Some of my fondest childhood memories stem from helping Grandma in the kitchen and stealing a bite, then two, then three along with a slap on the wrist.
This time of year, when we've just come out of a season devoted to celebrating tradition, I think about her calf's brain ravioli with oxtail ragu and how pure and perfect her pasta-making technique truly was.
I'm aware that calf's brain is not for the faint of heart (though everyone should try it in their lifetime!). With timid eaters in mind, I have translated Grandma's technique into my vegetarian ravioli recipe.
Filled with hearty potatoes, broccoli rabe and ricotta, this flavor-packed pasta is the ultimate winter comfort food.
RABE, POTATO AND RICOTTA RAVIOLI
Recipe excerpted from "Molto Batali" (ecco, 2011)
SERVES: 8 ample servings
- 1 pound fresh broccoli rabe, trimmed
- 1 pound waxy golden potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta, drained
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Basic Pasta Dough (see recipe below)
- 1 cup semolina flour, for dusting
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 15 fresh sage leaves
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Set up an ice bath nearby.
When the water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon salt. Then add the broccoli rabe and cook until very tender, about 6 minutes. Using a spider or a slotted spoon, transfer the rabe to the ice bath.
Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and pass through a ricer or mash with a potato masher.
Once the rabe has cooled, drain and pat it dry. Chop the rabe until it is almost a paste (you can do this in the food processor).
In a medium bowl, combine the rabe, potatoes, ricotta, Parmigiano, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine.
Roll out the pasta dough (recipe follows) to the thinnest setting on a pasta machine, using a good dusting of the semolina between the resting sheets to maintain a good separation. Cut the pasta sheets into 4-inch squares. Place a scant tablespoon of the ricotta filling on one half of each square, and then fold it over like a book to enclose the filling, forming a rectangle. Press the edges of the ravioli with your fingers to seal them. (The ravioli can now be frozen between sheets of parchment, sprinkled with semolina until ready to cook.)
Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil.
While the water is heated, heat the butter in a 14-inch saute pan over high heat until the foam subsides and it begins to turn a light brown color. Add the sage and remove the pan from the heat.
Add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water. Then add the ravioli, and cook until they are tender and cooked through (you should taste one to test it), about 3 minutes (a little more if frozen). Reserve 3 tablespoons of the cooking water, and drain the ravioli. Add them to the pan containing the butter and sage. Add the reserved cooking water, and toss gently over high heat for 1 minute.
Pour the hot ravioli onto a warmed platter, and serve immediately with Parmigiano grated over the top.
Tip: Save any extra ravioli filling and use it to make a frittata the following morning. Basic Pasta Dough
• 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus 1/4 cup for kneading)
• 5 extra-large eggs
Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden board. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork, beat the eggs together and then begin to incorporate the flour; starting with the inner rim of the well. As you expand the well, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape (do not worry if it looks messy). When half of the flour is incorporated, the dough will begin to come together. Start kneading the dough, using primarily the palms of your hands. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, set the dough aside and scrape up and discard any dried bits of dough.
Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 10 minutes, dusting the board with additional flour as necessary. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature before using.