Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Recipe Corner: Ravioli di San Leo

Ravioli with Fresh Herbs & Greens in Lemon Butter
Ravioli di San Leo

If I asked you to picture a medieval village, I think something like the little town of San Leo, in the northern part of Le Marche (now actually part of Emilia Romagna), would come to mind. Rising up from a rocky cliff, it is so inaccessible that it was used for centuries as a high security papal prison. 

A better claim to fame for San Leo, however, are these luscious ravioli, made with chard, spinach, and fresh ricotta. They have always been a favorite of my family, particularly because of their use of lots of fresh herbs including the mint-like nepitella, which is popular all over Italy. If you can’t find it (which will probably be the case unless you grow it in your own garden), you can substitute mint, which is stronger, but close enough. Use the best quality fresh ricotta you can find.

San Leo

For the Filling
1⁄2 pound spinach
1⁄4 pound Swiss chard
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 cup fresh ricotta
2 large egg yolks, beaten
1 1⁄2 cups finely chopped mixed herbs, such as Italian parsley, marjoram, nepitella, mint, tarragon, basil, and/or chives

Semolina flour for dusting
1 pound fresh pasta dough
1 large egg, beaten

For the Sauce
1 2⁄3 tablespoons (5 1⁄3 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 4 ounces)


For the Filling
Remove the tough stems from the spinach and Swiss chard and discard. Place the leaves in a large bowl of cold water and swish to release any dirt, then lift out the leaves. If the leaves seem very dirty, repeat. Dry in a salad spinner.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add one-quarter of the spinach and chard and toss with a fork, lightly coating the leaves with butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cover tightly. Let the spinach and chard steam for about 2 minutes, or until wilted.

Transfer the greens to a colander and drain well, pressing with the back of a spoon to eliminate excess water.

Repeat the process three more times with the remaining spinach and chard, using another tablespoon of butter for each batch.

Transfer the greens to a cutting board and coarsely chop. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, ricotta, and yolks.

Add the greens and chopped herbs and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until ready to use.

For the Ravioli
Sprinkle a baking sheet with semolina and set aside. Dust a counter or other work surface lightly with semolina.

Divide the pasta dough into 4 pieces. One at a time, flatten each piece of dough under the palm of your hand and then roll it through a pasta machine, working from the largest setting to the smallest and passing the dough through each setting twice. Lay the completed sheets of pasta on the semolina-dusted counter and keep covered with a slightly dampened kitchen towel as you work.

If necessary, trim the sheets of pasta so that they are all the same length.

Place 1 sheet of pasta on the semolina-dusted work surface. Working quickly, place heaping teaspoons of filling down the center of the dough, starting 1 1⁄2 inches from one end of the sheet and spacing them 3 inches apart. Brush the exposed dough around the filling lightly with the beaten egg, then carefully drape a second sheet of dough over the sheet with the filling.

Using your fingers, press down around the mounds of filling to force out any air bubbles. Using a pasta cutter or a sharp knife, cut around the mounds of filling to form 3-inch square ravioli.

ress the edges between your thumb and forefinger to seal. Transfer the ravioli to the semolina-dusted baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pasta sheets and filling. Cover with a slightly dampened kitchen towel.

If not cooking the ravioli immediately, refrigerate, covered, until ready to proceed.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and lower the heat to maintain a gentle boil, so as not to damage the ravioli. Once the ravioli have floated to the surface, cook for about 3 minutes longer, or until the pasta is just cooked.

Meanwhile, for the Sauce
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the lemon zest and cinnamon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm over very low heat. When the ravioli are cooked, using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a colander and drain well. Gently fold the ravioli and Parmigiano into the sauce.

Serve the ravioli on a platter or in individual bowls.

(This recipe and more can be found in Fabio's cookbook, Cucina of Le Marche, also available at the restaurant.)