When we were having this for dinner earlier in the week, we remarked that if there is one thing people should do to make better meals at home, it is make their own pasta. After all, it’s quick and easy: ten minutes to make the dough, ten minutes to roll and cut, two to five minutes to boil. And we don’t mean necessarily to make ravioli, either. Instead just make linguine or fettuccine, or even pieces that look like egg noodles. You will be amazed at the difference between truly fresh pasta and fake fresh pasta (those pricy pastas in the refrigerated case that can sit for up to four months before no longer being “fresh”).
Late last week we went to one of our favorite Italian restaurants — where they do make their own pasta, which one of us had — and we were reminded just how good, truly good pasta is. Immediately after finishing dinner we decided that we’d make some sort of pasta that weekend with ravioli being the front runner. But for ravioli you need a filling. Thinking about what we had at home, we hit upon this combination of flavors: walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, and Swiss chard. We had everything (we did end up buying a small tub of ricotta — yeah, we know we could have made it) and it sounded like the flavors would play well together. So, late Sunday afternoon, we started scratchin’.
Makes about 40 large ravioli.
If you can’t stand the taste of blue cheese, feel free to substitute with another cheese. If you can’t find Swiss chard, spinach will work well, just be sure to either drain or cook off the liquid. For the mushrooms, we just used the plain white button mushrooms. They add a bit of mushroom flavor and are widely available.
Procedure in detail:
Chop chard. With this filling destined for ravioli, we chopped the chard very fine, almost a chiffonade where you roll up the leaves and slice in 1/8 to 1/16 inch wide strips. After that we ran the knife through to cut any strips into 1-inch lengths, Similarly, we made sure the mushrooms we cut into small pieces.
Cook chard. We used the same saucepan that we use to cook the ravioli, put in about a tablespoon of olive oil, heated it over medium heat, and added the chard and mushrooms. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the chard is tender. It can take a while, especially if you use the stems. Remove from heat and let cool.
Toast walnuts. This isn’t enough walnuts to justify heating the oven, so just toss them in a small dry skillet (cast iron is perfect), and skilletize until beginning to brown. Then remove, let cool, and chop into pieces less than 1/4 inch in size.
Mix everything. In a medium bowl, we mixed the chard/mushrooms, walnuts, and Gorgonzola first, since we wanted to make sure that the Gorgonzola was well distributed, before we added ricotta. Also, we really weren’t sure how much ricotta we’d need, so we thought that we’d add it last. It turns out that about 1/3 of a cup of ricotta was perfect. You might have to add more depending on the amount of chard.
Taste and season. We then tasted the filling, added our salt –about 1/2 teaspoon was what we needed — and our pepper.
Chill. While we probably could have filled our ravioli immediately, we thought that it might be a bit easier if the filling had the chance to stiffen up a bit. So into the refrigerator with it for at least a half hour.
Fill and cook. Now it’s just roll out the dough, fill, fold, and crimp. You can find detailed instructions for doing so with a pasta machine here. Or, if you want to go with a rolling pin like we did (our pasta dough was a bit softer than usual and might have stuck to the rollers), you can follow the same technique for pierogis.
Serve. We served ours with a simple red sauce because we had some on hand.
We think this filling turned out remarkably well, although we did notice that the flavor of the Gorgonzola was a bit subdued. When you make it, we suggest going with closer to three ounces. The walnuts were a nice touch, by not pulverizing them completely, they added some needed texture to the ravioli and definitely added a great flavor that we don’t necessarily associate with ravioli. Between the Gogonzola and the walnuts, you could tell that these were not your standard, run of the mill, raviolis. Instead this was something an Italian Nonna would be making for the holidays. Four stars, mainly because ours could have used a bit more Blue cheese flavor.