Filled with unctuous egg yolk, spinach, ricotta and salmon, Michela Chiappa's giant ravioli from Simply Italian are a real treat
Michela Chiappa: "We learnt about this recipe from a Michelin starred restaurant in Imola. The head chef told us that the chef he learned from used to cook this dish for the last king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele. It's a dish that combines a number of different traditions and flavours from Emilia Romagna - tortelli, traditional erbette filling, ricotta, parmesan etc. What we love about this dish is that, for us, it mixes one of our favourite recipes - tortelli di spinaci with some British traditions - poached eggs, smoked salmon and asparagus. If you follow all the tips and instructions, you'll see this dish is a winner!"
For the pasta dough
For the filling
Making your filling
Steam your spinach until wilted, cool under cold, running water, then squeeze out all the water using your hands. Try to make it as dry as you can otherwise a soggy filling can make the pasta disintegrate when cooking.
Chop your spinach as finely as you can, then combine with your salmon, ricotta, parmesan, lemon zest, salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg in a large bowl. Seasoning is down to preference, so just taste the filling and add more salt, pepper, nutmeg or parmesan until you're happy. Add 1 egg to bind, then mix until all the ingredients are combined.
Place your filling into a piping bag, or freezer bag (just cut the corner off before piping), and keep to one side until you're ready to fill the pasta.
Making your fresh pasta
Place the flour on a board or in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Crack the eggs in to the well, add a pinch of salt then with a fork, mix the egg into the flour as much as possible so it's not sticky. Don't worry if there are lumps in the dough. Keep mixing and then when crumbs form put it on a flat surface and knead together. You can also speed this up by mixing your ingredients in a food processor until they bind. Once it is all combined, knead until you have a silky smooth elastic dough. You are aiming to achieve a playdough-like texture. If your dough is crumbly (too dry) add a teaspoon of olive oil. If the dough is sticks to your hands (too wet) add a little extra flour. Cover with cling film and rest for 30 minutes.
If you are using a pasta roller, take tennis ball-sized amounts of dough, squash them flat with your fingers (remember to keep the rest of your dough covered with the cling film so it doesn't go dry and crusty), push them through the pasta roller on the widest setting. Fold into thirds, then repeat 3 times. Once you have a rough square shape, start working it through the machine, taking it down one setting at a time, until the thinnest setting. If your pasta is too sticky, it won't go through smoothly, so add a little flour to each side before you put it through the roller.
You should end up with 2 long sheets of pasta. You can also roll this by hand using a rolling pin but you'll need some serious elbow grease to get your pasta sheets really thin and wide (about 1 playing card thick).
Lay the pasta out flat on a floured surface. Using a 12.5cm ring cutter, mark 4 circles out on 1 of the pasta sheets. Starting 2.5cm in from the edge of the pasta, pipe a nest shape on to each circle for your egg yolk to sit in - they should be about 2.5cm high. Drop an egg yolk into each nest and add a pinch of salt.
Cut another pasta sheet into 4 squares big enough to drape over each raviolo. Brush the edges of the pasta circles with water, then place each one over each marked out circle. Seal tightly, gently squeezing out all the air and then cut them out using your 12.5cm ring. Make sure your pasta has no holes or gaps in it. These ravioli are very delicate because of the soft raw egg yolk inside, so they need to be properly sealed and handled with care.
Cut four sheets of baking paper in to squares big enough to hold each raviolo. Add a dusting of polenta to the baking paper and place one raviolo on each - this will make them easier to transport.
Place a large saucepan on a high heat bringing it to the boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a soft rolling boil.
Meanwhile, place the asparagus on a hot griddle pan and cook until nicely charred, turning regularly. Remove from the griddle, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and keep warm till needed.
Use the baking paper to pick up the ravioli, and place them one at a time into the water with the paper. The paper will help you lower them in gently without breaking the yolk, once in the water they should come away from the pasta and float to the surface. Cook the ravioli for around 4 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, melt your butter in a pan until it starts to bubble.
Divide the asparagus between 4 plates. Then, carefully remove the ravioli from the water one at a time, using a slotted spoon and place one on to each plate, on top of the asparagus spears. Sprinkle on some grated parmesan, spoon over a tablespoon of the melted butter (it should sizzle), and drizzle with a little truffle oil.
When you place your filling into your piping bag only fill it half way as it will be difficult to control otherwise. Make sure the filling goes right to the bottom of the bag and then twist the top to seal the filling at the bottom. Otherwise, when you squeeze, the filling will come out of the top instead of the bottom.
Once you have made your ravioli, you can keep them in the fridge for a couple of hours until you're ready to cook them. They're great for a dinner party as they take minutes to cook.
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