Monday, 4 August 2014

Potato, Ricotta & Mint Ravioli

I have something to admit… I’m not a massive fan of potatoes! Potatoes, more so than other foodstuff seem to be linked in most minds with Ireland and being Irish, but at most, I would eat them once perhaps twice a week and certainly not every day. I know that they’re versatile from a cooking point of view but I’ve never felt the need to have them as a vital part of every meal. I imagine that it’s partly due to my influence but my children love rice and pasta and many of our meals are based around them.

Having said all this, I do love gratin dauphinoise and I am rather partial to potato gnocchi; a properly cooked roast potato (i.e. crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside) is something truly wonderful, but in the main, it is rare that I yearn for potato based dishes.

This is why I find it quite astonishing that I have been dreaming about making these potato and ricotta filled ravioli ever since I first came across the idea leafing through some old recipe books. I was worried that potato and pasta might be a starchy carbohydrate too far and that they would sit heavy on the stomach after consumption… but let me tell you, these were wonderful. They were surprisingly light and incredibly moreish. I found it hugely challenging restraining myself from eating a gargantuan portion all in one go. They were just absolutely delicious!

It has been a while since I made my own pasta and given how easy it is, I berated myself for not doing so more often. Fresh pasta is a different beast to the dried pasta that is so readily available to purchase, but if you are keen to experiment with your own filled pastas such as ravioli and totellini, you need to be able to make your own. The pasta machine I have is nothing fancy… it is one that I picked up fairly cheaply in Argos, but it does the job perfectly, rolling thin sheets of pasta with relatively little effort. You can roll the dough using a rolling pin but having done it, I much prefer the ease of the pasta machine.

There are a couple of tricks involved in producing these ravioli. Firstly, try to roll the pasta as thinly as you can as the last thing you want is to have to eat lots of claggy thick pasta. Secondly, when filling the ravioli and encasing them with the second layer of pasta, try to gently expel as much air as possible as this will prevent them from exploding when cooked in the simmering water. Finally don’t crowd them all in a small saucepan; fill a large saucepan with lightly salted water and bring to the boil, before adding the ravioli. Once you have added the pasta, reduce the heat slightly making sure that the water is still simmering briskly.

I think that the mint in these ravioli and in the butter sauce adds a wonderful freshness to the overall dish, but you could experiment with different herbs. Some sage could work wonderfully, but remember that it has a very strong flavour, so you may need to use less than the amounts that I have specified for the mint.
 

Ingredients:

Filling:
200g Rooster potatoes
250g fresh ricotta
75g freshly grated parmesan
1tblsp finely chopped mint
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Pasta:
400g plain flour (Tipo ‘00’)
Pinch of salt
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
Butter sauce:
100g butter
Large handful of coarsely chopped mint
 

Method:

Filling:
1. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160/Gas Mark 4.
2. Bake potatoes in oven for 30-40 minutes until cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Hold each potato in a clean tea towel and scoop out the cooked flesh, discarding the skins. Work at a fast pace so that the potatoes don’t cool too quickly. Pass the potato flesh through a potato ricer and stir in the ricotta, parmesan and finely chopped mint. Set aside.
Pasta:
3. Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the eggs and mix with your hands to bring everything together to create a soft dough (if required, add a tablespoon or two of water to create a dough that is pliable).
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work-surface and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and it feels silky. Cut dough into 4 to make it easier to pass through the pasta machine.
5. Pass the dough through the pasta machine starting with the widest setting and gradually working your way down to the thinner settings. NOTE: Pass the dough through each setting twice before moving on to the next one. I usually stop at the second last setting.
6. Place generous teaspoonfuls of the filling onto one of the pasta sheets spacing them about 7-8cms apart. Brush around each mound of filling with a little water. Place another sheet of pasta on top and press down around the mounds of filling, encasing each and trying to expel as much air as you press down, to seal the ravioli. Cut around each ravioli, leaving a 1cm border. You can use a knife or cookie cutter to do this. Repeat this process with the remaining two sheets of pasta dough and the rest of the filling.
To finish:
7. Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the ravioli and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the ravioli start to float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon. Toss the ravioli in the mint butter sauce and serve.
Butter sauce:
8. Melt butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Stir in the coarsely chopped mint and season well.
 
Serves 6-as a main course and more if served as a starter.