So I had this craving for the traditional meat ravioli that the Italian population in St.Louis is known for (I was feeling a little homesick). I can’t replicate the “fried ravioli” (nor do I really want to right this moment), but the filling is really the important part and I felt inspired. However, I had a moment of laziness and bought some spinach pasta sheets (fresh) from Berkeley Bowl to shortcut my ravioli making. Should you not have this luxury, use a simple egg pasta recipe like the one you can find in this entry on Fresh Italian Egg Pasta, and be sure to not roll the sheets too thin for the purposes of ravioli.
Beef & Cheese Ravioli Filling
1/4 lb lean ground beef (I used grass fed)
1/3 lb ground pork (I used organic/all natural)
1/2 medium to small yellow onion
2 crushed garlic cloves, loosely chopped
thyme fresh or dried to taste
a small amount of ricotta cheese (2-6 T to taste)
salt & pepper
I made the sauce at the same time which required:
Simple Tomato Sauce
san marzano D.O.P tomatoes imported from italy, one large can or one large jar
2 crushed & course chopped garlic cloves
1/2 medium to small yellow onion
I chopped the onion finely and the garlic as well and sauteed it together in olive oil with a heavy pinch of large grain salt for both the ravioli and the sauce. When the onions were soft (do this on fairly low heat for a longer time; if you blast the garlic it will be colorful and bitter and have no flavor, even if it smells good), I added a little less than a quarter cup of olive oil to a hot sauce pan and then a little more than half of the onion & garlic mixture. I added thyme to both the large sautee pan which would cook the filling and to the sauce pan.
Next, mix the two ground meats and then drop them in chunks into your sauce pan, turning the heat up to about medium. Make sure there is enough salt, pepper, and thyme.
Let the sauce simmer: it’s just garlic, olive oil, onions, thyme, tomatoes. Put it on low and leave it while you do everything else. This sauce can be modified with jalapeno or other peppers or chili flakes to make arribiata sauce, with capers to make puttanesca, with meat cooked in the same pan for bolognese.
Once the meat has cooked through, put everything from the pan including the drippings into a food processor. Add two good handfuls of breadcrumbs, a few tablespoons of ricotta (preferably you will push this through a fine mesh strainer with a spatula first to improve the texture), salt & pepper, and I had some pesto from Berkeley Bowl sitting around (mostly parsley, a bit of walnut) so I added a few spoonfuls of that too. Grind it until it’s fine, adding bread crumbs or ricotta as needed to achieve a nice moist consistency but where the filling rolls into a ball inside the food processor and is still moist enough to stick together well.
Cut your raviolis. I used a biscuit cutter. You can cut squares or whatever other method you have. The important thing is to NOT OVER FILL the ravioli. Wet with your finger & some water around the edges of each ravioli (one side of the two pieces) to seal them, making sure to push as much air out as you can as you go around and seal them.
Boil water. Once boiling, salt well (a good handful of rock salt). Do not crowd the pan with the water. Use a plenty large enough one. I boiled seven raviolis in a large pasta pot. The bigger, the better–they will cook more evenly. The picture below shows what the pasta will look like when it’s about done–it should be slightly floppier than when it went in, but not limp. Usually, fresh pasta takes 3 to 5 minutes.
Serve with the simple tomato sauce (just a few spoon fulls) on top and some grated fresh Parmesan reggiano. I’d like to note that it is only acceptable to serve Parmesan with tomato sauce when there is also MEAT in the dish. It should never be served with a vegetarian dish or fish dish.