We hosted a brunch over Easter long weekend at our new house, and we had friends come so they could see the new digs, visit and, of course, mange! There was lots of food. I may not have gone overboard, but I tried to hit every possible food group I could. I had my husband manning the waffle station with toppings like whipped cream, maple syrup, fruit, etc., I had a large bowl of salad with vinaigrette dressing, and homemade veal meatballs, and finally this lovely baked ravioli dish.
This dish is easy to throw together at a moment’s notice and bake up if using store bought fresh pasta or even frozen pasta you cook on the stove top and then add to the dish right before baking. But, if you’re like me, and you love to make pasta, you’ll make this from scratch front to back. (I did cheat with a bottle tomato sauce because I ran out of time to make my own for this dish, but no one paid any attention or held it against me thankfully.)
1 1/2 – 2C Pasta sauce (or 1 jar of store bought sauce), heated up
40-50 Fresh ravioli pasta pillows (or 2 packs of bigger frozen or fresh ravioli), cooked in salted water
1/2C Grated cheese of choice to top pasta and sauce
Finely sliced prosciutto ham, to top cheese topping
Chopped fresh parsley or spinach, for garnish before serving
Tin foil sprayed with cooking oil
Large rectangle baking pan or dish
Mix cooked pasta with the heated up sauce, and pour into cooking pan or dish. Top this with grated cheese and top the cheese with the ham.
Bake at 350 degrees covered for 25 minutes, and uncovered for 5-7 minutes – just long enough for the edges of the ham to curl. Top dish with garnish, set aside for 10 minutes to cool and set before cutting out squares and serving with side salad.
Here are the steps and equipment I used to make the ravioli for this baked dish. I used my KitchenAid mixer with my KitchenAid pasta roller, a bench scraper, a soft brush to keep the roller clump free, some egg wash to hold the pasta sheet together after I folded it over the filling, and a ravioli crinkle cutter for the edging as I cut up the long strip into the ravioli pillows.
Pasta Dough: I made my pasta using a ratio of 1 egg:1 cup of semolina flour with a small pinch of salt and a 1/2 tablespoon of water (optional depending upon the humidity in the air and used to give traction to the flour as the machine kneads it into a ball only). For the brunch, I made a double batch to ensure I had enough pillows to fill my baking dish and feed 8 adults + two kids. After the dough was made, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it rest on my work bench while I made the filling from scratch.
The filling was an unknown variable for me. I had an idea of what I wanted the final taste in the dish to be, so I had to work backwards to figure out how to whip up a quick yet tasty filling recipe. I kept it simple and easy to find ingredients for, and one that in the future I can jazz up a bit if I want to get more creative or have some lovely exotic ingredients in my hot hands. This is what I came up with:
1C Ricotta cheese (strained if too wet)
1/2C Spinach (fresh or frozen with liquid squeezed out)
1/2C Parmesan cheese (finely grated and fresh only, for the love of dogs)
1/4C Fine ground bread crumbs (I make my own using stale bread and spices of choice)
Small pinches of S&P (fresh cracks to taste)
Mix all of the wet ingredients with the dry till you get a lovely creamy paste. It shouldn’t be wet, but also shouldn’t crumble apart. You should be able to ball up a bit and drop it off a spoon onto the pasta sheet without difficulty.
Working in small chunks of the dough while keeping the remaining dough covered up, I ran each blob though the roller at various opening starting at #1 and passing it through each opening thickness twice till I got to #3. After 6 full passes, if the sheet was still too thick, I’d ran it for two more passes at the #4 opening.
Note: You can roll out pasta dough with a rolling pin; you don’t need fancy pasta attachments for your mixer, but they do speed things up and evens out the final product if you have them. Simply roll the dough out evenly to a thickness of 1/6″ or slightly less, but don’t go too thin or the sheet will tear as you fold it over.
When I got the thickness I was after and a good long length of pasta sheet, I would place it over my floured work bench and start dropping my filling down in a row of small balls just below an imaginary middle fold line running the full length of the sheet while leaving at least a 1/2″ gap between them where I can run the egg wash around the filling. The egg wash helps bind or glue the folded over sheet so I can then cut out the pillows.
Here is a great little video of how one of the chef’s from Jamie Oliver’s cooking school forms her ravioli, with a few useful tips – one of which includes what to do with any leftover bits of dough. That’s a bonus pasta making lesson right there! Go watch that video and come back here. My instructions will make more sense to after you do.
I took the top half of the sheet which was empty but moist with the egg wash, I then folded it over the balls of filling and used my fingers (not just the tips) to press down slightly on the pasta around the filling, pushing out as much air as I could till all the pillows are formed. At that point, I used the ravioli cutter with its lovely crinkle cut edge, to separate the strip into individual ravioli pasta pillows. I let them rest on another floured section of the work bench to air dry a bit.
When all of the ravioli was made and had time to air dry a bit, I put them on jelly roll trays lined with wax paper and placed them into the freezer for an hour. After they froze up, I moved them into a Ziploc baggie to continue freezing since I wasn’t going to cook them for another two days. Even if I was planning to use them that night for dinner instead of days later, I would still freeze, bag and then freeze them until I needed to cook them. Fresh pasta is lovely, but you have to freeze things like ravioli individually lest they start sticking to each other or other things which they will do given the moisture in the pasta dough and the filling. Trust me on this. It’s a horrible mess when that happens. Very gluey and gross. :-\