Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Fried Ravioli with Garlic-Enhanced Pasta Sauce

Greetings fellow Foodies!

Today in the world of food blog posts, I add to the collection my handmade ravioli stuffed with three cheeses and pan-fried. Admittedly, I had cooked these three days ago during the Oscars, but an essay exam for the class I'm auditing had taken much of my attention in the interim. Alas, with the exam now turned in, and after a first failed attempt at making my own dough, I present this experience to you all. Now, while you could certainly use store-bought or defrosted ravioli for the fried component of this recipe, why not give your forearms a workout and make your own?

The base of the dough recipe is pretty standard across the board, and it's the latter steps and resting periods that lend the dough to variations. On a fairly large surface, pile 2 c all-purpose flour, and using a measuring cup, gently create a well to the base of the surface. While depth is certainly an important factor (you don't want this too shallow or else the liquid ingredients will more easily overflow), it's a large enough volume of space you should be aiming for. Atop the flour, add a dash of salt. In a separate bowl, beat together very well three eggs and a yolk, and add this to the flour well. Using one hand to help protect the flour wall from collapsing, use a fork to slowly incorporate the flour into the egg. While the most experienced have much more success of incorporating the egg and flour together than others, beginners luck may not reign and you could find yourself seeing something less this (left):

However, do not panic! Use the fork to quickly catch the runaway eggs and incorporate them into the flour. Eventually, you should get a loose clump as exemplified in the photo above (right). Knead this dough together until you get a more consistent dough ball.

Form the dough into the shape of a bowl, and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Thoroughly (and quickly) incorporate the olive oil into the dough (to prevent the oil from dripping everywhere). The dough should begin to tighten due to the overworked gluten at this point. Force the dough into the shape of a bowl and incorporate another tbsp olive oil. Next, divide the dough into four smaller dough balls and knead in 1/2 tsp olive oil. Once incorporated very well, tightly wrap up each dough ball (it won't appear as a solid mass, as seen above) with some plastic wrap. At room temperature, leave this alone for at least 30 minutes (the longer the better, perhaps at most 1.5 hours) to allow the gluten to rest and thus make it much easier to roll out. Clean off your work surface during this waiting period; again, I was watching the Oscars so I had a distraction.

After the dough has rested, roll out the dough (to a little less than 1/8" thickness) on a lightly floured surface. From each dough ball, depending on the size you roll it out, you can make anywhere from 6-8 raviolli; for at least the sake of trying to make uniform pieces, roll out the dough into as close to a rectangle as possible and trim the edges. (After trimming the four dough balls, I had enough left over for a future food project.) Having cut the dough to size, you're now ready for the filling. For these ravioli, I combined 3/4 c medium grated fontina, 1/2 c grated parmesan, and 1/4 c goat cheese. Respectively, one was best for melting, one added the necessary salt and flavour profile, and one helped bind the other two together. Especially if you prep all the dough ahead of time, you may find the dough to dry out; if this is the case, wet the surface with water (a light flour paste will form), place your filling, and seal the edges with a fork. Below is another option for the raviolis' shape, but by all means experiment by making any shape pasta you wish.

Cook the pasta about 3 minutes on each side in a pot of seasoned (i.e., salted) water and transfer to a baking sheet, plate, etc., to cool off and drain any excess water. 

Whether homemade or store bought, it's now time to dredge, bread, and finally fry the ravioli. In one shallow dish/plate, beat an egg very well, and then incorporate 1 tbsp each water and dairy (typically milk, though I used heavy cream since that's all I had). This will create a very thin and runny dredging liquid. In another shallow dish/plate, put a few tbsp seasoned bread crumbs. For mine, I ground some stale baguette to a fine powder (yielding 1/2 c) and into a food processor, combined that with 1 tsp dried thyme and 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper. You could certainly put more than a few tbsp bread crumbs at one time, but I found working a little at a time in batches to be an easy enough process. Pile up the breaded ravioli on a plate and get ready to fry.

In a skillet, place enough olive oil to fill up the pan about 1/4"-1/2". In small batches, fry one side and once golden brown, flip over and fry the other side to a golden brown consistency. Remember, the dough and filling have already been cooked; you're just cooking the egg wash and browning the bread crumbs. Transfer the cooked ravioli to a plate with a paper towel, and refresh the skillet with more olive oil for the next batch.

As the ravioli are frying, heat up some pasta sauce on low heat to which you've added some additional flavour with about 1 tsp garlic powder. Garnish the sauce with a freshly torn leaf or two of basil and serve the ravioli warm.

As you can see in the above photo, the cheeses have melted into one flavourful filling and the crisp exterior makes it quite easy to serve the ravioli as finger food. The dough itself is not particularly doughy and you get just a sense of olive oil before tasting the more familiar flavours of thyme, garlic, and basil. For more photos, including the dough formation and ravioli frying processes, click here.

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