I am a spelt person. I am not a gluten-free person but rather a "gluten-light" person. I try not to eat a lot of bread (which is easier to do when you eat whole spelt bread instead of yummy French baguettes) and I hardly ever eat pasta. I don't like the store bought spelt or the quinoa or the gluten-free pastas so I just go without them. The one kind of pasta that is hard to do without, however, is ravioli. Mmmm, ravioli. But in the last two or three years, we've started a tradition of making homemade ravioli for Christmas dinner using spelt flour, and that makes everything right with the world.
Normally, Michael is the dough and bread guy but this year his work and time restraints didn't allow for him to make it and it was my turn to give it a go. Oddly, I was excited to make it. I asked my mom for my grandma's ravioli dough recipe but, honestly, I was (and am) far from experienced enough to make it. I think it asked for 16 scoops of something and a couple handfuls of something else and enough water to do something else but having never made pasta before, I knew there was no way I could wing it intuitively. I did know exactly who to turn to, though, for a new recipe: My surrogate grandmother, Lidia Bastianich. Of course, Lidia doesn't know she's my surrogate grandmother but that hardly matters. Whenever I watch her on PBS, I feel like I get my grandma fix, my Chicago fix, and my Italian fix all at once. There is so much about Lidia that reminds me of so many different things about home. And her recipes look delicious. And, as expected, she had a simple and amazing recipe for ravioli dough.
Spelt Flour Ravioli
Adapted from Cacio Pepe e Pere (Fresh Ravioli Stuffed with Pear and Pecorino Cheese) by Lidia Bastianich
3 cups white spelt flour (the original recipe calls for all-purpose), or as needed
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Warm water as needed
Spoon 2-2/3 cups of the flour into a large food processor fitted with metal blade. Beat the eggs, olive oil and salt together in a small bowl until blended. With the motor running, pour the egg mixture into the feed tube. Process until the ingredients form a rough and slightly sticky dough.If the mixture is too dry, drizzle a very small amount of warm water into the feed tube and continue processing. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured wood or marble surface.
Knead the dough by gathering it into a compact ball, then pushing the ball away from you with the heels of your hands. Repeat the gathering and pushing motion several times, then press into the dough, first with the knuckles of one hand, then with the other, several times. Alternate between kneading and “knuckling” the dough until it is smooth, silky and elastic, i.e., it pulls back into shape when you stretch it. The process will take 5 to 10 minutes of constant kneading, slightly longer if you prepared the dough by hand. (Mixing the dough in a food processor gives the kneading process a little head start). Flour the work surface and your hands lightly any time the dough begins to stick while you are kneading.
Roll the dough into a smooth ball and place in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least one hour at room temperature, or up to 1 day in the refrigerator, before rolling and shaping the pasta. If the dough has been refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature for about an hour before rolling and shaping.
Divide the dough into three equal pieces and cover them with a clean kitchen towel. Working with one piece at a time, roll the pasta out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle approximately 10 x 20 inches. Dust the work surface lightly with flour just often enough to keep the dough from sticking; too much flour will make the dough difficult to roll. If the dough springs back as you try to roll it, recover with the kitchen towel and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Start rolling another piece of dough and come back to the first one after it has had a chance to rest.
Let the pasta sheets rest, separated by kitchen towels, at least 15 minutes before cutting them. Roll each piece out into sheets about 30 inches long by 11 inches wide. Keep two of the pasta sheets covered with kitchen towels and place the third on the work surface in front of you with one of the long edges toward you.
Arrange twenty mounds of filling in two rows of ten over the top half of the dough, starting them about 1-1/2 inches in from the sides of the dough rectangle and arranging them about 2-1/2 inches from each other. Pat the fillings into rough rectangles that measure about 2 x 1 inch. Dip the tip of your finger into cool water and moisten the edges of the top half of the dough and in between the mounds of filling. Fold the bottom of the dough over the mounds of filling, lining up dough to the bottom firmly, squeezing out any air pockets as you work.
With a pastry wheel or knife, cut between the filling into rectangles approximately 2-1/2 x 2 inches. Pat lightly the tops of the ravioli to even out the filling. Pinch the edges of the ravioli to seal in the filling. Repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the ravioli in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and then toss the ravioli together with sauce.
I didn't stuff these with pears (as you've probably guessed) and instead used ricotta, egg, and fresh parsley for the filling. They were tossed with our Family Sauce, just like they always, always have been. I used spelt flour and Lidia's recipe but I think they tasted exactly like my grandma's. And that's what I was hoping they'd taste like.