It’s about the same time every year I feel compelled to use up the last of my basil plants before it’s too late. About another week or so from now it’ll get just cold enough at night that the basil gives up for the season and dies off. So inevitably there’s a decent amount of Italian food coming out of this kitchen from now until the basil’s gone. Things like tomato basil marinara sauce, delicious basil pesto, eggplant caponata with basil.
Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the prospect of making fresh pasta dough. I’ve found it gets easier and easier every time I do it and even though the first few attempts weren’t perfect, it still resulted in something close enough to call a success (hint: imperfect ravioli taste just as good as picture-perfect ones under enough pasta sauce).
To make the pasta dough:
6 cups “00” flour, plus more for flouring work surface
1 tsp salt
7 whole eggs
5 egg yolks
2 tbsp olive oil
Flour a board, marble slab, or countertop well. Combine the two flours and the salt in a KitchenAid bowl and combine on speed 1 using the dough hook. Add the eggs and egg yolks. Turn it up to speed 5 and mix until it looks like a rough dough, about 30 seconds. Remove the dough from the machine and mix it well with your hand, first in the bowl and then on the floured board or work surface to ensure that everything is very well combined. Return the dough to the KitchenAid and blend on speed 3 just until the mixture comes together as a smoother, tighter dough and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 15 seconds or so. Flour your work surface again and turn the dough our onto it. Sprinkle flour on the dough to keep it from sticking. Roll the dough into a ball. Knead the dough by folding in over itself for about 3 minutes. Wrap it tightly in 2 layers of plastic wrap and put in the fridge to rest for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Fresh homemade ravioli freezes easily. Once you realize you’ve made enough for the first seating at a small Italian restaurant, like I did here, pop a bunch of them, uncooked, onto a lightly flowered baking sheet and into the freezer for about 2 hours. Then Transfer them into a freezer bag and keep frozen for a couple months, if you can wait that long.
For the Ravioli Filling:
1½ pounds fresh ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small leeks, white parts only, trimmed, cleaned, and chopped
½ cup scallions , minced, including greens (about 5 scallions)
4 cups fresh spinach leaves, stems removed, washed, and dried, chopped
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten
Fresh egg pasta
To finish the Ravioli:
2 cups Tomato sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8-10 fresh basil leaves, washed and chopped
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
Spoon the ricotta into a large, fine-mesh sieve or a colander lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth or a basket-type coffee filter. Set the sieve over a bowl and cover the ricotta well with plastic wrap. Let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator at least overnight, or up to 24 hours. Discard the liquid in the bottom of the bowl.
In a wide braising pan or deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the leek and scallion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped spinach and increase the heat to medium. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.
Stir the fresh ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley and sautéed greens together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the egg. Chill thoroughly.
While the filling is chilling, make the pasta dough and let rest.
Form and cut the ravioli. The ravioli should be cooked immediately or refrigerated up to 4 hours. (The ravioli may also be frozen: Place the sheets of ravioli onto a freezer shelf and freeze until solid to the touch. Carefully transfer the ravioli to resealable plastic bags or airtight plastic containers.)
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Slip the ravioli into the water a few at a time, stirring gently as you do. Cook until the edges of the pasta are tender but still firm to the bite and they rise to the surface, about 6 minutes after the water returns to a boil.
While the ravioli are cooking, divide the tomato sauce, olive oil and basil between two large skillets and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Fish out the ravioli with a wire skimmer or large flat slotted spoon, drain them well over the pasta pot and slide them into the pans of sauce, dividing them evenly. Simmer, stirring gently with a spoon until the sauce is lightly reduced and the ravioli are coated. Remove the pans from the heat, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Spoon the ravioli into warm bowls or onto a warm platter, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve immediately.