pan.Add the spinach in and stir well. Then transfer the ingredients into a bowl and let cool.Next, add the eggs and cheese and mix thoroughly and then pop in the fridge while you get on with making the dough (see link to dough recipe below in NOTES).
Making the ravioli
- Unwrap the dough and cut it into smaller portions (so it’s easier to work with) then dust with flour when you work with it.Take a piece and flatten it between your hands until it’s the thickness of a pound coin and the width of the machine or a bit less.Feed it through a pasta machine on the widest setting. Fold the dough in half and pass it through the machine again until the dough is smooth.Now, gradually decrease the setting on the pasta machine to its lowest setting, rolling the dough on each setting once. You want it thin but not so thin you can see through it (this can take a little practise)Now, use a ravioli tray or cutter (or I used a small glass to 'cookie-cut' the ravioli shapes) to make around 30 – 40 discs.
Filling the ravioli
- Using a spoon, out about a tbsp of the filling in the centre of the discs. Use a pastry brush, moisten the edges with a little water or a beaten egg white.Next, place a second disc on top and press around the filling to push out any air and seal the ravioli. Place on a tray or plate with semolina sprinkled over it (to stop them sticking) or light;y dust with flour.Then cook!
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook a few ravioli at a time, 6 to 8 minutes or until al dente. Drain. Serve with sage butter or you can do a simple tomato sauce,