Allow your mind to drift with me, into a type of pasta-induced meditation. Imagine with me, if you will, four silky smooth sheets of homemade pasta. Haven’t made them yet? No matter, you will. The mood might strike on a hot day, when you can barely muster up the will to boil a pot of water. Or, maybe, when just a tinge of chill drifts through the warm end of summer air, and the leaves just begin to turn. Perhaps it will be your day off, or on a Sunday, in preparation for family dinner. Are you catching my drift? The mood will strike, and when it does, no season, weather trend, or force of nature will be able to stop you from making pasta customized to your every whim. “Winter spring summer or fall, all you’ve got to do is call” and it will be there, right there, at the ready to be filled or sauced with whatever you choose.
The late spring shelling peas and favas that inspired the series of fortunate events which led to the pasta-making extravaganza fit my mood perfectly at the time. I rolled out sheets of pasta to the thinnest setting, feeling like a seamstress measuring fine silk, as I draped them over my hands. I blended favas and peas with a handful of mint, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, nutty parmesan, and a generous drizzle of olive oil. What resulted was a very green (in the fresh spring herbal sense), pesto-textured ravioli filling, which could double as a topping for crostini, as Jamie Oliver intended it, or a spread for sandwiches or crackers.
I mounded filling by the tablespoonful onto sheets of pasta, just as I had seen Iron Chefs and actors in Italian movies do. Then, I spread a thin egg wash around the perimeter of each mound of filling with my fingers, and placed the other sheet of dough on top, pressing the top sheet of dough gently around each mound of filling to seal the little pockets. I wanted circular ravioli, so I pressed and twisted a biscuit cutter around each pocket of filling, until the ravioli was freed from the rest of the dough. I had what looked like legitimate ravioli! I boiled the ravioli in water I salted to taste like the sea, and finished the ravioli with a drizzle of basil oil made fresh from the garden, parmesan shavings, and toasted walnuts to add a roasty crunch.
Spring may be a memory of the past, but look out into your garden, or check your favorite produce stand at the farmers market for inspiration. Make your pasta dough, and fill it with whatever fits the season or mood. If favas and peas are nowhere to be found until next spring, consider one of the following:
Make an herbed-ricotta filling, and top with whatever is fresh and available:
Fill the ravioli with a mixture of ricotta+fresh herbs+minced garlic +a drizzling of olive oil+ salt and pepper, and top with roasted cherry tomatoes, toasted garlic, and a drizzling of olive oil, or, whisper-thin slices of sauteed yellow squash.
Blend up a thick pesto out of whatever is fresh available:
(And always season to taste with salt)
•Sundried tomatoes+toasted pine nuts+crushed red pepper+basil+parmesan+olive oil
•kale+garlic+toasted walnuts+lemon juice+freshly ground pepper+olive oil
•Make a traditional pesto using basil, olive oil, pine nuts or walnuts and a splash of lemon juice. Mix with equal parts ricotta cheese.
•Sauteed zucchini blossoms+garlic+olive oil+pine nuts or sunflower seeds+basil+olive oil
More Inspiration from around the web:
•If your garden is spouting rainbow chard like mine, Guilty Kitchen’s Swiss Chard Ravioli may be in your near future!
•The Meaning of Pie is such a clever blog name, and how could we pass by such a fresh looking Pasta With Checca Sauce ?
•Gluten-free readers should have homemade pasta too! How about Mama Me’s Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Fettuccine?
•In the mood for rich and creamy? Annie’s Eats Mushroom and Cheese Ravioli has three kinds of cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and a spinach cream sauce. Oh. My. Goodness.
As you can see, pasta enlightenment is only a few ingredients away!
Minted Fava and Pea Ravioli with Basil Oil and Toasted Walnuts
Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Incredible Smashed Pea and Fava Bean Toast
Makes 20 Ravioli
•1 recipe basic pasta dough, rolled into thin sheets
•1 pound peas, shelled (about 6 ounces of shelled peas)
•1 pound fava beans, shelled (about 5 ounces shelled favas)
•1 small bunch of mint, leaves picked
•1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
•2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
•juice from 1 lemon (reserve the zest for the basil oil)
•Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
•1 egg white, whisked together with 1 tablespoon water
•1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
•additional torn mint, basil, and parmesan shavings as garnish
•Lemon Scented Basil-Garlic Oil (recipe below)
1) Place the peas, fava beans, mint, grated parmesan, olive oil, and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse until roughly pureed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pulse the food processor a few more times to incorporate. At this point, set a big saucepan of generously salted water on the stove to boil.
2) Lay out one sheet of pasta dough. Mound the filling by tablespoons onto the pasta dough, leaving about 2 inches of space between each mound of filling. Paint the egg white mixture in a thin layer on the pasta dough, around the perimeter of each mound of filling.
3) Place another sheet of pasta over the first sheet, and gently press the two pasta layers together around each mound of filling. Cut around each ravioli using a biscuit cutter, ravioli stamp, or knife. Lay the finished ravioli on a lightly floured surface until ready to boil, or allow the ravioli to dry for about an hour and freeze (thanks for the tip, Annie!)
4) Cook the ravioli in a large saucepan of salted, boiling water for 3-5 minutes, or until al dente (tender, but still toothsome). Drain well.
5) Drizzle with Lemon-Scented Basil Oil, and garnish with toasted walnuts, torn mint, a couple basil leaves, and shaved parmesan.
Lemon-Scented Basil-Garlic Oil
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
- zest from 1/2 small lemon
- 1 small garlic clove, chopped
- Salt to taste