I knew this week I wanted to make ravioli.
A friend had given me beet greens she’d gotten from her CSA, which seemed a perfect filling. And I also wanted to make a ricotta filling.
I have many flours in my cabinet. Chick pea, peanut, 00, semolina. Some have been used. Some are still waiting to be used. And some are so low, it’s time to use them up, and get a fresh bag. In that category…whole wheat pastry flour.
In fact, I had low amounts of two brands of whole wheat pastry flour: Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill. I think when I’d originally bought them, I had thought they were a little different, that one was a mixed grain. But they’re both whole wheat pastry flours (soft, lower-protein wheat, with the germ and bran still intact) that I’ve apparently alternated between.
Without checking, just knowing they were both low, I assumed I easily had two cups’ worth of flour between them. I didn’t. So I added a cup of all-purpose white, mixed in a teaspoon of salt, and made my flour well on the counter.
To that I added two beautifully deep-orange-yolked eggs I’d gotten at the farmers market.
And then proceeded as last week, from eggs and flour, to dough ball, to sheets of pasta.
Last week I cut my dough ball in half to put through the rollers of my pasta machine, This week I cut it into four. I thought I would simply not get as long a sheet.
Instead I still got a very long sheet per each dough quarter, but, as I rolled it through, from widest to thinnest setting, I got a narrower sheet.
As I worked, I kept whatever dough I wasn’t using wrapped in plastic wrap, and I covered the rolled-out sheets that I’d spread on the dish towels with plastic wrap also, to keep them from drying out.
That width decided the shape and size of my ravioli. Rather than small squares or circles, or maybe a larger half moon, I simply spaced spoonfuls of filling down one half, brushed with water along the edges and between the fillings, and then draped the other half over, gently pressing between filling mounds and then down each edge, using a knife to cut them apart. Then using fork tines along the edges to secure the closing.
Where edges seemed dry, I sprinkled water. Where a filling looked too close to peeking out, I patched. Because sheets of pasta are not perfectly rectangular unless you cut them that way, the sizes varied from large to small.
Oh, the informal beauty of homemade.
While the pasta dough rested, I had made the fillings.
I cleaned and destemmed the beet greens, chopped them into small shred, and sautéed with four cloves of minced garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Four cups of chopped greens cooked down to about one cup. I transferred to a bowl and stirred in a tablespoon or so of grated cheese. This amount of beet-green filling made six ravioli, which was one sheet of pasta.
The others were filled with a ricotta cheese filling. I emptied a 16-ounce container of ricotta cheese into a bowl, added a half-cup of grated cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. I added the zest of one lemon, and a quarter-cup of chopped parsley. Half of this turned out to be enough for the remaining ravioli.
I was making these on the first day of summer, and lemon seemed a summery addition.
I used a shallower pot to cook these in a few at a time, and, after three minutes, scooping them out with a spider-style strainer onto a plate, where I drizzled with oil, sprinkled with cheese and parsley. I had thought I’d have a few casualties (the patched ones!), and I wanted to be able to scoop them out quickly and easily. But they held together fine.
I spent an afternoon on these, going step to step, still feeling my way.
It was worth it.
There is something compelling about this involvement with the dough, the alchemy from eggs and flour to something delicious that melts in your mouth. Maybe it’s the physical connection to the food. Maybe it’s the connection to my family and background. At one moment, as I rolled the sheets of pasta, dusting with flour when needed, I recognized my grandmother’s hand in the same motion.
As far as using whole wheat pastry flour, I thought the texture of the dough was a little different when I rolled out the sheets. Still soft and pliable, maybe a little denser, a little sturdier.
Cooked, it was light and soft, maybe a little toothier, and balanced the fillings. The tender beet-green filling had a good, garlicky bite. And the ricotta filling was lemony and bright.