Paradise's Ravioli of Ricotta and Mascarpone

What is it about musicians and food? They always seem to be good cooks or great eaters. Lynne's neighbor, chamber orchestra clarinetist Tim Paradise, is both. And these ravioli are the jewels in Tim's crown.

So light, creamy and fresh, the ravioli have the subtlest of sauces which Tim actually makes right on the serving platter. Everyone at the table eyes the others for who's going to get the last piece. One last note: this is the recipe of a perfectionist; Tim's pasta technique is as exacting as his music. 

Cook to Cook: For the pasta, Tim mixes lower protein and higher protein flours to approximate the pasta flour used in Rome at his favorite trattoria. When looking for the pastry/cake flour, check nutrition labels for 8% protein. The unbleached, all-purpose flour should be about 11% to 12%. 

High-quality ricotta pays off here. If you can't find any, make your own. If using homemade ricotta, or if the store-bought is very moist, you need to protect the ravioli from turning soggy by removing some of the cheese's moisture by draining it.  Line a sieve with a thin towel and set it over a bowl. Add the ricotta to the sieve and let it drain overnight in the fridge. 

Filling could be done several hours ahead and refrigerated. The tomato sauce holds in the fridge for 3 days. You can make the ravioli a couple of hours before cooking, but once they're cooked, serve them immediately.

Equipment Needed: A pasta machine or rolling pin, cake racks or flat baskets to hold the ravioli, a food mill for making the sauce (a food processor can stand in), and a hand cheese grater for the table. 

Wine: A relatively softly textured wine is the key to a good match for this dish. For a white, consider an Arneis from Piedmont. If looking for a red, try a Valpolicella Ripasso from Italy's Veneto region. 

Filling:
 
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese  
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) high-quality ricotta, homemade if necessary 
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese 
  • 1 tightly packed tablespoon fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped, and more to taste 
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 
  • 4 large egg yolks 
Tomato Sauce:  
 
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes and their liquid (Tim uses Muir Glen) 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Pasta:

  • 1 recipe Fresh Pasta (recipe follows) 
  • 1 egg white (for sealing the ravioli)
Finishing
 
  • 1 stick (unsalted butter, at room temperature) 
  • 10 branches of fresh basil 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8-ounce chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating at the table  
1. Make the filling: In a medium bowl, blend the Parmigiano, ricotta, mascarpone, mint, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and taste for seasoning. You want distinctive mint, but not so much as to overpower the cheeses. Thoroughly blend in the egg yolks. Cover and refrigerate.

2. Make the tomato sauce: Tim's sauce is beyond simple. Turn the 2 cans of tomatoes into a deep 6-quart pot and simmer over medium low heat until reduced by a third, about 15 minutes. Stir often. Season the tomatoes to taste, let them cool a bit and then put them through a food mill. (In a pinch you can puree them in a processor.) Refrigerate or keep warm if serving soon.

3. Fill the Ravioli: Have cake racks and/or flat baskets handy.

Spread out the first rolled out strip of pasta dough, and trim away ragged edges. If the strip is more than 4-inches wide you'll make 2 rows of ravioli, with a narrower strip, make one.

Place generous teaspoons of filling an inch in from the edge of the dough down the length of the strip. Space them about 1-1/2 inches apart. With your finger, spread egg white around each mound. Fold over the dough carefully to eliminate air pockets and press the edges together. Cut them apart with a zigzag cutter or a knife and lift each onto the cake racks or baskets so they don't touch. Keep ravioli at room temperature up to 2 hours; after that, refrigerate them. Repeat the whole process as the remaining dough is rolled out.

4. Cook and serve the ravioli: Have a large serving platter (warmed if possible), and a slotted spoon. Bring to a boil a 6-quart pot with 5 quarts of salted water. Have the tomato sauce warm on the stove, the butter, basil, salt, and pepper nearby. Rub a little butter over the platter.

Once the water is boiling, turn it down to an lively simmer and drop in 5 or 6 of the ravioli. Cook until they float to the surface (cut off an edge of dough to taste for doneness if you'd like). Gently lift them out with the spoon, drain and spread them on the platter. Rub them with a little butter.

Repeat the cooking until you have a single layer of ravioli filmed with butter. Sprinkle them with a little salt, pepper, and scant daubs of tomato sauce. Tear a few basil leaves over the layer. Cook the rest of the ravioli, layering, buttering, and seasoning with salt, pepper and basil.  

5. To serve: Garnish the dish with some whole basil leaves and serve hot. Pass the chunk of Parmigiano with a hand grater for diners to grate their own cheese to their taste.

Tim's Fresh Pasta

Makes enough for about 45 large ravioli, or about 1-1/2 pounds string-cut pasta, serving 6 to 8 as a main dish

 
20 minutes prep time; 1 to 3 hours rest time; 45 minutes rolling out time

  • 3 cups pastry or cake flour (8% protein and organic if possible), dipped and leveled
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (11% to 12% protein and organic if possible), dipped and leveled 
1. Mix the Pasta Dough: Put the 3 cups of pastry flour in a large bowl. With the back of your hand make a well in the center. Pour the 6 eggs into the well. Stir them together with a fork. Now gradually stir flour from the sides of the well into the eggs until everything is mixed and ragged looking.

2. Knead the dough: Flour a counter with some of the unbleached flour, turn the dough onto it and gradually work in a cup or so of the unbleached flour. Do this by sprinkling flour on the dough and folding it over on itself (a pastry scraper helps here) and kneading it. The dough will become velvety on the outside and sticky in the center.

Keep kneading by lightly dusting on more flour and constantly rolling the dough over on itself, like winding a spring. Then stretch it out, roll it back up, turning a quarter turn and repeat. 

Do this 5 to 8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and a little soft. Its interior should be a little sticky. Rest the dough under a bowl for an hour or more. Before rolling knead in another 1/3 cup of the flour.

3. Roll Out the Pasta: A rolling pin can be used -- merely roll the dough to the thickness described below. If working with a pasta machine, have its rollers at the widest opening. Divide the dough into thirds; keep 2 pieces under a towel as you work with the other.

Lightly flour the dough, shaping it into a 5-inch round. Pass it through the pasta machine's widest setting five times, folding it back on itself each time. This folding laminates the dough to make it lighter. Next, narrow the rollers and pass and fold the dough three more times. Flour the dough only if it's sticky. Keep narrowing the rollers and passing the dough until you can see shadows through it. Spread it on a lightly floured surface and fill as directed in the main recipe. Repeat the rolling out and filling with the other two pieces of dough. 

[Disclosure: This recipe was created at a time when The Splendid Table had no business relationship with any canned tomato company. In July 2014, we were thrilled to welcome Muir Glen as an underwriter of our program.]

From The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, Clarkson Potter 2011.

Yield: 
Makes about 45 large ravioli, serving 8 to 12 as a first course and 7 to 8 as a main dish

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