I'm not quite sure what put the idea into my head, but tonight I attempted to make homemade ravioli and marinara sauce for dinner. I heard that once you make your own pasta, you'll never go back to the store-bought variety again. With only three ingredients, how hard could it be?
Making the dough was easy enough. You scoop two cups of flour right onto the table, which was pretty fun. Make a well in the center, sprinkle it with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and then crack two eggs into the well. I beat the eggs with a fork, then gradually incorporated the flour into the eggs. My dough was a bit too crumbly, so I added a couple tablespoons of water. Next, I kneaded the dough "until smooth and elastic." It took about 10 minutes kneading by hand. Apparently if I had a Kitchen Aid Mixer or bread machine, I could just throw all the ingredients in there and let it do all the work. But instead, I got in a good arm work out! Finally, I wrapped the dough in plastic wrap and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
During that time I went to work on the marinara sauce. I sauteed one cup of diced onions in olive oil, then added two cans of diced tomatoes and one large can of crushed tomatoes, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, a little sugar, and 1/2 cup of water. After I brought it to a boil, I let it simmer on the stove until we were ready to eat. (Next time, remind me to take it off the heat a couple minutes before dinner . . . we had to eat our salad and bread while waiting for it to cool.)
I made the filling for the ravioli before starting on the pasta so it could have a chance to chill in the refrigerator. I love ravioli because there are a hundred different combinations for fillings and sauces. Tonight I mixed 1 cup of ricotta cheese, 1 cup of shredded Italian cheese blend (Romano, Asiago, Parmesan, and Mozzarella), 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh chives, 2 teaspoons of basil, and 1 egg. I actually have quite a bit of the filling left over, so I need to find another recipe where I can use it.
The hardest part of making the ravioli for me was rolling out the dough. I rolled about a quarter of the dough at a time. Without a pasta machine, rolling the dough out to the correct thickness by hand is quite a job because of its elasticity. It's also very possible that I did something wrong while I made the dough and the consistency was wrong. My first batch was pretty thin, but by the last one, my arms hurt, I was hungry, and Ryan needed to leave for class soon, so it wasn't as thin as it should have been.
Once I rolled out a section, I scooped about a teaspoon-full of filling onto half the dough, about 1/2" apart. I brushed an egg wash on the other half and folded it on itself. Next, I used a pizza cutter to cut out the ravioli, and I sealed the edges as best I could. My ravioli were odd little shapes and not perfect squares with crimped edges. I'll have to work on that for next time. I covered them with a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out while I finished rolling out the rest of the dough.
Cooking the ravioli was the easiest part. Simply drop the ravioli into a pot of boiling, salted water and cook for 5 minutes, or until they float to the top. Due to the thickness of my pasta, I should have cooked them for a little longer. But the flavor was fantastic! The filling was rich and flavorful and paired perfectly with the marinara sauce.
In summary, fresh, homemade pasta tastes so much better than dried, boxed pasta. But without a stand mixer or pasta machine, it is very labor-intensive. That's not so bad for me because I don't have anything better to do with my time. In fact, I'll probably try it again - maybe with lasagna noodles or fettuccine. I'd also like to try drying homemade pasta and see how that compares to the store-bought version. However, in a few years when we have little kids running around and I can't even remember what it was like to have free time, I'm sure I'll be back to buying pasta again. Unless Ryan wants to buy me a pasta machine!