My brain’s not been playing fair lately, racing here and there, dwelling in the shadows, lurking. It’s been nasty, spiteful and mean. Mainly to me. To others I seem fine, my dear friends Eleanor and Mary said I looked “beautiful and serene” when they saw me on Friday night. Currently my favourites. I have a good game face. On the inside it’s a poisonous self-sabotaging dog fight.
Food is my ultimate joy and arch nemesis. I am my happiest in the kitchen. Feeding other people makes me infinitely happy. There is enough subtext in those three sentences to keep me in therapy until my deathbed. And beyond. I’ve been told that at the moment I’m investing heavily in my food currency and while on some levels that gives great dividends I need to broaden my investment portfolio.
A financial analogy. I don’t even know who I am anymore.
But it’s true and quite indicative of me. I am a fine example of putting all the eggs in one basket so I’m currently trying other currencies to reduce my stress – or at least make me forget the stressors for a while – and find enjoyment from areas that don’t trigger an avalanche of binge eating and self-loathing. Good times!
In the meantime I am still cooking and forcing my racing brain to slow down, to enjoy the process as much as the end result. There’s been some pretty nice outcomes including making pasta for the first time in more than 10 years. Not only did I make it I hand rolled it. Funnily enough, working with the dough was the most enjoyable part. I’ve learnt to stop worrying and fearing about something not working and to just listen to my gut – add a little more flour, a little water, work it some more, it will be fine. Learning that for pastry making was a complete revelation. Just go with it.
Spinach and Ricotta ravioli
From Giorgio Locatelli, Made in Italy: Food & Stories
For the filling
- 400g ricotta
- 90g cooked spinach* (about 250g raw)
- 3tbsp grated parmesan
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper freshly ground
* I sauteed the spinach in some chilli-infused oil and a clove of finely sliced garlic. Let it cool a little and then squeeze as much water as you can from it and very finely chop.
- Mix it all together, taste and ensure it’s well seasoned then set aside while you make the pasta. (Or make the dough then make the filling while you’re letting the dough rest.)
For the dough
- 500g strong flour
- 3 large eggs and 2 egg yolks
- pinch of salt
- Have a bowl of water on your bench and put you flour in a mound on a clean work surface and make a well in the middle
- Crack the eggs into the well and then move your fingers in a circular motion slowly incorporating the flour until it all gets incorporated into a bit of a shaggy mess
- Start working the dough by pushing the heel of your hand into it and pushing it away from you, turn it clockwise and push it away from you again with the heel of your hand and keep doing so for about 10 minutes.
- If it’s too dry (which it probably will be) wet your hands and keep working it. Eventually the dough feels springy but quite firm and will become quite difficult to work with. Giorgio tells us not to worry if the dough feels hard, after it has rested it’ll be good to go – and it is!
- Divide the dough into 2 balls, wrap each in a damp tea-towel and rest for about an hour.
To make the ravioli
- Dust your bench with some flour and semolina. Take the dough and roll it out in a rectangular shape. Always roll the dough away from you and turn 90 degrees after each roll. This has something to do with making the pasta stronger – similar to how when you use a pasta machine you roll it, fold it, turn it, roll it again.
- Once you have it very thin – so you can see light through it is ideal – fold the dough in half and then open out again.
- On one half brush with a beaten egg then place teaspoons of the ricotta mix in a row about 4cm between each pile.
- Fold the other side over the top and then press down around the filling ensuring you’ve got no air pockets around the filling. Don’t get too worked up about it, when you cut them out you can double check there’s no air pockets.
- Cut them out. Now if you’re going to get all fancy, using a teeny rolling pin or your hands and press the sides of the ravioli until it’s the thickness of the dough covering the filling. I do a half-arsed attempt at this because quite frankly life’s too short.
- If you want to make pretty shapes (ie use a fluted cutter) then go for your life – there’s not meant to be that much pasta around the stuffing but I like that because I’m a heathen, clearly.
- If you’re making them ahead of time, keep them in a container on sheets of baking paper dusted with semolina.
- Bring a pot of water to the boil, salt generously, then drop in the ravioli and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Serve with a simple tomato sauce or butter you’ve melted until it’s nut brown with fresh sage leaves.