A few years ago I decided that I wanted to make pasta. I read up on it and decided that before I could make it I had to have the latest equipment, like a pasta roller. My New Husband thought that I was NUTS for purchasing a $129.00 set of pasta rollers for my kitchenaid and he insisted that I return them and after a lot of discussion he was right and reluctantly returned the rollers unused. A few week later there is a fairly heavy package in the mail. yes he had found a set of pasta rollers on ebay for a fraction of the price that I had spent. I was geeked and set off and made my first batch of pasta. Thinking now that I have the equipment I will produce raviolis like a pro.
Well raviolis like a pro was not quite what happened. I proceeded to make my pile of flour, create a nice little well in the center and dump in 3 large eggs. 3 eggs was about one and a half eggs too many to fit in that nice neat well that I made in the center of my flour. The eggs burst though and over the walls of the flour and start to run every where. In desperation I start pushing the eggs back to the four with the fork I had in my had, the directions told me to slowly incorporate the four into the eggs with a fork, this fork was really not helping me keep the egg from continuing to spread so I drop it and start pushing the egg into the flour all the while the paste like dough that was forming is crating layer after layer of goo onto my had. Once I had about an inch of goo on my hands the egg flour mass was under control and I was able to start kneading. Oh yes did I tell you that I didn't bake back then and therefore I had no clue as to what dough was supposed to feel like when kneading it and I really had no clue what pasta was supposed to feel like. Here I am trying to kneed all 3 cups of flour into these 3 little eggs, yes the eggs did not seam so large anymore. once I was done fighting to get as much of the flour into the dough as I could, there was about one and a quarter cups of flour left over, I let the dough rest while I get out the magic pasta rollers that is going to make this pasta fantastic!
I cut my mass of very stiff dough into quarters, just as the directions tell me, and set the pasta roller to 1 and the speed of the kitchen aid to 2 and start to force the pasta through the rollers. The pasta reluctantly squishes though the rollers and comes out the other side all tore to shreds. Hummmmmmm ok, I fold the pasta dough into 3rds and try again, hummmm the same thing. I proceeded to do this and after a good longs time I had a sheet of what looked like lasagna noodles.
I am so excited because all I have to do now is fill the pasta. Rrrriiighhhtt, fill the pasta. I has mushroom filling, squash filling, and ricotta cheese filling. what a mess trying to put little dollops on the long sheet of pasta, fold it over, seam it, and cut it. I manages and in the end we had very messy, very tough ravioli.
Today i can whip out a batch of pasta in no time. I know that the well must me large and that I should not use all the flour or even pile up that much flour for 3 eggs in the first place, and that the speed on my kitchenaid needs to be more like 6 not 2 and most important, ravioli is over rated, rolling up manicotti with the same fillings and baking is wonderful. from time to time I will make ravioli but not in a long fancy line like in the books but I cut individual squares of pasta and fill them that way.
First for good pasta one must have good eggs. My Husband gets eggs from a man at work that has chickens and his eggs are great. here is a photo of a free range organic egg from the store, Left, and an egg from my egg man, right.
First, place 3 cups all purpose flour on the counter and make a large well in the center with nice high walls. Then crack 4 eggs into the well and add about 1 teaspoon of salt to the eggs.
Secondly I beat the eggs with a fork and slowly incorporate the flour into the egg being careful not to break the flour wall.
Once I have incorporated as much egg as I can with the fork I start to knead the flour into the egg by hand until a nice elastic dough is formed. Note that all the flour will most likely not be used.
cut the dough into quarters and let it rest for 5 minutes. Flatten the dough slightly and dust both sides with flour, set the pasta roller to 1 and turn the speed up to 6 or 7 and start to run the pasta through being sure to but the pasta through several time with each setting.
I made 3 kinds of manicotti, one set stuffed with meat filling, one with sweet potato and one with ricotta cheese and spinach filling or you can fill how you like or cut into fettuccini.
For Meat filling:
saute on medium onion, chopped with 8 oz ground round, 4 oz sausage, a carrot, and some mushrooms that have been chopped. Season with Italian seasoning and fresh chopped parsley. Let cool and mix in 1 large egg.
For Sweet potato filling:
peel, cube and steam a large sweet potato. once the potato is tender mash it with a tablespoon of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of butter then add 1/4 cup chopped nuts.
For Ricotta cheese spinach filling:
mix 1 cup ricotta cheese with 1/3 cut grated mozzarella, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 cup frozen spinach that has been sauteed in olive oil and garlic and 1 large egg.
Roll the filling into the pasta place in a baking dish that has a thin layer of marinara sauce int he bottom. Fill the dish with the manicotti cover with a little bechamel, marinara, and grated mozzarella cheese and bake, covered, in a 375F oven for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes at 450F or until the cheese is lightly browned.