For many years for me, pasta was pasta - different shapes yes, but pretty much the same ingredients. How wrong I was! I recently started looking into the regional variations of Pasta and there's a whole new world out there - there really is!
I came across this recipe for Sardinian ravioli, liked the look of it and tried it.It produces a wonderful silky tasty pasta, is interesting to cook and delicious to eat!It uses two different flours, plain white flour and semolina flour, uses egg whites primarily and the filling is a delicious combination of ricotta and mint - all served with a beautiful tomato-based sauce with freshly grated pecorino sardo cheese.
For the stuffing:
350 g ricotta
4 large egg yolks
30 mint leaves shredded
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch of ground saffron
For the pasta
170 g finely ground semolina flour
170 g plain flour
4 large egg whites
1 large egg
tiny pinch of ground saffron
pinch of salt
flour for rolling out pasta
For the sauce
900 g ripe tomatoes
good handful of parsley leaves
2 stalks of celery
6 basil leaves
125 ml good quality olive oil
We begin this recipe by preparing the stuffing. Depending upon how much water is in the ricotta it may be necessary to drain it, hanging it in a cheesecloth until the excess water has drained away. Place the "dry" ricotta in a large bowl. Crack 4 large eggs and separate the whites and the yolks. Set the whites aside for use with the pasta. Place the egg yolks in the bowl with the ricotta and add the shredded mint leaves and seasonings. Cover and refrigerate until required.
Now for the pasta! Place the flour on a clean, cool surface, preferably marble. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the egg whites and egg into the centre and mix with a fork. Add a little salt and ground saffron and begin to incorporate the flour from the inner rim of the well, always remembering to use the lower part of the flour, pushing it under the egg mix to stop the dough from sticking. (It's easier than it sounds!). As all the flour is incorporated, start using your hands (dusted with a little flour) to gently need the dough. Knead for a minimum of 3 minutes if using a pasta machine, 4 minutes if rolling by hand. The dough should form a smooth and elastic ball. Wrap in a cotton dish towel and let it rest for 30 minutes in a cool place or the fridge.
Whilst the pasta dough is resting we can prepare the sauce. Take the ripe tomatoes, blanch in some boiling water and then slip off the skins. Cut into quarters and remove the seeds. Now chop the parsley, celery and basil quite coarsely and saute over a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and seasonings (it might be necessary to add a tiny pinch of sugar, depending on the sweetness of the tomatoes), cover and cook on a lowish heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the sauce is completed, set aside.
Remove the pasta dough from the fridge. Set the pasta machine to its' widest setting and having dusted the dough with a little flour begin to roll out the pasta, gradually reducing the thickness down to the last notch on the machine, approximately 3 mm thick. You should have the most beautiful thin sheets of smooth silky pasta ! If you don't have a pasta machine don't worry, using a long rolling pin the same results can be achieved, although you should probably divide the dough into smaller lots and roll individually.
Cut the sheet of pasta into two long lengths and lay out on the work surface or table. We want to prepare quite large ravioli approximately 5 cm square. Take the filling and place a heaped teaspoon of filling in equally spaced mounds along the length of the pasta sheet. Cover with the second sheet and press out the air from around the filling. Now form the ravioli by using a scalloped pastry cutter to cut the individual ravioli. Let the culingionis rest on cotton dish towels until needed, turning occasionally to stop from sticking whilst the pasta dries.
Gently re-warm the tomato sauce, and bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Ideally add the ravioli a few at a time and cook for between 2 and 3 minutes depending upon how dry the pasta is. As each batch is cooked remove with a strainer and place onto a warmed serving dish. Make a single layer and pour over a little of the tomato sauce and a good sprinkling of freshly grated pecorino sardo cheese (if not available, parmesan can be used but the authenticity of the dish reduces). Continue to make layers of the culingionis, sauce and cheese until all in the dish.
Serve this marvelous dish immediately and savour the home-made pasta, the ricotta and mint and the delicious tomato sauce and pecorino sardo.
Enjoy, and I know your fellow diners will appreciate the effort that goes into this meal!