Tuesday, January 9, 2007

artichoke ravioli with tomatoes

artichoke ravioli

It’s not exactly news that I am obsessed with artichokes. Heck, I even decorated this site so that it would never clash my favorite food. (Honey, the living room is next.) So, the fact that it took me almost ten days from the moment I first saw an artichoke ravioli recipe in January’s Gourmet to make is really only testament to the fact that I’ve spent more time this month swatting Resolutes off my elliptical trainer and lazily ordering dumplings for dinner in the New Year than involving myself in multi-hour recipes.

making artichoke ravioli

But fear not, that all fixed itself last night as my husband had to work and I took that as an excuse not to. I found this second attempt at making pasta (Does gnocchi count? Because although that would make three, it was a mess best forgotten.) ten-thousand times easier, possibly because you whirled everything in the food processor and it was done in five seconds, no kneading whatsoever. The recipe suggests you let it sit for an hour to let the glutens relax, which I think is brilliant; it’s also a perfect chunk of time to get everything else ready.

baked

This was my first time using frozen artichokes and on a scale of embodying the artichoke’s awesomeness, I’d put them squarely above the canned kind but of course below fresh. However, their lack of expense and labor involved should be duly noted. I parted from the recipe the first time when I saw that it wanted you to reserve a good lot of the artichoke mixture (well more than half) for the sauce and I thought the filling looking sparse, so I used the remainder to make more filling. I parted from the recipe a second time when it suggested that you use round cookie cutters to make the ravioli, and I realized that it would take far more precise measuring to get all the mounds so perfectly spaced than I was in the mood for, opting instead to use my new pastry wheel to make square-ish ones (they’re actually trapezoid-ish un-parallelograms, but I love them just the same). I parted with the recipe a third and final time when I was unable to use the remaining pasta dough a second time, it being too tough from flour to roll very thin. (Did I mention that lacking a pasta wheel, I rolled it out by hand? Really, not hard at all to get thin.)

I found it really, really difficult to get all of the air bubbles out of the ravioli, which made them all float half-in/half-out of the water when I tried to boil them, making them unwieldy to cook. I consulted the Italian cooking know-all where I get my lunch and he assured me that this happens even to experts, and the only way to avoid air bubbles is to use one of these do-hickeys I’d earlier and wrongly dismissed as one of those gimmicky things you’d buy if your kitchen was more than 80 square feet. He also said that the best way to get floating pasta to stay submerged is to cover it with a damp towel. Brilliant, eh? I will remember to consult him earlier next time.

plated

Sharing Luisa’s outrage over January recipes which include fresh tomatoes, but stuck in some ridiculous need to follow a recipe to the letter — er, except those three letters above — the first time I make it, I obliged but those pale pink-centered things looked so pathetic in the pan, I added a squeeze of tomato paste and seasoning. It was surprisingly good in the end; along with the cream, it was the perfect weightless topping for these delightfully grown-up ravioli. The parsley, lemon juice and buttery onions in the filling snuggle nicely around the artichokes bittersweet flavor and cheese was a minority ingredient, an absolute essential for me to eat ravioli. (Yes, I know not liking cheese-filled things is crazy, but I’ve never feigned to be anything but.) Believe it or not, we had dinner at 8:30 last night, which is remarkably early for us, especially on a night when two hours and an 879-word recipe earlier, our pasta was but a wee pile of flour. I’m so enchanted by this process, I might even try it again this weekend for a certain television premiere. Artichoke and Parmesan-stuffed ravioli, just like the ancient Romans ate, right?

cross-section

Artichoke Ravioli With Tomatoes
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2007

Makes 4 servings.

For pasta
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water

For filling
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 (10-oz) box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry
1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons water (for egg wash)

For assembly
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 medium plum tomatoes, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Special equipment: a pasta machine; a 3-inch round metal cookie cutter; a shallow oval 2-qt ceramic or glass baking dish (12 by 8 1/2 inches)

To make pasta dough in a food processor: Blend flour, eggs, salt, and water in processor until mixture just begins to form a ball, adding more water, drop by drop, if dough is too dry (dough should be firm and not sticky). Process dough for 15 seconds more to knead it. Transfer to a floured surface and let stand, covered with an inverted bowl, 1 hour to let the gluten relax and make rolling easier.

To make dough by hand: Mound flour on a work surface, preferably wooden, and make a well in center. Add eggs, salt, and water to well. With a fork, gently beat eggs and water until combined. Gradually stir in enough flour to form a paste, pulling in flour closest to egg mixture and being careful not to make an opening in outer wall of well. Knead remaining flour into mixture with your hands to form a dough, adding more water, drop by drop, if dough is too dry (dough should be firm and not sticky). Knead dough until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Cover with an inverted bowl and let stand 1 hour (to make rolling easier).

Make filling: Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then saute onion, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and saute, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Transfer all but 3/4 cup artichoke mixture to cleaned bowl of processor (reserve remaining artichoke mixture in skillet), then add cheese, parsley, yolk, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and pulse until mixture is coarsely chopped.

Roll pasta and make ravioli: Cut pasta dough into 4 pieces, then flatten each piece into a rough rectangle and cover rectangles with an inverted large bowl. Set rollers of pasta machine on widest setting.

Lightly dust 1 rectangle with flour and feed through rollers. (Keep remaining rectangles under bowl.) Fold rectangle in half and feed it, folded end first, through rollers 7 or 8 more times, folding it in half each time and feeding folded end through. Dust with flour if necessary to prevent sticking. Turn dial to next (narrower) setting and feed dough through rollers without folding. Continue to feed dough through rollers once at each setting, without folding, until you reach narrowest setting. Dough will be a smooth sheet (about 24 inches long and 4 inches wide).

Put sheet of dough on a floured work surface and drop 6 (1 1/2-teaspoon) mounds of filling 1 1/2 inches apart in a row down center of one half of sheet. Brush egg wash around each mound, then fold other half of sheet over filling. Press down firmly around each mound, forcing out air. (Air pockets increase the chance that ravioli will break during cooking.) Cut pasta (between mounds) with cutter into 3-inch rounds. Line a large shallow baking pan with a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and dust towel with flour, then arrange ravioli in 1 layer in it. Make more ravioli with remaining pasta dough, 1 sheet at a time, and remaining filling, transferring ravioli to lined pan.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter baking dish.

Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Add ravioli, carefully stirring to separate, and, adjusting heat to keep water at a gentle boil, cook until pasta is just tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a colander.

Assemble and bake dish: While ravioli boils, reheat reserved artichoke mixture in skillet with butter over moderately high heat, then add tomatoes and water and cook, stirring, until tomatoes are softened, about 5 minutes.

Transfer half of ravioli to baking dish and top with half of artichoke mixture, half of cream, and half of cheese. Repeat with remaining ravioli, artichoke mixture, cream, and cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake, uncovered, until ravioli is heated through and cream is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Do ahead: Dough can be made (but not rolled out) 4 hours ahead and chilled, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. Ravioli can be made (but not cooked) 4 hours ahead and chilled in lined baking pan, covered.


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