Like any average kid on Christmas day, I always spent the morning in agonizing anticipation while my parents slowly sipped their coffee, then raced into the living room to open my presents and see what Santa brought me. The afternoon was then filled with playing with all the new toys. Sounds normal, right? Normal if you ignore the fact that when I was ten years old the gift was not a new bike but rather a pasta maker. I was so excited that I spent the afternoon trying my hand at pasta dough and rolling out long strands of fettuccine and tagliatelle. I loved that gift more than anything; it represented something new to challenge myself with, something I had never done before.
My trusty pasta maker has produced dozens of pounds of fresh pasta, including ravioli, capellacci, fettuccine, paparadelle, and farfalle. Over the past few summers, making fresh pasta has been my most popular class for young cooks. Making fresh pasta is an undertaking, but like anything becomes easier with repetition. Yes, your kitchen will become a sticky, floury, mess and the process does take a few hours, but it is worth it. When a fresh sauce hits al dente pasta and the smell fills the kitchen, it’s hard not to be proud of all the hard work you put into making something so complex from start to finish.
Enveloped in the thin sheets of fresh egg pasta is a zucchini filling that’s full of garlic, mint, and tangy goat cheese. It’s the perfect example of how seasonally versatile ravioli is: asparagus or fava beans in the spring, zucchini in the summer, butternut squash in the fall, and wild mushrooms or potatoes in the winter.
As far as filling the ravioli goes, if you can turn a crank, cut in a straight line, seal envelopes, and boil water, you won’t have any trouble. For more detailed instructions on how to shape the ravioli, check out this Picasa slideshow.
Now let’s talk about the sauce: it’s a puree of roasted Roma tomatoes quickly simmered with brown butter, garlic, and a touch of vinegar. The simplicity of the ingredients lets the ravioli take center stage while highlighting the flavor of summer tomatoes. If making fresh pasta still sounds daunting to you, at least make the sauce and serve it tossed with rigatoni and lots of grated cheese.
If you have the time and are up for a culinary adventure, tie on an apron and give ravioli a try. If not, enjoy the pictures and convince someone else to make it for you. Whichever option you choose, you’re in for a treat.
Zucchini and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Brown Butter Tomato Sauce
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ pounds shredded zucchini
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 oz. goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
¼ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Roma tomatoes, halved and seeded
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Table salt, for cooking
Grated parmesan cheese, for serving
- For the dough: Mound the flour onto a flat work surface and form a deep well. Crack the eggs into the well and break the yolks with a fork, gradually whisking and working in the flour until you have a shaggy mass of dough. Knead the dough mass by hand for about 5 minutes until a smooth ball of dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.
- For the filling: Place the zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Let sit for 30 minutes to begin releasing excess water. Transfer the zucchini to a clean dishtowel and wring the towel to remove all of the liquid. Set the zucchini aside. In a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil, then add the garlic cloves and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the zucchini and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes, until the zucchini is tender and has begun to caramelize. Transfer the zucchini to a medium bowl and mix in the goat cheese, mint, salt, and pepper. Check for additional seasonings to taste, and set aside.
- For the sauce: Preheat the oven to 400F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil and kosher salt and spread them onto the baking sheet. Roast for 50-60 minutes until tender and beginning to brown in places. Place the roasted tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until pureed, about 5-6 pulses. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter, then continue cooking it until the mild solids have begun to brown, about 2-3 minutes more. Add the garlic cloves and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes and table salt, stir to combine, and let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in the white wine vinegar and set aside.
- To roll the pasta dough: Cut the pasta dough into 4 sections, and using a pasta roller, roll each section into thin strips, starting on the widest setting and working your way to the highest setting (usually #6). For the thickest settings (1-3), fold the pasta into thirds and roll it before rolling two more times through the same setting. Set the pasta strips on a kitchen towel brushed with flour and let sit for 15 minutes to air-dry.
- To fill the ravioli: Take a 4 inch wide strip of pasta dough, and cut it in half lengthwise. Dollop scant teaspoons of the filling, 1 inch apart onto one of the strips. Using your finger or a pastry brush, lightly brush the bare sections of pasta dough with water. Place the second strip of pasta dough on top of the one with the filling, and gently press it around the filling mounds to remove air bubbles and seal the ravioli. Using a knife or fluted pastry wheel, trim the edges and then cut out the individual ravioli. Set the ravioli on a towel dusted with flour and repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
- To cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add 1 tablespoon table salt. Gently warm the pasta sauce in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add ½ of the ravioli to the boiling water and gently boil for 3-4 minutes, until al dente. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, drain the ravioli straight into the sauce, and toss to combine. Cook the remaining ravioli, toss with the sauce, and serve immediately with grated parmesan.