Episode 6: Pasta Imbottita
In Emilia-Romagna, many cooks still use rolling pins rather than pasta machines to roll out their pasta dough. Pasta imbottita, or these tiny cheese-filled ravioli in broth, are one type of pasta they make with the hand-rolled dough. In each bite you have an explosion of lemon-scented cheese, and just a hint of nutmeg. In some ways, they're easier than your usual ravioli because you don't shape them one by one. But there are a few tricks to getting them just right, which we'll show you in this episode.
We'll start with the filling. It's a combination of several cheeses: you have 3-1/2 oz of ricotta, 2 oz. of grated Parmigiano, and then 3-1/2 oz of stracchino, which is a regional soft and creamy cheese. It can be hard to find here, so you can use mascarpone or quark-both of those are good substitutes. Also you grate just a pinch of fresh nutmeg, and a tablespoon of lemon zest, and an egg to bring it all together.
Now we'll roll out the dough. Roll it as thinly and evenly as you can into a circle 18 inches in diameter. If you prefer, you can use a pasta machine. Now spread the filling evenly over half of the circle. This is less exacting than regular ravioli where you space dollops of filling all over the dough. But you do have to get the thickness of the filling just right-it should be about 1/8 of an inch. Now we fold the other half of the dough over the filling, and use a fluted pastry wheel to cut it into half-inch strips in this direction...and then cut every 1/4 inch in this direction to create rectangles.
The pastry cutter is basically sealing the dough around the cheese. So this is where the thickness of the filling comes in-if you spread it too thick it won't seal and the filling will burst out. But if it's not thick enough, you won't have enough cheese flavor. Put all the little ravioli on a floured sheet pan and put them in the freezer for at least an hour before you cook them. Freezing the ravioli helps prevent the cheese from oozing out when they're cooked.
Finishing this pasta is really simple: they're served right in the broth they're cooked in. Because this dish is so simple, using good broth is really important here-if you have homemade broth on hand, this is the time to use it. In Italy, they actually don't eat a whole lot of chicken; the chickens are mostly raised for their eggs, so when the chickens are finally slaughtered, they tend to be older hens and they make for a really flavorful broth.
Since this is homemade broth and it hasn't been salted, you want to add about 2 Tbs. of kosher salt, but if you're using canned broth, season it to taste. Drop the pasta into the broth, and simmer it gently until the ravioli are tender all the way through-it'll take about 5 minutes.
Matt: When the ravioli are done, ladle the soup into shallow bowls and sprinkle with a little grated Parmigiano and freshly ground pepper.
Other episodes about handmade pasta
|Episode 1: Croxetti (Pasta Coins) with Pine Nut-Butter Sauce||Episode 2: Butternut Squash Gnocchi||Episode 3: Spinach Malfatti (Dumplings)|
|Episode 4: Bergamo-Style Ravioli||Episode 5: Bigoli with Duck Ragu||Episode 6: Pasta Imbottita (Cheese Pillows in Broth)|
|Episode 7: Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Walnut Butter Sauce||Episode 8: Cappelletti with Wild Mushroom Sauce||Episode 9: Spinach, Ricotta and Egg Yolk Raviolo|