by Steve Dunn
How many of you have ever made your own pasta?
I know it can seem a bit daunting, and with high-quality dried and fresh pastas available everywhere these days, many of us can’t be bothered with making it from scratch. But can I tell you something? Once you experience the ritual of making your own and then taste how clearly superior it is to ANY store bought brand, you’ll be a pasta maker for life.
Its not that you’ll always choose to make your own, but when you’ve got a little extra time or have a special meal planned, nothing can compare to a good homemade pasta. Of course, not all pastas are created equal, and some (like this ravioli) take a little more work than others. Once you get the hang of it though, a fresh pasta can be made and cut in pretty short order if you are making noodles like spaghetti, linguine, or fettuccine. Things DO get a little more complicated when working with sheet pasta that then gets stuffed like these raviolis or some tortellini, as they require a bit more time.
A pasta machine makes for easy work, but is not an absolute necessity so don’t let a lack of one in your kitchen dissuade you from trying your hand at homemade. In fact, I’ll post another recipe in a couple of weeks for simple egg noodles that requires nothing but a rolling pin and a sharp knife to produce fresh pasta for your pot. For years I used my grandmother’s hand-crank pasta machine which has always held a special place in my heart, but these days more often reach for the pasta attachment for my Kitchen-aid stand mixer as it allows me to keep both hands free for feeding and catching the pasta on either side of the rollers, expediting the process.
All pastas can be made with all-purpose flour, though many are better with blends of durum and semolina flours that result in a more structured and toothsome pasta. If you really want to get into making your own pastas I recommend checking out King Arthur Flour’s website for their “Perfect Pasta Blend” as well as their “Semolina” flour. As it is with baking bread, making pasta does require a little practice to get the feel of the dough as it comes together so that in the end it is neither too dry nor too wet when kneaded. Be sure to use ANY pasta recipe as just a guide, and understand that the size of your eggs, the humidity of your flour (as well as the specific attributes of flour blend you’re using), will all effect the specific ratio of wet to dry ingredients in any batch you make. That is to say that each batch will be slightly different. One day the pasta will be perfect with the ingredient list as written, while other days you may find yourself holding back some flour or having to head to the pantry for another 1/4 cup. No worries though, you’ll get the hang of it VERY quickly and will soon be cranking out drool worthy pastas I promise.
For this seafood focused recipe, I bounced up to my favorite local fish market, The Lobster Pound in Manomet for the lobster, shrimp and crab. While I like the combination of the three different meats in the ravioli, feel free to use just one or a different combination of them to suit your own tastes.
OK…time to make the pasta, let’s get started, shall we?
Cheers – Steve
Seafood Ravioli with Browned Butter- Caper Sauce
by: Steve Dunn
for the pasta dough:
• 7 ounces (1-1/3 cup plus 2 Tbs.) 00 flour (I use King Arthur’s Perfect Pasta Blend)
• 1-3/4 ounces (1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs.) semolina flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
• 6 large egg yolks
• 1 large egg
• 1-1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
for the seafood filling:
• 2 ounces unsalted butter
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
• 6 ounces raw lobster meat finely chopped
• 6 ounces cooked crabmeat finely chopped
• 8 ounces raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined, finely chopped
• 4 ounces ricotta cheese
• 2 tablespoons grated lemongrass (or 1 tablespoon lemon zest)
• 2 tablespoons, finely minced chives
• kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
for the sauce:
• 1 stick (4 ounces) of butter
• juice of one lemon
• 2-3 tablespoons capers, drained
• 1 tablespoon finely minced chives
• kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
for the dough:
1-Dump the flours on a work surface and mix to combine them. Make a deep, wide well in the center, making sure there is some flour on the bottom so the eggs are not directly on the surface. Add the egg yolks, whole egg, oil, and salt.
2-Using a fork, beat the wet ingredients until combined, staying in the center and being careful that the eggs don’t breach the wall. (If any does, gather it up and reinforce the wall.)
3-Begin mixing in the flour from the inside of the wall, a little at a time, until the dough is too stiff to mix with the fork. Scrape the dough off the fork and continue mixing by hand, folding it and forming it into a single mass. If necessary, use a bench scraper to move the dough and to scrape any dried bits to the side. Depending on how large your eggs are and how dry your flour, you may find that you don’t need all of the flour (or need to add extra) to get a dough that is just past the point of being tacky and sticking to your fingers. That said, add the flour slowly to the center of the well so that you don’t add to much and end up with a dry, unmanageable dough.
4-Lightly flour the work surface and knead the dough for at least 5 minutes, adding more flour if needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Continue kneading until the dough is a smooth ball that feels soft and pliable. Wrap the dough loosely in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Let it warm up a little before rolling, if necessary.)
for the seafood filling:
1-In a large sauté pan, add the butter and melt. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until golden brown. Add the lobster and shrimp, season lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the contents into a fine meshed strainer to drain off any excess moisture, let cool for 30 minutes, until room temperature.
2-In a large bowl, combine lobster mixture with crab, ricotta, lemon grass and chives and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside while you roll the pasta.
to roll the dough:
1-Set up a pasta machine on a large work surface. Set the machine to its widest setting.
2-Flatten the dough with your hand or a rolling pin and divide it into pieces. (If you’re comfortable rolling dough, in half is fine; otherwise divide it into 3 or 4 pieces to get shorter sheets.)
3-Working with one piece at a time and keeping the other pieces wrapped in plastic or a cloth, run the dough through the widest setting on the machine a couple of times, flouring as needed, to work the dough.
4-Move the rollers to the next setting and pass the dough through. Continue notching down by one setting and passing the dough through each time. Stop rolling when you can see the outline of your hand through the dough; this may not be the thinnest setting on some machines. I use a pasta attachment for my Kitchen-aid stand mixer, and for me the #6 or #7 thickness is good.
5-Cut the sheets crosswise into 2-foot lengths to make them easier to work with and trim the long sides to make neat rectangles. (If you need to stack them, very lightly flour them with semolina.) Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Repeat with the remaining pieces of pasta.
to make the ravioli:
1-Lightly flour a rimmed baking sheet or tray with semolina or all-purpose flour.
2-Working with one pasta sheet at a time, very lightly moisten the entire strip with water using a spray bottle or a pastry brush.
3-Spoon rounded teaspoonfuls of the filling 1 inch apart along the center of the sheet. Lift the top edge of the strip and bring it down to meet the bottom, letting it fall loosely over the filling and lining up the edges. Using your fingers, gently press on the dough close to each mound to coax out any trapped air, and then press on the edges to seal completely.
4-Using a fluted pastry wheel or a knife, trim the long, unfolded edge of the ravioli if you like. Then cut the pasta between the mounds to form individual ravioli. Transfer the ravioli to the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. You can cook the ravioli right away or cover and refrigerate for up to a day (you can also freeze them by placing the baking sheet in the freezer until the ravioli are fully frozen, then transferring them to a zip lock bag and placing them back in the freezer until ready to use.)
to cook and serve the ravioli:
1-When ready to serve, bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil.
2-Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until the milk solids turn brown. Pull from the heat, then whisk in the lemon juice and capers and season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before serving add the chives.
3-Gently slide the ravioli (fresh or frozen) into the water and cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Use a skimmer to remove the ravioli from the water as draining them in a colander can damage them. Serve the ravioli with the butter sauce.
Makes 40-50 ravioli
Steve Dunn’s “Oui, Chef” blog chronicles his experience of spending time in the kitchen along with his kids. While he teaches them how to cook, he hopes to encourage other families to follow his example to prepare nourishing and creative meals at home as well. Follow Steve’s cooking exploits at www.ouichefnetwork.com.