When Natalie, the niece of a yoga buddy of mine, invited me to make ravioli at her Foundations of Education Class at Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC), I thought she must be one very confused student. “How would preparing stuffed fresh pasta help to edify future teachers?” I asked myself.
“We want the students to experience learning and teaching through different modalities,” explained Mary Braccili, LCCC Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, when I called her to inquire about the proposed session. “The five senses — seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting — can all be used in the classroom to enhance learning. And because the unit’s sub-theme this semester is Italy, Mary added, Natalie thought of asking you to make an Italian dish with our students.
(Natalie, I retract my initial doubts — you go to the head of the class!)
And so it was, earlier this week, that my number one sous chef Walter and I had big big fun with a hands-on session in preparing Cheese Ravioli with Sage Butter at the LCCC Fowler Center kitchen.
The students rotated in groups of four in rolling the prepared egg-flour dough on a hand-cranked pasta machine into gossamer 4-inch wide strips. Then they dolloped on the filling mixture of ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano, Gruyere, and parsley. Quickly they folded the dough strip over, tamped out the air between the dollops, and cut and sealed the ravioli with serrated wheels.
As I supervised, the young cooks experienced how the dough should look and feel — as smooth as modeling compound but not sticky. As the end of class neared, we boiled the ravioli just for a few minutes, then drained and tossed them in sizzling butter and fresh sage leaves. The nutty herbal aroma evoked an idyllic autumn day. At last, we tasted the tender morsels. A-plus to the ravioli makers at LCCC!
Cheese Ravioli with Sage Butter
Makes @ 100 ravioli; Serves 8 to 10 as a primo or first course
Fresh Egg Pasta:
1 pound fresh egg pasta (recipe follows)
2 cups (1 pound) whole or part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese + extra for garnish
1/2 cup lightly packed shredded Swiss Gruyère cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
To prepare the Fresh Egg Pasta dough: Recipe follows.
To prepare the Cheese Filling: In a bowl, whisk the ricotta and egg until smooth. Stir in the Parmesan, Gruyère and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To roll and stuff pasta: Cut the dough into eighths. Work with one piece at a time while keeping the others covered. Set the pasta rollers at the widest opening. Press the dough with your palm to flatten. Dust lightly with flour. Run through the rollers. Dust lightly. Fold one short side of the dough strip two-thirds over. Fold the other short end over the first fold. Feed the narrow end through the widest roller setting. Dust lightly. Continue rolling, closing the rollers one notch at a time and dusting with flour as needed. Roll to the narrowest setting, until the dough is @ 4 inches wide and 1/16-inch thick.
Place dollops (@1/2 teaspoon) of the filling, about 1 inch apart, down one side of the dough strip.
Fold the dough strip over to cover the filling. With fingers, press down to squeeze out air and seal the two sides together. Seal with a bit of water if dough doesn’t stick.
With a serrated cutting wheel, knife, or scissors, cut into ravioli. Separate the ravioli and place on a cotton-towel lined tray. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
Dust lightly with flour. Cover with a cloth. Allow to rest for up to 2 hours.
To prepare the Sage-Butter Sauce: In a large skillet, cook the butter, oil, and sage over medium heat until the butter is bubbling. Keep warm over low heat.
To cook the ravioli: Bring a large covered pot of salted water to a boil. Gently add about one-third of the ravioli, a few at a time. Stir with a wooden fork. Boil for about 2 minutes or until ravioli are tender. Remove with a large slotted spoon and place in the skillet. Toss gently.
Repeat cooking the remaining ravioli in two stages. Add to the skillet. If needed, add a few tablespoons of the cooking water to loosen the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with Parmesan.
Fresh Egg Pasta
Makes about 1 pound
4 large eggs
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
To prepare by hand: With a fork, beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add 2 to 2 1/4 cups of flour, beating continuously, to make a soft dough. One tablespoon at a time, gradually add flour from the remaining 3/4 cup, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Spread the remaining flour on a work surface, pushing most of it to the side. With a pastry scraper, turn the dough onto the work surface. Sprinkle lightly with some of the flour. Start kneading the dough, using the pastry scraper in one hand at the beginning.
Knead, adding scant amounts of flour as needed, about 5 minutes, or until the dough is as smooth as modeling compound but not quite as stiff. All the flour may not be needed. Check the dough for air bubbles, lumps, or streaks of flour by cutting it down the middle with a sharp knife. Shape it into a ball, dust lightly with flour, and cover with a bowl for 30 minutes.
To prepare the dough in a food processor: In the bowl of a food processor, beat the eggs just until smooth. Add 2 1/4 cups of flour, processing until smooth. With the machine running, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time from the remaining 3/4 cup of flour. Process just until the dough forms a ball. Spread the remaining flour on a work surface, pushing most of it to the side. Turn the dough onto the work surface. Proceed with hand kneading (above).