Handmade Ravioli with Pesto and Pine Nuts

The month of April has been a momentous one for our family. First, our daughter came to visit us from California for about four weeks. A couple days later, Lolly brought home our newest family member, Winston. And to top it all off, our son graduated college this past weekend and is preparing to move to San Diego in a couple weeks. Like I said, momentous.

And of course, I took the whole thing as an excuse to cook more than usual. At every opportunity I wanted to make something special for my kids, who are not able to visit nearly as often as we would like. Our daughter will be flying home later today, so for our last family dinner before her return to sunny California I prepared homemade ravioli stuffed with robiola, ricotta and pancetta, served over pesto with toasted pine nuts.

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Really this dish was just an excuse to play with my dough board and pasta roller. Beyond that, it takes no time at all to put together. Here are your ingredients for 4-6 servings:

  • 2 cups Italian “Tipo 00” flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-2 oz. cold water
  • 4 oz. robiola (rind removed)
  • 4 oz. pancetta, chopped
  • 8 oz. ricotta
  • Egg wash (1 beaten egg plus 1 Tbsp. water)
  • Extra flour for dusting
  • ¾ cup basil pesto
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Just a couple quick ingredient notes. If you can find some, I would recommend using a good Italian “Tipo 00” flour as shown below. It is finely ground and works superbly for pasta and pizza dough. Robiola is a wonderfully creamy Italian cheese that comes in an edible rind, but for the sake of this recipe you will want to remove the rind and just use the creamy center – which means you will actually need to buy about 8 oz. of cheese to get enough for the recipe. Lastly, I used a good quality jarred pesto and therefore did not include a preparation for that in this post.

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Since we’re making ravioli we’ll need pasta sheets. If you have one available, I strongly recommend working on a large wooden surface – I use a dough board when making pasta. Heap the flour in the middle of your workspace, create a well in the center, and put the eggs in the well. In my experience it makes life easier to beat the eggs first, rather than trying to whip them up in the flour well. Also, I think it’s helpful for the texture of the pasta to add an ounce or two of water to the beaten eggs, but I’m sure many an Italian grandma would label me a heretic for saying that.

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Using a fork and working outward from the center of the well, gradually stir the flour into the eggs. It will pull together to form a rough dough. Lay aside the fork and use your hands to shape the dough into a ball, then start kneading. It will be a little uncooperative at first, with lots of little bits that don’t want to join in, but be persistent and keeping working it. Knead your dough ball on the board until it smooths out, which should take about 10 minutes. Then wrap it up in plastic, set it aside and rest it for 30-60 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the cheeses and pancetta in a bowl, and start heating a large pot of salted water to a boil.

We now have about a pound of pasta dough. Divide it into six pieces, each about the size of an egg. As you work with each piece, keep the others covered in the plastic to prevent drying. Gently flatten out one of the dough pieces and, with your pasta roller on the widest setting, roll it through once. Fold the resulting sheet into thirds, turn it sideways, and then feed it through again. Now adjust your rollers one setting narrower, run the sheet through again, and keep doing this until you get to the narrowest setting on your roller. When you get done, you should have a beautiful thin pasta sheet. Make a second sheet as well.

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Lay one sheet on your work surface, brush it with egg wash, then begin to make two rows of small teaspoon-sized piles of cheese mixture with about an inch in between. You should be able to get about a dozen on one sheet. Lay the second sheet on top of the first and gently seal the edges and the spaces in between the piles, then cut them apart (and cut away excess pasta) with your handy ravioli cutter. Using the back of a fork, crimp the edges of each ravioli. After you finish working three pairs of pasta sheets in this manner, you should have about three dozen ravioli.

 

In a small saucepan, warm up your pesto over low heat. In a small, dry skillet, begin gently and carefully toasting your pine nuts – but watch them like a hawk and toss them often, because they will burn in the blink of an eye. With your pasta water at a gentle boil, drop in the ravioli to cook for about 8 minutes, then drain them. Spoon some of the warm pesto into the bottom of a bowl, lay in about six ravioli on top, drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle with a few of the toasted pine nuts.

As you might expect, our family enjoyed this dish immensely, and our kids told me how much they’re going to miss Chef Dad’s cooking when they’re in California – but hey, that’s just a reason to travel more. Until next time: Mangia mangia, amici!

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