Look, I don’t have a great excuse for having wanted to make ravioli. It pretty much goes back to the same place a lot of this goes back to: I saw it done, and it seemed cool. When you see it done, they stamp out of the little mold thing (I got one of the trays that you put a sheet of dough over, then you put a thing over it that creates dents, you put filling in the dents, you put the top on it, and you slide over the whole thing with a rolling pin. (It looks like this.) They make it look reasonably easy. They really do.
Of course, before you can do that, you have to obtain sheets of pasta dough, which you get by rolling them through a pasta machine. The other day, when I made fettuccine, it really wasn’t that difficult. Of course, I speculated at the time that I’d wildly overworked the dough, which may have made it a lot tougher and easier to handle in the same way that it made it a little rubbery to consume.
Anyway. I made the dough, and it seemed to be in good shape – I hand-kneaded it this time instead of making it in the food processor, and I was pretty sure I had it right, although it was, once again, incredibly finicky in its tendency to seem too dry and then too wet and then too dry. But it seemed to be in very good condition as I put it to rest for a bit.
I made a cheese filling that I found on Cooking Light (specifically this) and put it in the fridge while I let the dough rest a while longer.
The instructions that I’d seen for ravioli had stressed that you had to get the pasta quite thin, since it would be doubled at the places where the seams were and you didn’t want it to be super thick. So I worked to get it as thin as I could. The problem, though, is that the thinner I got it, the harder it was to get it through the machine. And when you put it through the machine, it’s hard to control the shape in which it emerges, and I kept getting pieces that were too long and narrow to really fit correctly over the mold. And the more I worked with it, the wetter it seemed, and the thinner it seemed, and it kept sticking to itself and basically being a huge jerk. That’s all I can say about it: this dough was being a real jerk.
I figured I was at about the end of the road, so I tried one last time, and I managed to get a beautifully thin sheet stretched over the mold! Victory! I carefully created the indentations, and to my surprise, the dough did not tear. I spooned the filling in, and the dough still didn’t tear. I managed to come up with another sheet, and I laid it over top. I rolled it with the pin.
But they wouldn’t come out, and now, they were starting to tear. The cheese was coming out, the dough was torn, and they were stuck fast to the mold and couldn’t be removed. It was a complete, utter disaster. All mush, all a mess. In total disgust, I tore them all from the mold and, after concluding I didn’t know how to rescue any of it, threw it all out. I felt awful – it was a lot of work, it was a lot of time, it kind of makes a mess, and it was just an unrescue-able flop. Got nothing. Sat on the couch, had a cocktail, and felt extremely bummed.
A little while later, while I was trying to figure out what very low-effort thing I could bear to put together for dinner when I was this angry at pasta, I had this thought: That was only half of the filling and half of the dough. And then I had this thought: Oh my God, I’m going to try it again.
I got a bowl of flour. I resolved not to try to get it so thin. I promised I’d be patient with myself. I patted the dough with flour over and over as it got thinner. I worked to ease the sides outward so it would get wider and not just longer. I gave up on getting it as thin as it was theoretically supposed to be. I worked quickly but deliberately, so that I could catch the dough as it came out of the machine and keep it from sticking to itself. I paused to cut it into pieces when it got too long. I floured the heck out of the mold.
I finally got it to a workable shape and thinness. I wished it was a little wider, but it just didn’t work out that way. I made the wells, spooned in a little filling, and put on the top. I rolled it with the pin. I flipped it over and very, very carefully eased off the individual ravioli. All 12 came free (that’ll feed me twice). Not always easily, but they all came off. None of them broke at that stage. I let them dry for a while, flipped them over (flipping them over was when they felt the most delicate, actually), and then cooked them in boiling water for about two and a half minutes. I topped them with some of the great tomato sauce I made back when I was declining to moralize about olive oil.
I couldn’t bring myself to take their picture. They still weren’t very pretty. They weren’t perfectly shaped, some of them looked very bad indeed, and by the time they’d cooked, a couple of them had cheese easing out of a seam. But they were ravioli, and they were pretty good, and I made them myself. There is lots to learn about this process so that I don’t always wind up throwing out half of what I made, but if I can ignore the level of frustration that these FREAKING RAVIOLI delivered to me, there is a world of possibility.