We looked and we couldn’t believe it! We’ve never covered what’s probably the most common filling for pasta — ravioli, tortellini, stuffed shells, cannelloni, and what we hope to make tomorrow, caramelle — ricotta cheese filling. Never heard of caramelle? Well, just tune in tomorrow and you can see what they are, or, if our plans don’t go that well, perhaps you’ll see a real big mess.
We’ve never posted this, probably because it’s just so easy, but, if the filling is easy, you should spend more time on sealing it inside pasta, right? We agree. This recipe didn’t really come from anywhere, or perhaps it came from everywhere, but we figured that a ricotta cheese filling would be made from ricotta (duh), Parmesan, an egg, a bit of herbs and/or spices, a touch of nutmeg — always good with milk products — and salt and pepper. Let’s just scratch it out, shall we? Then we’ll place it in a piping bag so the flavors can meld overnight — you can use it the same day, too — and tomorrow we’ll be ready to fill and shape pasta.
You can make your own ricotta. It’s not that hard, but we didn’t this time, as we had some ricotta to use up. The Parmesan cheese should be the good stuff — real Parmesan cheese, from Italy, not from a green shaker box. For herbs, use what you think would be good; we’d suggest finely minced fresh herbs if you have them — we’ll be using fresh oregano for our cheese filling — but dried will work fine, too. The egg is from those free-ranging hens that eat bugs and grass and peck and scratch, living as large as chickens can.
Procedure in detail:
Mix. Place the ricotta, Parmesan, nutmeg, and herbs in a medium bowl. Give everything a good mixing, trying to break up any large shreds of Parmesan cheese. You could have added the egg at this point, if you don’t worry about tasting raw eggs. We really don’t, but we waited on the egg, anyway.
Taste and adjust. Taste the filling and adjust using salt and pepper. Or, if you skimped on the herbs, now’s the time to add a few more. Just realize that cheese filling is generally pretty mild, so you might not want to load it down with flavor.
Add egg. Stir the egg into the filling until it’s smooth and uniform. The egg will bind the filling together when you boil the pasta. In truth, you could probably get away without an egg.
Add bread crumbs. Check the consistency of your filling. It should hold its shape when scraped off a spoon. If not, you can thicken it up with the addition of bread crumbs. How much? Well, until the filling holds its shape when scraped from a spoon.
Refrigerate. We placed our cheese filling in a disposable piping bag and kept it in the refrigerator overnight so the flavors could meld. We really like using piping bags for filling pasta shapes. It’s fast and easy with very little mess. And almost no cleanup since you can just toss the bags.
By itself, this filling is quite bland, but with a bit of pasta around it and a light tomato sauce, you’ll be eating nice Italian meal. Since the filling is so easy, how can we not give it five stars? And remember, tune in tomorrow to see if we were able to make those caramelle shapes we’ve mentioned.