I want you to know there are days when I do not feel like cooking. There are also days when I could happily spend the entire day making jams, muffins, and other fun things. And, there are the days when I merely think about cooking, but remain a motionless and ineffectual blob. I make mental notes or even jot down ideas, but I don’t usually get to the ideas. I might lose the tiny piece of paper or the seasons change and the idea or recipe is no longer relevant. K finds the scraps of paper about the house and he always asks, “Do you need this?” I look up from being a blob to find him holding a stained sticky note with various ingredients scribbled on it, water-worn and aged by the sun.
Yes! I need it!
One of my most recent ideas came like a lightening bolt while I was sitting at my desk at work. I have no idea why it came upon me, but the idea actually stuck. Or, more precisely, the sticky note remained on my desk reminding me of my briliant idea until I could no longer ignore it.
The note was simple. “Make ricotta.”
That might sound weird. After all, I can hit the farmer’s market or my local yuppie grocery store and find fresh ricotta in a pinch. Admittedly, I indulge in purchasing many fancy cheeses in this manner. Cheese, in all its forms from gooey to hardened and flakey, is glorious. I am happy to report K feels the same way. His parents shipped him off to France at 17 years old to learn or thing or two about the language, but mostly he learned to love stinky French foods. Thank goodness.
I suppose this is an idea that might have fallen by the wayside like so many of my ideas. Thankfully, it didn’t. Ricotta has been popping up everywhere in every recipe I look at. Perhaps it’s because it’s summer and there is something very magical about the mixture of ripe summer fruits and soft mild cheeses. I took it as a sign, regardless. I am glad I did.
You can do this at home too. It might seem like a lot of work to make ricotta cheese and fresh ravioli. I will admit it’s some work, but it’s the kind of work that is full of pleasure. It’s the kind of work that is methodical and can and should be done with a glass of good wine in one hand. It’s the kind of work with a huge payoff. And, in my humble opinion, that kind of work belongs at the end of a weekend. Do this on a magical Sunday evening when your weekend is nearly coming to an end, but you’re not ready to let go of the pleasures the weekend brings.
Homemade Ravioli with Fresh Ricotta Filling
For the pasta:
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt
2-3 tablespoons of water
1 egg white, beaten
For the Ricotta & Filling Mix
2 quarts whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
A large sieve, fine-mesh cheesecloth
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and fresh pepper to taste
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsely
For the sauce– make your favorite red sauce to top it off!
To Make the Ricotta
Line a large sieve with a layer of heavy-duty (fine-mesh) cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.
Slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.
Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain 1 hour. After discarding the liquid, mix the salt, pepper, parmesan, and parsely into the mixture. Set aside.
For the Pasta
Combine flour, eggs, 2 tablespoons water, and salt in a food processor and blend until mixture just begins to form a ball, adding more water drop by drop if dough is too dry; dough should be firm and not sticky. Process dough for 15 seconds more to knead it. Transfer to a floured work surface and let stand, covered with an inverted bowl for 1 hour.
Once pasta has rested for 1 hour, knead it briefly on a floured surface. Remove small fistfuls and roll with a rolling pin before putting it through the pasta maker. I usually begin at a thickness of 1 and end with the setting at a thickness of 5. When the dough is thin enough, lay it on a floured surface again and use your ravioli cutter to cut squares. Use about 1 tsp of filling on each square. Using your egg whites, paste a bit of egg white around the edges of the square. Cover with another pasta square. Apply pressure so the ravioli won’t come apart while cooking.
Cook the pasta in a well salted pot of boiling water for about 7 minutes, until tender. It will float to the surface when ready. Drain. Top it off with your favorite red sauce.