If you’ve never made fresh pasta before, now is the time because it’s way easier than you think! Making stuffed little pasta pockets like ravioli, tortellini or panzerotti is a teeny step up, but once you have the basics under control you can play with shapes, fillings and sauces ’til the cows come home. Try this spiced butternut ravioli in a creamy tomato sauce as a start, then experiment and spread your wings. It is a long post, because I go into great detail of what to do. If you’re looking for the low-down on how to make fresh pasta and ravioli, everything you need to know is here.
All you need is…
For the butternut ravioli filling
medium butternut (500g), cubed
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
⅓ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp nutmeg
⅓ tsp salt
1tbs olive oil
1 extra large onion (250g), finely chopped
2 tbs butter
1tbs olive oil
2 fat cloves garlic, finely minced
For the creamy tomato pasta sauce
8 large ripe tomatoes
1 heaped tbs tomato paste
4 tbs cream
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the pasta
200g cake flour
2 jumbo free range eggs
⅛ tsp salt
½ tbs olive oil
Making the butternut filling:
Place the diced butternut in a large bowl. Add the chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg and third tsp salt. Drizzle over 1 tbs olive oil and use your hands to toss through, ensuring every bit of butternut is coated in oil and spice. Pour onto a baking tray (I find spraying the tray with non-stick cooking spray makes cleaning up easier, alternately line the tray with baking paper.) Roast in a 200 degree Celsius oven until soft – 30 to 40 minutes depending on how big your butternut cubes are. If the butternut gets a slight char don’t worry, a bit of caramel action just adds to the flavour.
While the butternut roasts, add the chopped onion, 2 tbs butter and 1 tbs olive oil to a pan and cook over low heat, stirring, until the onions are soft. It takes about 10 minutes. Do not let them brown! Once soft, add the garlic and fry for a further two minutes. Divide this onion mixture in half.
Place the roasted butternut and the one half of the onion mixture in a food processor (reserve the other half of the onion mix for the pasta sauce) and blitz to roughly puree – I’m not fussed if there is a bit of texture here and there. Dish butternut into a bowl, cover with cling film and allow to cool to room temperature or colder.
Making the creamy tomato pasta sauce:
While the butternut cools, make your creamy tomato pasta sauce. Peel the tomatoes. To do so, simply pour boiling water over them and leave for a minute, the skins will now slip off easily, especially if the tomatoes are ripe. Quarter tomatoes and squeeze the quarters over a bowl to remove pips. Dice the tomato flesh. Pour the pips through a sieve and use the back of a spoon to push all liquid out and leave pips behind. Add the diced tomatoes and this tomato liquid to the other half of the onion mixture along with the tomato paste. Add the quarter tsp salt and pepper, place the lid on and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Stir in the cream, taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. (It probably will need more salt.) If you like it extra creamy add more cream, but remember to adjust seasoning to account for the increased liquid. Puree until velvety smooth with a stick blender. That’s the sauce done. (You could make both the ravioli filling and pasta sauce the day before and keep in the fridge until you assemble your ravioli.)
How to make fresh pasta:
If you are an old hand at this, no explanations needed. If you’ve never made fresh pasta before, it is way simpler than you think. Just place the cake flour in a little mound in a big shallow bowl (or directly on a flat working surface, though I don’t like the resultant cleaning mess), add the salt and make a small well in the middle. Break the two eggs into the middle and add the oil. Now use your fingers to gently stir the egg into the flour. Once it all comes together, knead it for 5 minutes. You’ll feel the dough become silken as you work the gluten. Form a pasta dough ball, wrap it tightly in cling film and place the dough in the fridge for at least half an hour to rest and recover from your vigorous ministrations.
To roll the pasta, halve the dough ball, and keep the half you are not working with in the fridge. (This is not as crucial if you are going to make fettuccine or tagliatelle, which are real quick, but I find with any fussy stuffed pasta pockets, it’s easier to work with really cold pasta dough, especially on a hot day.) Lightly flour the dough and flatten it a bit with a rolling pin – using your hands also works. Give it another light dusting of flour, then roll the dough through your pasta machine’s roller on the widest setting (mine goes to 7). Fold the dough over on itself and push it through on the widest setting once more. Now you are ready to start rolling it thinner. Simply dust very lightly with flour as you go and with each run through the pasta roller, make it one setting smaller.
I loathe thick pasta, especially anything stuffed, so I make my pasta sheets for stuffed pasta quite thin, all the way down to number 2 on my machine, number 1 if I am feeling brave, and this is where cold dough really helps). (If you do not have a pasta machine, a rolling pin does work, but it takes a braver woman than me.)
How to make ravioli:
You have two options here (assuming you do not have a ravioli mould, and who does?) The first option is to evenly space dollops of filling on one pasta sheet, then cover it with another pasta sheet. Press gently around the filling mounds to seal and use a cookie press to punch out ravioli shapes, or just use a knife to cut squares. This is the easy route and works well with a firm filling such as a meat-based one.
With really soft fillings like this butternut puree, I find the more laborious second option sometimes works better. Here’s what to do: Use a cookie press to punch pasta dough circles or squares out of the pasta sheet. Place a dollop of cool butternut filling in the centre of a pasta circle (for my 50mm circles, 1 heaped tsp filling was sufficient). Use a small brush (not a great honking pastry brush, the 99c kind your kids would use to paint water colours) and paint a thin line of water around the outer rim. Place another pasta circle on top and gently press the sides down to seal, ensuring there is no air trapped in the pocket. Place your ravioli on a plate lightly dusted with flour, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge while you make the rest of the ravioli. It takes a good 30-40 minutes, so I play opera and sing along loudly and badly to keep repetitive-task boredom from setting in.
Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to the boil and gently drop in the ravioli in batches. Cook for 5-6 minutes – test one to see if it is cooked al dente. Use a slotted spoon to lift out the ravioli and briefly place on kitchen cloth to drain. Serve right away with the warm pasta sauce and loads of freshly grated Parmesan. I like a hard goat cheese like Foxenburg’s Renosterbos even more with this.
I don’t let a thing go to waste, so I also top my butternut ravioli with toasted butternut seeds. Simply wash the seeds and dry them, a drizzle of olive oil, a dash of Maldon sea salt and onto the roasting tray the seeds go for 10 minutes of roasting. The resultant salty nutty crunch is just lovely.
Good luck with your ravioli attempt if this is your first time! If you have any questions, just ask. Above all, have fun!