Ravioli has become a favorite food for Americans, but its roots reach much further back. Ravioli is considered a dumpling, with filling sealed between two layers of thin pasta. Though it takes on many shapes, including circular or semi-circular forms, the traditional form of ravioli is a square. In Italian cuisine, vegetarian ravioli is served on Fridays, with meat dishes on the side.
These days, ravioli is found mass-produced in the frozen section of the grocery store. In the United States, canned ravioli became popular thanks to the efforts of Chef Boyardee in the 1930s. I helped support this cause when my children were young; I bought many a cans of it serving it to my children with a slice of broiled cheese toast. I shudder to think how they loved that awful tasting stuff.
Around the world, Italian ravioli has culinary sisters in other cultures. Kreplach, in Jewish cuisine, is a pocket of meat filling covered with pasta. There are many similarities between Italian ravioli and certain Chinese dumplings. In India, the dish gujiya is similar to ravioli, except it has a sweet filling, rather than savory.
Ravioli is commonly served with a broth or sauce, and is a staple of traditional Italian home cooking. The fillings of ravioli differ depending on the region. Common fillings of ravioli include ricotta, spinach, nutmeg, black pepper, and lemon rind.
Internationally, March 20 is Ravioli Day. Still a popular pasta today, ravioli has roots that can be traced way back, to at least the 14th century.
The word “ravioli” comes from the Italian riavvolgere, which means “to wrap.” While ravioli’s origins are obscure, there is documented evidence dating back to the 14th century. In letters by Francesco di Marco Datini, a merchant of Prato, there is a recipe for ravioli that consists of chopped blanched green herbs, fresh cheese, and beaten egg combined, then simmered in broth. This is very similar to contemporary preparations of ravioli.
Surprisingly, there were also mentions of ravioli in 14th century England, in a cookbook by King Richard II’s chefs. They are referred to as “rauioles.” Food historians note that Sicilian and Maltese ravioli may precede North Italian versions, using sheep’s milk ricotta or sheep’s milk cheese.
In 16th century Rome, ravioli is mentioned when Bartolomeo Scappi served them to a papal conclave. It may be surprising, however, that ravioli was not served with tomato sauce until the 16th century, when tomatoes were introduced to Italy from the New World. Prior to this, ravioli was served al brodo, in broth.
Traditional ravioli is made of sheets of simple pasta dough, rolled out thin. Most people use a mold to outline the center of the ravioli. Working quickly is key though as the thinness of the dough may lead to it drying out. After a mold makes the depression in the dough, the filling can be placed in these spaces. Then another thin sheet of dough is laid over filling, and then gently rolled over with a rolling pin to remove any air bubbles. A ravioli cutter can then be used to create the perforated edges of the ravioli. The ravioli squares are then pulled apart and covered with a towel to prevent drying.
Once assembled, ravioli is traditionally cooked by placing it into a pot of boiling water for three minutes. To ensure doneness, slice into your ravioli. If there is no starchy line in the center of the pasta dough, your ravioli is done! Fresh pasta takes a lot less time to cook. You want to make sure that you do not overcook it.
Enough about the history of Ravioli….
My adventures in pasta making began on a date night. Vince and I decided to go on a cooking date and signed up for a pasta making class at Sur La Tab. Italian cuisine is his favorite so it was an easy sell. The class covered all the essential Italian techniques for making fresh pasta, pesto and two different tomato based sauces. Can I just say “it was amazing!”
When the class was over, Vince grabbed a basket and proceeded to pick up all of the tools we had used in the class and the pasta making attachment for my KitchenAid. I absolutely love it when he is all in because I get all sorts of cool gadgets!!
If you have flour in your kitchen, you can make pasta. Right now. Got eggs, too? You have everything you need to whip up a batch of silky-smooth fettuccine. Have some cheese or vegetables lying around? Then you could be sitting down to fresh ravioli or a hearty lasagna in under two hours. And yet, if you do a quick search for pasta recipes, chances are you’ll walk away more confused than confident. Some call for flour and whole eggs, others for additions of water or oil. Weight versus volume measurements, kneading times, resting conditions—it’s all over the map.
If you’ve reached this point and you’re wondering why on earth anyone would bother to make pasta from scratch when it’s just a boiling pot of water and a cardboard box away, then it’s time to get acquainted with the fresh stuff. It’s crucial here to understand that fresh pasta and dry pasta are two totally different beasts, each suited to different tasks, and the qualities we look for when making them are accordingly distinct.
Fresh pasta requires eggs and flour. Dry pasta from the grocery store is typically a combination of semolina flour—a coarse wheat flour—and water which is industrially mixed, shaped, and dried at low temperatures for optimal storage. Not only is it more convenient than fresh pasta, but the denser, firmer texture stands up to (and actually requires) longer cooking times. That same firm texture means it holds up beautifully under heavy, hearty sauces. The fresh pasta recipes we’ll be breaking down here are for a light, springy, and delicate texture, which is as well suited for slicing into noodles as it is for making stuffed pastas, which require super-thin, pliable sheets of dough.
There is no such thing as the perfect pasta, you will find the dough to be very forgiving. Pasta can be made in many shapes, sizes, and textures as well as colors and flavors which means there are many kinds of perfect pasta as you want there to be.
Making pasta from scratch isn’t difficult at all. The process of making your own pasta can be broken down into six steps: assembling your equipment, choosing the ingredients, mixing and kneading the dough, resting the dough, rolling out the pasta and cutting it into noodles, and cooking it. Having the tools is what makes it so easy. You can find a list of the tools and ingredients that I used for this post below.
Because I live in a house with different dietary preferences, I made up two different batches of dough: one with 00 flour for traditional pasta and one with almond and coconut flour for a low carb option. The traditional dough went through my pasta machine while the low carb option had to be rolled out between two sheets of parchment paper. The filling and preparation of the ravioli was the same.
Pasta recipes call for all kinds of ingredients. However, there are two things any pasta recipe absolutely needs: flour and water. That’s because flour and water are how you create gluten, the network of proteins that gives pasta its stretchy texture and bite.
The more you work that dough, the more elasticity it will develop. Striking the right level of gluten development is key to fresh pastas and most baked goods. There are, of course, gluten-free pasta doughs (one of the ones I used here), which substitute that protein network with standard gluten alternatives, like xanthan or guar gum.
You don’t have to have a special occasion to make homemade pasta however, when you do, your family will feel like you went all out! My goal here was to prepare something special that would complement my home made Ricotta Cheese that I made by way of my Greek Yogurt. My end result was ravioli stuffed with ricotta, spicy sausage, spinach and mushrooms and pan fried in a thyme and garlic infused brown butter sauce. It was a huge hit! This dish could easily be vegetarian by omitting the spicy sausage. I hope you will try it.
Keepin it fresh!
- April 3, 2019
- 1 hr 15 min
- Keto 557 / Traditional 599 Cals/Serving
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- KETO PASTA DOUGH: 1 cup Almond Flour
- ¼ cup Coconut Flour
- 2 tsp. Xanthan Gum
- 1/4 tsp. Kosher Salt
- 2 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Egg (lightly beaten)
- 5 tsp. water
- TRADITIONAL PASTA DOUGH: 2 ½ cups 00 Flour (plus more for dusting)
- 1 Tbs. Kosher Salt
- 4 large Eggs
- 1 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- FILLING: 1 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil for cooking
- 2 Garlic Cloves (minced)
- 14 oz. Spinach
- 1 cup diced Baby Bella Mushrooms
- ½ lb. Spicy Sausage (Jimmy Dean)
- 2 cup Ricotta Cheese
- 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese (grated)
- 1/4 tsp. freshly grated Nutmeg
- Kosher Salt (to taste)
- Black Pepper (to taste)
- 1 large Egg
- BROWN BUTTER SAUCE: 1/4 cup grass-fed butter
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 4 Garlic Cloves (slivered)
- 4 Thyme springs
- GARNISH: Cherry Tomatoes
- Fresh Parmesan Cheese
- Fresh Thyme
- Step 1
- KETO PASTA DOUGH: Add almond flour, coconut flour, xanthan gum and salt to food processor. Pulse until thoroughly combined.
- Step 2
- Pour in apple cider vinegar with the food processor running. Once it has distributed evenly, pour in the egg. Add water teaspoon by teaspoon, as needed, until the dough forms into a ball. The dough should be firm, yet sticky to touch and with no creases (which mean the dough is dry and you need to add a little more water).
- Step 3
- Wrap dough in cling wrap and knead it through the plastic for a couple minutes. Allow dough to rest for 15 minutes at room temperature and place in the fridge for 45 minutes (and up to five days).
- Step 4
- TRADITIONAL PASTA DOUGH: Place 00 flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add eggs and oil.
- Step 5
- Using your fingers, blend the eggs into the flour mixture, stirring the flour in from the sides of the well working outwards.
- Step 6
- When the pasta dough is thoroughly mixed, turn it out on a lightly floured surface. Knead dough until it is smooth and flexible but not sticky, adding small amounts of flour as needed, 5-10 minutes.
- Step 7
- Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Cover it with cling wrap and allow it to rest for 10 min up to an hour at room temperature.
- Step 8
- FILLING: Brown spicy ground sausage. Set aside.
- Step 9
- Sauté garlic in olive oil. Then add spinach and mushrooms and cook until no juice remains.
- Step 10
- In a large bowl combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, freshly ground nutmeg, salt, pepper and egg. Add spinach, mushroom, and sausage. Mix well.
- Step 11
- ASSEMBLE RAVIOLI Keto Dough: Roll out the pasta to its thinnest point using a pasta machine or a tortilla press. For the Keto pasta dough, you will want to press between parchment to ensure your dough does not fall apart. I found using a tortilla press to be easier for the Keto pasta dough. The dough should end up translucent when held up against natural light.
- Step 12
- Traditional Dough: I used my KitchenAid Pasta Attachment to roll out my traditional dough. The traditional dough should be cut into thirds using a Bench Scraper. Keep this dough covered in plastic while working with one piece.
- Step 13
- Flatten the piece of dough into a rough triangle so that it will fit inside the width of the pasta machine.
- Step 14
- Place the rollers on the widest setting and roll through the machine, catching it with one hand as you feed with the other.
- Step 15
- Take the dough and fold into thirds towards the center of the dough.
- Step 16
- Turn the dough so one open end faces the machine and roll once more through the widest setting.
- Step 17
- Continue rolling the pasta through the machine without folding, adjusting the rollers to a smaller setting each time until you get your desired thickness. Your pasta should be approximately 1/16th- inch thick. You can use your Bench Scraper as necessary to cut dough into manageable lengths.
- Step 18
- Heap roughly a tablespoon of filling onto the dough.
- Step 19
- Drape a second piece over it and press down around the edges to seal, removing any air bubbles. The dough will sticky, so no egg wash is needed.
- Step 20
- Trim the edges close to the filling using a Pasta Cutter.
- Step 21
- Place all the ravioli on a baking tray and freeze for 15 minutes prior to cooking.
- Step 22
- GARLIC THYME BROWN BUTTER SAUCE: Heat up butter and oil in a skillet or pan over low heat. Once warm, add in garlic slivers and thyme. When the garlic begins to brown, add in chilled ravioli.
- Step 23
- Cook ravioli in the butter until golden all over, a minute or two on each side. If the garlic slivers begin to brown too much, you’ll want to pull them out (do not discard).
- Step 24
- Serve right away and garnish with cherry tomatoes, fresh Parmesan cheese, browned garlic slivers, and fresh thyme.
- Step 25
- RECIPE NOTES: Both dough recipes yields 24 x 2 ½ – inch ravioli. You can make your ravioli ahead of time and freeze. If you are going to pan fry them like I choose to do for this recipe, make sure that you let them thaw slightly prior to frying. Should you decide to boil them, they can go directly into your boiling water from the freezer. You will want to boil from 3-5 minutes. When boiling pasta salt water with sea salt and bring to a rolling boil before adding pasta.