Sunday, March 21, 2010

Roll, Roll, Roll It Out

I've always wanted to try ravioli, so I was really excited when I found this recipe. I decided that I wanted to pair it with a simple tomato sauce that I've been dying to make for quite a while. One day, I was having an adventure at the farmer's market, and while looking for ricotta cheese, I found a vendor selling quark cheese. I tried it and while it was similar to the texture of ricotta (except with a little more moisture), but it had a much saltier and full flavor than ricotta cheese--almost like the taste of cream cheese in the form of ricotta! I was sold. I adjusted this recipe to use quark cheese instead of ricotta and I couldn't be happier. I know quark cheese is harder to find, so if you can't, ricotta would work just fine.

I had a lot of fun making this recipe with my roommate, Caitlin. I'd been dying to make this sauce from our favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. It is so simple, you just have to try it, even if you don't have the time to make the ravioli.

I loved how hands-on this was, between rolling out the dough and filling the squares with the dough. It definitely was time consuming, but it's the perfect recipe to make over the weekend.

The result was so exciting. It was so fun to see the ravioli and know that I had made it from scratch. Caitlin and I felt very accomplished.

Four Cheese Ravioli and Tomato Sauce
Sauce adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Pasta dough adapted from Annie's Eats. Ravioli filling adapted from Annie's Eats.

For the Sauce:
28 Ounces whole peeled canned tomatoes
5 Tablespoons butter
1 Medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste
For the Pasta Dough:
4 Large eggs
1 Tablespoon water, plus more as needed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 1/2 Cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 Teaspoon salt
For the Filling:
1/2 Cup quark cheese or ricotta
1/2 Cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 Cup shredded fontina
1/2 Cup shredded parmesan
1 Clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 Teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 Teaspoon dried basil
1/4 Teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 Teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Start with the sauce. Place the tomatoes and and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions so that the open ends of the onion are face-down. Once it comes to a simmer, lower the heat to medium-low and keep at a simmer for at least 45 minutes or until your ravioli is ready. Stir occasionally, and work to break up to tomatoes with a wooden spoon. A pastry mixer also works well so smash up the tomatoes.
Combine the eggs, water, and olive oil. Add the flour slowly until it forms a dough. If the dough isn't coming together properly, add more water. Transfer the dough to a works surface. Knead for 2 minutes. Cover with a clean towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
While waiting, in a mixing bowl, combine the 4 cheeses, garlic and spices. Mix well.
After the dough has rested for 20 minutes, it is ready to form. I don't have a pasta sheet roller, so I had to do it the old fashioned way. If you have a pasta roller, you can follow the directions at Annie's Eats. Without a pasta sheet roller, you're in for some work. Roll the dough out as thin as you can get it (on a slightly floured surface). This will take a while, but you want it to be thin or else it will be too tough and will take over the ravioli and be unbalanced with the cheese filling. No need to go to the gym today--this will give you a work out--but the result is so worth it! Roll, roll, roll, and every once in a while, let the dough rest (and your arms) and then roll, roll, roll again. Cut the pasta into squares. Make sure they're big enough to have a good amount of filling in the middle but still enough of an edge to close the ravioli. Mine were about an inch and a half with about a tablespoon of filling in each. Once the squares are cut out, place a tablespoon of filling in the middle of a square, making sure there is an edge, free of filling. Dip your finger in water and lightly brush the edges of the dough, place another square on top and press the edges together to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Boil the ravioli until al dente. This will be between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on how thin you were able to get your dough.
At this point, remove the sauce from the heat, discard the onion and add salt.
Place the pasta into individual bowls and top with sauce.

Wow. The pasta dough's texture was so smooth, the filling tasted incredible and the sauce...oh that sauce! Store-bought ravioli will never be the same. The dough had a completely different texture than store-bought. It was a lot more light, airy and tender. The four cheese filling tasted far different from any four cheese filling I've ever had. The cheeses worked perfectly together and the quark cheese gave it this wonderful tang. This sauce is hands down the best red sauce I have ever tasted. The butter makes it so smooth and the minimal amount of ingredients make it such a clean, simple taste. I had some of the leftover sauce later in the week with some angel hair and it was still just as incredible. If you don't have the time to make the ravioli, at least make this sauce! It is so easy and simply irresistible.