I tried my hand at making fresh pasta this week. It was….less than successful. Let’s just say the recipe I started with was for Spinach-Mushroom Ravioli. In the end, the success came from working this into a lasagna dish instead!
The Adventuresome Part: Ravioli
So, I was feeling extra adventurous this week and decided to try making fresh pasta. With no pasta machine, little previous luck in such “dough” making attempts, and a lot of energetic ambition.
Since I’m still feeling a bit leery about most meat after reading that book on Carnism, the one with a detailed and fascinating look into the production of livestock into meatstuffs, I focused on a tasty seeming recipe for Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli. With a few cage-free eggs* in hand I optimistically set about reading the recipe so I could make sure I had everything prepared. For those who enjoy foreshadowing; here’s where I drop a hint that perhaps I should have done a “Santa” thing here and checked that list twice…
Anyway, with ambition and ingredients at hand I set about working on this new-fangled old-timey tradition of hand-making pasta. I already anticipated it taking a while and had an afternoon off from work to fiddle with the recipe if need be.
I first got all the dough stuff added to a bowl.
I made sure to put the requisite 1 tablespoon** of olive oil in with the water, flour and eggs. I figured I was really clever, trying to make hand-rolled pasta.
I had advice from a friend not to mix things up too much so I tried to heed her words. However, after the minimum of 5 minutes of kneading and slowly adding more and more water as the recipe suggests, I didn’t feel that the dough was really sticking together or “smooth” or, really, anything resembling something from which one might, at some point, be able to roll and cut out pasta. So I kept going for the maximum of 10 minutes. It still didn’t feel quite right but I figured I’d quite before I over-did it.***
I tied the pasta dough into the tightly plastic-wrapped ball that the recipe indicated of me and set it aside, hoping for the best.
Next I moved onto a step with which I felt vastly more qualified for: savory ingredients combining! I was leery of the suggested ingredient of cream cheese for the filling, not being a fan of that creamy and heavy stuff except when stirred into a much larger batch of some sort of creamy sauce. So instead I purchased some Farmer’s Cheese that I happened upon in the store (sort of like a tastier and more moist version of Ricotta cheese). I even got to use my handy scale again to measure out the required 4 ounces!
Frying up the onions and mushrooms went off without a hitch. I did realize while draining my meager 1/2 cup of frozen spinach (which looks so meager after thawing and draining) that perhaps next time it would be better to thaw and drain a large bunch and THEN measure out the suggested 1/2 cup of shrunken spinach.
But regardless I managed to cook what needed cooking, combine the cheeses (I added a little bit of remaining cottage cheese to the farmer’s cheese) with some garlic and herbs and set it aside.
The filling was all blended together and ended up looking pretty colorful.
Then, it was time for the rolling of my now-rested pasta dough. Yeah. In case it wasn’t obvious from my footnotes before, the dough was…. not quite what one might expect. While it DID seem a bit more together than it had when I set it aside in its little plastic ball, it was also…VERY elastic. As in, struggling to get my (arguably) stronger husband’s arms to push down and roll this sucker out seemed a Herculean feat. It kept snapping back!
Still, I managed, with some help, to get the dough a bit flatter. Nowhere NEAR the recipe’s 1/16th of an inch; but at least it was not still a rounded ball…
So I got out my little cookie cutter and figured I could cut the basic shapes and then roll THOSE a bit bigger so that the stuffing would fit inside. It worked. Sort of. They were big enough to stuff at any rate!
I felt so proud as I laid those little stuffed ravioli out on my lightly floured cookie sheet in front of the pot of bubbling water. I should have known it was a sort of “pride before the storm” sort of feeling.
I began boiling the pasta up once I had about 10-12 of them. Because by this point I had gotten tired of cutting and rolling out tiny little circles of tough, elastic dough and figured we’d have plenty to eat with that many!
The recipe says that the pasta is done cooking when it floats to the top. This is kinda hard to determine when the little blighters are bouncing all around thanks to the roiling boil going on. Still, I tried to pluck them from the hot water only when they seemed to be staying at the top more often then not. However, as tasting afterward would soon prove, this was not the “correct” method for guessing at their done-ness. The extra-thick pasta definitely could have used a few good minutes of boiling beyond what I’d given them.
However, by this time it had been about 2.5-3 hours and I was hungry, a bit frustrated, and so ready to eat that I quickly burned up a batch of chive-butter, spooned the dark liquid over the pasta, made us some salads and relaxed into a delicious meal of VERY aldente pasta filled with mushrooms, spinach and cheese.
Since I had SO MUCH filling left over and NO desire left to struggle with the remaining dough (which by this point had practically elasticized itself into its own little super-dense pre-supernova star mass); I ended up thinking of using it with pre-made pasta the next night.
THAT process went far smoother. Layers of the filling, more mozzarella cheese, pasta sauce, fresh tomatoes and more mushrooms in between the no-boil pasta noodles produced a delightfully tasty and VASTLY simpler dinner.
That’s why this recipe will likely from now on be made as lasagna or possibly as stuffed shells/manicotti… anything where I don’t have to MAKE the pasta!
The final recipe: Spinach-Mushroom Lasagna
Go to this recipe. Try it and decide you’re not ready at this point to successfully navigate the wonders of hand-made pasta. Then proceed as follows.
- No-Boil lasagna noodles
- 1 can of pasta sauce
- 1/2 cup of frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained
- 8 oz of fresh mushrooms, chopped up
- 1 additional can (or 4 more ounces fresh) mushrooms
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped up
- 1 onion, chopped up
- 4 oz Farmers Cheese (and a bit of Cottage Cheese if you have it laying around)
- 1/2 cup Mozzarella
- 1 tomato, diced up
- Salt, pepper, Italian seasonings
- Turn the oven to 375 degrees.
- Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray
- In a bowl, mix up the farmer’s cheese, the garlic and Italian seasoning
- Spray a baking dish with olive-oil Pam or other non-stick spray.
- Spread a bit of the pasta sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.
- Layer the noodles down in the baking dish.
- Put a thin layer of sauce on top of the noodles (I find this helps the noodles cook better when you use the no-boil ones)
- Add the Farmer’s Cheese mix on top of the sauce layer, trying to get it fairly evenly spread out
- Put half of the chopped tomatoes down and spread them out.
- Put another thin layer of sauce
- Another layer of noodles
- Another thin layer of sauce
- Put your filling from the stuffed ravioli recipe down in a fairly even layer (this has the spinach, mushrooms, cheese, etc in it)
- Add the extra mushrooms and spread evenly
- Top with the rest of those chopped tomatoes and a bit more sauce
- Another layer of noodles
- Last of the sauce to cover the noodles
- Top with some more mozzarella cheese and a bit of salt and pepper
Place the baking dish onto a cookie sheet and put into the pre-heated oven.
Bake for about 50 minutes or until the cheese is all golden and the filling is all bubbling up happily.
Here’s hoping that this far quicker and less labor-intensive version of “ravioli” serves as a tasty treat for any who try it out!
That’s all from me on another Thursday Cooking Adventure!
*I’m telling you, never before has a book made me feel so squeamish about the treatment of animals used for meat or food by-products. Very eye-opening and “willingness to cook meat for a while” reducing.
**Here’s where I will add that if you haven’t gone over to the recipe link; it calls for “1tsp” of Olive Oil for the dough. That, for non-cooks or those unfamiliar with the cooking abbreviation lingo means “teaspoon”. Notice how that doesn’t mean “tablespoon”…
***Too late. By far.