Homemade Ravioli from Scratch

Have you ever made homemade pasta? Homemade ricotta cheese? How about homemade ravioli?

Home cooking takes time. But not as much time as you might think it does. I’m a homeschooling mommy, so I don’t have all day to spend in the kitchen. When I do have a lot to do in the kitchen, I involve the kids (wait, that sounds counterintuitive…).

Admittedly, it takes longer with kids, but talk about education enhancement! There’s no better place to learn science, home skills, and some math than in the kitchen. And I get to spend SO much time with my kids. It’s amazing, it really is. It’s like getting two things done at once, so the time is used more efficiently, right?!

Making pasta is really quite easy. I made it for the first time on a girl’s troop outing (it wasn’t girl scouts, but kind of like it) when I was 10 or 11. We did it without any fancy equipment or that noodle roller thing or anything else. Just our hands to mix, a rolling pin to roll it out, and a knife to cut the noodles to size.

My family loves homemade pasta, so for Valentine’s Day, the kids and I whipped up these gorgeous, red (colored with home-canned tomato sauce), heart-shaped ravioli, with homemade ricotta cheese inside.

Yes. They were delicious. They’re also low in fat, and quite a healthy, delicious pasta dish.

Here’s how to do it yourself.  (The recipes for the pasta, ricotta cheese, and sauce are at the bottom. I like to explain things with pictures first.)

The right tools always make things easier. If you don’t already have these in your kitchen, go grab yourself some now and be prepared to be very happy when they show up on your doorstep. 🙂

— Cheese cloth: this one is my favorite, and it’s the best price per yard. However, I only use cheesecloth about half as much as I could. For some reason I often favor Butter Muslin.
— Rolling pin: rolling pins are a bit like chocolate deserts… everyone has a favorite that’s a bit different from the next person’s. So I’m a bit hesitant to recommend a rolling pin. But in case you want a recommendation, this one is my favorite.
— Metal colander: Need a colander? Go with a metal one. Avoid plastic. Never buy plastic (if you can help it).

Now, on to making homemade ravioli!

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk it so they’re evenly incorporated. (The recipe doesn’t mention nutmeg… sometimes I add 1/8 tsp or so, just for a bit of added flavor. Someone told me about it forever ago, and I’ve done it off and on ever since.)

Make a well in the middle and add the eggs and oil.

Break the egg yolks and beat them quickly with a fork and mix well with the oil. (The egg yolk, being full of cholesterol, is an emulsifier and will combine the oil and egg white very well.)

Slowly work in some of the flour.

If you want to dye it red, like we did for Valentine’s Day, add some tomato sauce (store bought is fine… but I used some I canned from my garden tomatoes last summer).

Incorporate the rest of the flour mixture, slowly. And then it’s time to use your hands.

Knead it on a slightly floured surface, adding more flour if necessary. You want to knead it until it plenty, to really create the gluten bonds that will form the structure and stickiness of the noodle. You want it to be just sticky enough that it barely clings to your finger when you press the surface.

When it’s been kneaded well and has the right texture, cover it with plastic wrap (so it doesn’t dry out) and let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes. This allows the gluten bonds to relax a little bit, so they’re not quite so elastic. This is really important, because if you tried to roll it out now, without letting it relax, it would be so elastic that it would immediately spring back every time you tried to stretch it out.

If you try to force it, it would simply tear the bonds. You want the gluten bonds, but you want them to relax so they’re not elastic… so they’re more like strong strings, and not elastic bands.

You’ll know it’s relaxed and ready to roll out if you press into the surface and it retains the shape of your fingers for a bit, without springing back immediately.

While the dough is relaxing, it’s a good time to make the cheese if you haven’t made it already. We buy our milk whole, from a Mennonite dairyman. Look at the cream on top! Isn’t it beautiful? 🙂

Pour the milk into a sauce pan, add a pinch of salt, and heat it over medium heat to 190℉.  You’ll need to drain the cheese, to separate out the whey, once the curds have formed.  I just place my colander over another bowl, and then drape some cheesecloth or butter muslin over it.

Kids LOVE being in the kitchen with their moms. I try to let them help with anything I can. They handle a lot of the ingredients (we’re still working on eggs… I’m not fond of finding egg shells in my baked goods), and as much of the stirring, mixing, and pouring as possible. In the meantime, I constantly reiterate over and over what the ingredients are, what they do, what they taste like, what the process is (heating, mixing, stirring…), what different kitchen tools are called and what they do, etc.

Kids can learn an incredible amount about food, basic chemistry, math, etc. all just from helping in the kitchen.

They like to stand on a chair (safely, I promise), helping me add the milk and salt, and watching as the curds form when the lemon juice is added.

 

Once the milk reaches 190℉, remove it from the heat, add the lemon juice, and let it sit for 5 minutes.

The curds will be very apparent. Pour the whole lot straight into the colander and let the whey drip out for about an hour.

That’s the perfect time to roll out the dough and cut the tops and bottoms of the ravioli. Since it was to be our entree for our Valentine’s Day dinner, we used heart cookie cutters.

I cut the whole dough chunk into fourths and roll it out a part at a time so I don’t have a massive pasta dough circle on the table. I also feel like I can roll it out more evenly, so the thickness is more uniform, if I work with it in smaller sections.

 

Don’t throw away those edges! They’re still useful and nutritious (and delicious with that tomato sauce in it). I’ll show you how to use it later.

While the kids were doing that (see, they are helpful!) I pulled out the spinach (which happened to be the leftover spinach from making homemade food colorings), and sauteed it in a bit of oil.

Once we had the ravioli tops and bottoms cut out, the cheese was drained, and the spinach was sauteed, we mixed the spinach, ricotta cheese, and an egg to make the filling for the ravioli. And then it’s easy to assemble the ravioli. (The ravioli dough doesn’t look very red in this picture… my kitchen is rather dark and the pictures are rather washed out… but the dough was actually quite red.)

By the way, don’t waste that whey! There are so many ways to use it… in bread, smoothies, or pretty much any other way you use milk. And it still has good nutrition in it, so don’t toss it out!

Just had to throw that in there… back to the ravioli.

Assemble the ravioli on a slightly-floured surface so they don’t stick. Fill one of the shapes with the spinach & ricotta mixture, use a bit of water to dampen the edges, and then simply place another one on top and press the edges together. The edges stick together incredibly well with just a bit of water (you really don’t need to bother with an egg wash to do that).

Get a pot of water heating up.

When your ravioli is ready and your pot of water is boiling, drop them in the pot 2 or 3 at a time (so you don’t reduce the heat of the pot too much) and allow them to cook until they float (about 3-5 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon, set aside on a plate, and allow them to cool a bit.

It’s almost impossible to make exactly the right amount of ravioli tops and bottoms with the right amount of filling. I had 8 more pasta hearts left, so I made a quick mix of some of the tomato sauce with some cheese and used it as the filling. My husband liked it just as much as the ricotta & spinach filling, so that was a score. 🙂

I also used up the rest of the pasta (what was left after cutting out the hearts) in a pot of stew. I just used my kitchen scissors to cut it into bite-size chunks and added it to the stew pot. The whole family loves the texture of the pasta bites in the stew.

I made a milk & cheese sauce (recipe below) as a dip, because kids love to dip things. My husband said they were delicious both with and without the dip.

 

You can really see how red the dough was in the picture below. This picture has not been enhanced AT ALL. Literally just downloaded it from my camera, added the watermark, and uploaded it here. The only difference is… I took it in good light with a good camera.

I hope this inspires you to make some homemade ravioli, especially if it gets your kids in the kitchen too!


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Ravioli
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Ever made your own ravioli? You'd be surprised how easy it is. You can make the dough, the ricotta cheese, the filling, and the dip... all in your own kitchen in about an hour.
Ingredients
  • Pasta Dough
  • ---2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ---1 Tbsp semolina flour (optional... sometimes I add it, sometimes I don't)
  • ---3/4 tsp salt
  • ---3 whole eggs
  • ---2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ---1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • .
  • .
  • Ricotta & Spinach Filling
  • ---1 quart milk
  • ---1/4 tsp salt
  • ---2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ---1 cup chopped spinach
  • ---1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ---1/4 tsp salt
  • ---1 whole egg
  • .
  • .
  • White sauce (optional; for dipping or as a drizzle)
  • ---1½ cups milk
  • ---2 Tbsp flour
  • ---1 tsp salt
  • ---Pepper to taste
  • ---3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • ---Herbs for flavoring (optional; I used thyme, marjoram, and garlic)
Instructions
  1. Add all the dry ingredients and whisk to incorporate evenly.
  2. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the eggs and oil, and beat the eggs and oil briskly with a fork. Add the tomato sauce and mix well with the oil & eggs. Slowly begin to incorporate some of the flour mixture with the fork and mix well each time. When it becomes difficult to mix with a fork, it's time to dig in with your hands.
  3. Knead the dough well. If it's too sticky, add some flour just a bit at a time. Continue to knead for several minutes. When it forms a nice round ball of dough, barely sticky to the touch, cover it with some plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, to make the ricotta cheese, pour the quart of milk into a sauce pan, stir in 1 tsp salt, and place it heat over medium heat until it reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring every couple of minutes to make sure it doesn't stick.
  5. When it reaches the right temperature, pull it off the heat, add the lemon juice, and let it sit for 5 minutes. It should separate and form curds. (If it doesn't, add more lemon juice, ½ Tbsp at a time.) Put a colander over a bowl and line the colander with cheesecloth or butter muslin. Pour the milk/cheese mixture into the colander and let it sit for 45-60 minutes to allow all the whey to drip out.
  6. Sautee the spinach in the olive oil. Remove it from the heat and add the ½ tsp salt. Add the cheese (once the whey is finished dripping out), and the egg. Incorporate thoroughly and set aside (in the fridge if necessary) until you're ready to fill the ravioli.
  7. Once the ravioli pasta dough has sat for at least 30 minutes, cut it into fourths and roll it out into a sheet, about ⅛ inch thick. Cut out the ravioli shapes (you can do circles, squares, hearts, or any other shape that catches your fancy).
  8. Place one pasta cutout on a flat surface, and put 1 to 2 Tbsp of the ricotta & spinach mixture in the middle. Add a bit of water to the edge of the dough all around the edge and put a second pasta cutout on top, pressing the edges together.
  9. Bring a pot of water to the boil and drop the finished ravioli in it 2 or 3 at a time. Allow them to cook until they begin to float, about 3-5 minutes. Fish out with a slotted spoon and set on a plate to cool.
  10. To make the white sauce, whisk the flour and the milk together in a sauce pan, place over medium heat and continue whisking every 30-60 seconds until it begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and immediately add the cheese, stirring until it melts and the mixture is smooth. Add the salt, pepper, and herbs.
  11. Serve while still warm and moist by either pouring the sauce over the ravioli, or by dipping the ravioli in the sauce. It's also delicious by itself, without the sauce.

 

Any questions or comments?  Leave them below!
(P.S. I LOVE comments.)

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