Endorsed by Popeye: Spinach ravioliSeptember 17, 2006
I love spinach. I love it cooked with salt and butter. I love it shredded and shoved in phyllo dough with feta cheese and onions. I’ll even eat it raw in a salad — if the right toppings are in the offing, and there’s no recall for it.
I didn’t know, however, that I loved spinach in pasta. Leave it to my husband to enlighten me.
Spinach pasta is not only tasty, it’s sexy. Verdant green with specks of fresh foliage. Let’s face it: Popeye was onto something. My husband has combined something delicious — fresh pasta — with something else delicious — spinach — and then to top it off, he’s stuffed that full of cheese and spices. Need I say more?
Read on for his how-to on fresh spinach ravioli, filled with ricotta cheese and spices…
Ah, poor spinach. What a bad week for you. You have this great reputation, you get all those compliments for your vitamins, fiber and generally yummy flavor. Then some goofball goes and (apparently) sprays his crop with some funky fecal matter. Now, poor spinach, you’ve got a recall.
So, this is my effort to rehabilitate that gorgeous green, spinach. It is one of my favorites of all edible leaves. (This statement likely shocks my wife because, years ago, I think I was convinced I disliked it. But as I cooked with spinach more and more, I slowly began to realize how great it was. It has so much potential in so many places.)
Here, spinach plays perhaps one of the least appreciated roles in all of food — eye candy. (I was going to say, “plays the role of Heidi Klum,” but I don’t want to admit that I watch Project Runway… and then only to see Heidi. Well, I watch Project Runway because my wife watches it, and I rarely enjoy it except when Heidi is on screen.) In the case of my lovely pasta, the spinach does make a subtle flavor improvement — but its real contribution is upping the “wow” factor by several degrees. And, as much as many of us would like to deny it, we eat with our eyes as much as our palettes — so such a lovely fresh green beauty has a truly terrific effect.
The only difficult part of this recipe is making the pasta dough. It takes some practice. And the practice required is no more than you need to make any other fresh pasta. It actually has a very low difficulty level, but getting the right feel to the dough so you can easily roll it, while still maintaining a level of manageability, is the part I have to continually practice.
The major lesson I’ve learned and continue to learn is about rolling the dough: When in doubt, flour it. Flour the press. Flour the dough. Flour the counter. That may sound funny, but when you go through several minutes of rolling out dough and you finally have it on the final setting for this perfect sheet… and then it gets stuck to something — flouring it sounds like great advice. Otherwise, the next thing you know, you have a 7-foot long perfect sheet that hits a giant snarl the causes tears big enough for your head to fit through. So remember: Flour is your friend. And it’s not expensive, so don’t be afraid to be generous with your flour.
Spinach Pasta Ravioli
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh spinach
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1 tsp. red pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper
1. This is a variation on our previous recipe for fresh pasta. The only difference: Before adding the flour and eggs to the food processor, add the spinach. Allow the spinach to become thoroughly shredded. Then add the flour and the beaten eggs. Pulse several times until the dough begins to come together. If it is too grainy, add a tablespoon of water at a time until you have a ball of dough. Let the food processor run for a bit longer to knead the dough.
2. Let the dough rest for at least 15 min.
3. While the dough is resting, mix the filling ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it until you are finished rolling out the dough.
4. After the dough has rested, it’s time to break out the ol’ pasta press. Run the dough the press several times on the lowest setting, which allows it to work out its kinks. Continue to escalate the settings (making the press roll it thinner and thinner) until you’re got your dough fairly thin (No. 7 on my press). You want large, long sheets of it. You’ll be folding it over later to make the ravioli.
5. Time to actually make the ravioli. Take a sheet of the pasta and lay it out. Beginning about a half inch from the edge and a quarter of the way onto the pasta, place about 1/2 to 3/4 of a teaspoon of filling. You should space them about an inch apart.
6. Once you’ve reached the end, with a brush or your fingertips run water along the pasta in a line behind the filling and between the dollops. The water works as a seal binding the top and the bottom of the pasta to each other.
7. Now, fold the top over the fillings. Press down on the areas that you brushed with water and make little filling pockets. Seal them well so the filling doesn’t spill out when the pasta hits the boiling water.
8. With a knife or a pizza cutter, cut out each ravioli. Place them on a non-stick surface (such as parchment paper) and cover until ready to cook.
Note: You can make these in advance. On this day, I made them early in the afternoon, layered them on pieces of parchment paper on a sheet pan and then put them in the fridge until right before I cooked them.
9. Cooking the ravioli couldn’t be simpler. In salty boiling water, cook the pasta. It should take about 3 minutes. You can eat them as is or with a nice sauce. But what ever you do, enjoy!