I guess in english it should be called “brown butter” but since it’s a bad description of this delicious, nutty cooked butter, I prefer to use the original french name for it (does this sound a bit pedantic?!? I just mean to say that I like that the french name already describes it’s nutty taste!). Anyway, I actually preferred the name by which I first tried it, though it says nothing about the butter being toasted: “ravioli di ricotta e spinaci al burro e salvia”. From the moment I tried it, I felt in love with it…I think they were the first two words I learnt in italian: burro e salvia (well, actually just one, burro, as sage is also called salvia in spanish! Nevertheless, I think it was the first time I ever tried it. And it still is how I like it most!)
Lately I’ve been playing around with my pasta machine making pasta with different flours to test (& taste) the difference. Up until recently I used to make pasta with soft flour, all-purpose flour, that is. But Ajonjoli from the fantastic blog (in spanish, though) “La flor de calabacín” (the courgette flower) suggested I tried making it with fine semolina instead, as it withstood better the boiling time and resulted in a more al dente texture. I wish I could have tried it…but I still haven’t managed to find the semolina “rimacinata” from De Cecco (or any other, for that matter) which I remember having seen sometime in El Corte Inglés (a big department store in Spain) some time ago (before I realised I wanted it, of course). It seems like every time I go they’re sold out or they don’t sell it anymore!!!
Anyway, as I was saying, I wish I had tried the version with superfine semolina, or with italian 00 type flour, the one actually used in Italy for fresh egg pasta (the semolina is used for dried pasta made with water) which I’ve been also trying to find for about the same time! But, in the meanwhile a work mate advised me to make it with strong flour instead of all purpose as it made a more resistant pasta. She was right! Since then I make it with wheat flour with higher protein % than the average all-purpose, so it has a bit more gluten, but avoid those really strong flours as the dough is way too elastic to handle easily. When I manage to get the other two, I’ll let you know the results.
So, I won’t bore you any more, I leave you with this tasty recipe for handmade raviolis with this delicious hazelnut butter with crispy sage. It will teleport you to Italy!
Spinach & ricotta raviolis with sage beurre noissette
(enough for 6 people)
For the pasta:
~ 300g bread flour or italian flour type 00
3 L eggs
(optional & if needed, some warm water)
For the filling:
250g ricotta cheese
300g fresh spinach
~50g grated parmesan
pinch of salt
pinch of grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk
15g butter or oil for sautéing the spinach
For the sauce:
a few sage leaves (10 or so)
~125g of unsalted butter
Plus for serving:
some extra grated parmesan
freshly ground pepper
a pinch of salt
Begin by preparing the pasta as it needs to rest at least 20 minutes before rolling it. There are two ways to do it. As I once read, one is the “italian way” in which you just heap a generous amount of flour without regard to measurement. Then you make a well in the centre to hold the number of eggs you want (in this case 3 eggs) and then you begin to mix them with the flour in a circular motion, with a fork or the hands until they absorb enough flour that comes together into a stiff dough and then it is kneaded. The extra flour is sifted to be reused.
I remember watching Jamie Oliver on a pasta-making (and rolling) competition in a little town in Italy. Here’s the video, if you can wait for it to charge, as it’s right at the end! You can’t beat the mama’s!!
The other method is to put in a bowl approximately 100g of flour per egg, so in this case 300g. The problem of this is that the absorption of each flour is different plus humidity also affects it and egg sizes vary, so it isn’t exact science! If you choose to do it this way, if you are short of egg for the flour you’ve got and it’s already all mixed in, add some warm water until you get the right texture. It should be a fairly dry and tough dough.
I prefer the italian method, I always get a little extra flour out and just use the amount the eggs take in.
Then, knead and knead the dough by folding the dough in half and pressing down hard with the heel of your hand, half turn, fold and again…
…until it’s baby bottom’s soft!!It should feel really smooth.
Wrap it with some plastic and rest it for 20 minutes to relax before the rolling out.
Time to make the filling, this one is really simple. Just cook the spinach, I like to sautée it with a bit of butter and then season it, rather than boil it which leaves it with a bland taste unless you slow fry it a bit afterwards. So, just add butter or oil to a wok or large pan and when hot, add all the spinach or in two times and cover it for less than a minutes, until it is soft.
Then just strain it to remove excess juices (a lot will come out!) and chop it up finely and let it cool slightly before mixing it with the ricotta.
Once cool, break up the ricotta, add the spinach and rest of ingredients: grated parmesan, black pepper and salt to taste and the whole egg or yolk until smooth but still thick paste. You could use a spoon to fill the raviolis, but I prefer to use a piping bag, it’s cleaner and easier.
Now the trickiest bit if you are not used to rolling out pasta, which by the way I do with a machine. It can, of course, be done by hand, with a large rolling pin, but though I am romantic about artisan work…I love my pasta machine! and for filled pasta I think it’s great as you can get it really, really thin!
So, to start, I place the pasta machine on number 1 (the thickest setting) and run the pasta at least 4 times. This is like extra kneading, it works the dough to get it really smooth. So, you run it one time, then fold the sheet you get by half or in thirds (like a letter) and run it again to try to get a smooth sheet with the width of the machine.
Then, just run it on each number up to the highest one (mostly it is run over just once, but I prefer to do it twice on each, so the sheet doesn’t twist towards one side as the thickness is reduced due to elasticity of the dough).
For most pasta shapes I just run it until number 5 (6 is the maximum on my machine), but for filled pasta, though it’s more delicate, I like to run it super thin as once folded the thickness is folded and the feeling in the palate is amazing!So thin, so smooth, it almost slips off!
Make sure you keep the sheets well floured as you roll them out, or they make stick to the machine.
When you have your sheet ready, flour the bottom so it doesn’t stick, as you fill it up. and though there are many ways to do this, this time I’ve gone for the easiest one and the one that leaves you less cut offs. You will place spoonfuls of filling (with the piping bag) at about 3 cm intervals (depending how much filling you want in relation to pasta around) on the bottom half of the sheet, so you can then fold in half width-wise. But, you could also place spoonfuls on the top half to later put another sheet on top.
Then, with a cup of water at hand, wet your finger or a brush and run it around each dollop of filling. This will make the pasta stick to each other!
Then, just fold each sheet in half over the fillings and with the side of your hand press the air out in between and around each filling as best as possible.
Then, with a sharp knife or a pastry cutter, cut the raviolis. As you can see, folding them by half this way , you only need to cut the other three sides, so it saves you a bit of work. If you have cookie cutters bigger than the size of the filling, you could cut around it, or you can do it with the pastry roller.
Make sure you place your finished raviolis over a flour-dusted surface! because if they stick say goodbye to that filling! Continue to do the same with the rest of the sheets…
In the end I ran out of filling and with the left-over sheet, I made some tagliatelle!
Get your water boiling, salt it and cook them over moderate heat, so it doesn’t bubble to strongly! They are fairly delicate!
When ready, they’ll take about 3 minutes, just strain and cool down unless you are ready to serve. In which case you should have your sauce ready so they don’t stick!
For the sauce, just melt the butter. When it starts bubbling, add the sage leaves, they will crisp up and the flavour will get a bit more mellow, but it’s still a pungent herb, so make sure you like it before adding too much. About 10 leaves will do it. Then, just let the butter start to colour. The milk solids will fall to the bottom of the pan and begin to get a golden colour. Stop it then as it will continue to cook even if you turn it off and you don’t want burnt butter!
Just mix with your ravioli and season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, grate some parmesan, extra pepper if you like and some of the crispy and tasty sage leaves. Buon appetito!
Opps, you will forgive me, I forgot to take a photo of the yummy filling! :(