Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ravioli a la Romana

Tonight I made ravioli, something I have never done before, and I polished off three recipes out of the book. This is a picture of my husband crimping the edges of the filled raviolis with a fork so the filling stays inside.
Ravioli is a challenging dish. It is not technical and fussy like Julia Childs' throw away and start over French sauces, but it does have many steps. Two pairs of hands and a lot of time are recommended if you want to take this on. I did it after school one evening, and was so wiped out by the time we had ravioli and sauce that I couldn't even get it together to make salad. Also strongly recommended is a food processor. In fact, I would say, don't try this unless you have a food processor and probably a pasta machine too.
Since there are so many steps, I'm going to try to include more pictures. Two weeks ago, my daughter and I went to Pennsylvania to visit a friend of hers. We came back with a basket of apples, and the next night made apple caramel jam from a blog she reads called The Simple Dollar. (http://www.thesimpledollar.com/) This is mainly a personal finance blog, but the author is interested in cooking. The recipe was a revelation. He had pictures for every step of the jam making process, which, if you have followed my explanations of making jam, can be tortured.
Ravioli is a "Day before," kind of recipe. In fact, one wonders if Hewlett actually edited this recipe. However, the recipe does not clearly state that one does need to start the process the day before. It just presents a beef pot roast braised in red wine as something everyone has in their refrigerator.
However, last weekend, when I was making Down East Haddock Chowder, I braised the pot roast, having read through the recipe ahead of time !!!
Wikipedia, my all purpose source for random information, says that braising is a combination of using dry heat and moist heat to cook things, usually meat. Since we weren't going to eat the meat as a pot roast, I skipped the step one and went straight to step two, and simmered the meat in an airline sized bottle of red wine in a crockpot. I didn't want to open a bottle of drinking wine unless I had to, but the airline size was fine.
The next step is to grind up the meat. The instructions say to use the finest blade of a meat grinder. Now, a meat grinder used to be a staple of the 40s, 50s and 60s kitchen. I had one when I set up housekeeping in 1970. It was made out of cast iron or cast aluminum, had a funnel shaped top, and sort of a screw thing that forced the meat against the blades when you turned the handle. It lived in its box in the depths of the kitchen cabinets, and you took it out when you needed to grind meat. I remember we had it in our old house on 12th Street.
Somewhere in the depths of time between 12th Street and now, it got replaced by that marvel of kitchen technology, the food processor. So don't worry about the meat grinder.
It appears that one cannot add multiple pictures to one post. And since I don't want to confuse the issue further by creating multiple posts for one recipe, you won't see more pictures until I learn how to do it. Sigh.
Having braised your pot roast and ground it up in the food processor, you are in a position to move to the actual recipe.
What I found was, this recipe makes an insane amount of ravioli. We had enough for five hungry people, with three servings of ravioli and a ton of ground meat left over. I would cut the amount of meat in half, and possibly the pasta too.
Ravioli a la Romana
1 large Bermuda onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds fresh spinach, chopped or two packages frozen chopped spinach
1/2 cup pine nuts (optional)
1/2 pound ricotta cheese
1 egg
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 three pound beef pot roast, braised with onion and red wine, put through the finest blade of a meat grinder (See beginning of blog.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 recipe pasta
4 cups home made tomato sauce
1. Saute the onion in the oil until tender and golden. Add the spinach and cook until spinach is cooked and mixture is dry. Pass through the finest blade of the meat grinder (food processor) with the pine nuts.
2. Mix together the ricotta, egg and one-quarter cup Parmesan. In a large bowl, combine the meat, spinach mixture and cheese mixture and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Form into two inch balls.
3. Line a ravioli tin with pasta dough. (You don't need a ravioli tin. You can lay your dough out on a piece of wax paper and cut it with a knife.)
4. Cut the dough into rectangles 4 inches long and two inches square. Put a tablespoon of the filling near one end. Then fold the dough over the filling and crimp the edges with a fork, as is shown in the picture.
5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
6. Cook the ravioli in small batches, in large kettle of boiling salted water, about ten minutes. Drain. (As far as I'm concerned, you can skip the next step of baking it. Just pour on the sauce and take it to the table.If you do that, skip steps 5 and 6)
6. Arrange the ravioli in a shallow casserole. Spoon the sauce over. If desired, sprinkle with three-quarters of a cup of Parmesan cheese. Bake about 15 minutes.
Yield, six dozen ravioli, nine to ten servings.

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