Monday, February 4, 2013

I made homemade ravioli like a champ!

(This morning, I had "We are the Champions" stuck in my head. I knew right then this Monday was going to be alright.)

I'm getting into making homemade pasta. Usually meals that dirty that many dishes are left to Pat and the kids. However, over Christmas, I watched my dad making his homemade noodles for his famous (or infamous if you remember the time it fermented in jars in my dorm room...) chicken noodle soup. It must've inspired me. My dad used to take up the whole kitchen table rolling out the dough and cutting it into noodles with a pizza cutter. And then we got him a pasta maker. We also have a pasta maker that had sat on the shelf for...a long time. Too long. But not long ago, Dad told me how to make his homemade noodles. And down came the pasta maker from wherever it had been hiding.

I don't usually like single-use kitchen gadgets, but pasta makers are actually worthy kitchen gadgets. They have cranks. Kids like to turn cranks and will help out because it's fun. Heck, I like to work cranks and will use the pasta maker because it's fun. It's like a playdough machine, but the results are edible.

So, because I love when my dad does it, and because it's fun, I've been making homemade pasta noodles every chance I get. They are great for making lasagna, since you don't run the risk of breaking them or of trying to snap them off at just the right length. You don't have the cook/uncooked noodle dilemma. You do get custom-sized noodles that are as thin or as thick as you want. (I like a lot of thin layers, personally.) If waking up with Queen in your head isn't enough insurance of a good day, making pasta has proven to make every member of our family happy. Homemade pasta = good day insurance.

My dad's recipe of "1 egg to each heaping scoop of flour...that's it!" works well for his soup noodles, but I was looking for something a little more pasta-like. We've tried out several recipes from online. Some were better than others. It seems, in terms of straight-up pasta, like spaghetti, semolina flour must be the way to go. I don't have any of that, but hope to try it out sometime. In the meantime, this recipe I found on a site called Annie's Eats yielded the easiest-to-work-with pasta dough to date. (Dad, I will still use your recipe for soup noodles.)

Of course, I don't strictly follow recipes, so my ingredient list was actually like this:
1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surfaces
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1 tbsp. olive oil

The directions on the other website are great, though she dirties waaaaay too many dishes. I just hand-mixed and kneaded mine in the bowl. (And when I say "kneaded," I really mean I just played with it like you would with playdough, because "kneading" is adult work instead of kids' play.) And she has an electric pasta maker?! Psssht. Not as fun. But read what she has to say if you're looking to try it out yourself. You'll be able to go forth in confidence.

Thanks to a Superbowl produce sale, I had lots of colorful veggies on hand and wanted to use them in a filled pasta like confetti. I like the idea of small pockets of party for dinner, so ravioli it was. My filling was different than Annie's recipe, but hers was a starting place. So I displaced some of the cheese with veggies. I don't measure these things, but this is roughly what I did. Use whatever veggies (or meat, I guess...) you like.

I realized about 1/3 of the way through my meal that this was worth of sharing.
It's not a great photo, but here's what my ravioli looked like in real life.
In a medium-sized pan, saute on medium to meduim-high heat:
1/2  a medium zucchini, minced
4 portabello mushrooms, minced
1/3 cup? bell peppers, minced (I made use of bits of red, yellow, and orange ones.)
salt to taste

In a medium-sized bowl, combine:
about 1/2 a 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese
a glob (1/4 cup or so?) of cottage cheese
about 2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese (fresh is probably wonderful, but the powdered stuff was great.)
whatever herbs and spices you like to taste. I tossed in a Sundried Tomato seasoning blend I was given for Christmas. Those bread dipping seasonings at Meijer make a great gift!

Here in our town, you can get pre-made ravoili for a not-very-hungry 4 at Aldi for $2.99. I think this recipe fed five of us well. Pat and I were actually full from 11 pieces! And the cost? Roughly $3. But mine feeds more people and includes veggies and an hour or so of fun. So there.

I'm sure people go wild with what they put in stuffed pasta. I, however, am just stepping into this world. If any of you want to step in with me, consider this your invitation. For those of you further along in this sort of culinary venture, please beckon me along with your ideas.