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Missy Robbins makes ricotta-and-mozzarella-filled ravioli with egg pasta dough from scratch, served in a simple, everyday tomato sauce.
"I'll say this straightaway, right from the top: This is probably my favorite recipe in the book. How much of this is colored by nostalgia—the memory of my mom bringing back boxes of fresh ravioli from our go-to New Haven pasta shop, the religious experience (before I had a way of describing it as such) of eating cheese-stuffed pasta for the first time—is hard to say. But let's be honest, for everyone with a pulse, of Italian descent or not, ravioli red sauce is as much about the thing itself as it is about how it makes you feel. It's filled with more than just ricotta and mozzarella; in there, too, is a collective understanding of comfort food. And if you asked me to take my pick from the holy trinity of red sauce—spaghetti and meatballs, baked ziti, and ravioli red sauce—I'd pick ravioli red sauce every time." —Missy Robbins, chef of Lilia and Misi in NYC
Pro Tips from Missy: The simplicity of this dish appeals to me now more than ever, at least partly because it lays its ingredients bare. To that end, you want to use the best mozzarella, ricotta, and San Marzano tomatoes you can find. Texture is also very important here. While it might seem fussy to pass your ricotta through a tamis, don't skip it; it will make for a more even, creamier filling.
Adapted from Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of Italy's Greatest Food by Missy Robbins and Talia Baiocchi. Copyright © 2021 by Missy Robbins and Talia Baiocchi. Used with permission by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.
For more recipes by Missy Robbins, check out Fettuccine with Buffalo Butter, Parmigiano and Black Pepper and Chicken Soup with Ricotta Dumplings.
- 500 grams (17.6 ounces) "00" flour (a finely ground type used for making pasta and bread), plus more for kneading
- 454 grams (24 to 26) egg yolks
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- Dried red chili flakes
- Three 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 3 cups ricotta
- 1 small ball fresh mozzarella (3 ounces), diced into ¼-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 3 tablespoons finely grated pecorino romano
- Black pepper
- 1 batch Fresh Egg Pasta Dough
- "00" flour, for dusting
- Semolina, for dusting
- 2 cups Simple Red Sauce
- Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Finely grated pecorino romano
- Dried red chili flakes
For the fresh egg pasta dough, place the flour on a wooden work surface and create a barricade with a center sanctuary for your yolks that is 5 to 6 inches in diameter but not more. If you create too much space, your barricade won't be strong enough to hold the yolks as you begin to incorporate the flour. To avoid any additional risk to your barricade, mix, but do not beat, your yolks before adding them to the well.
Kick off by adding half of the yolks to the well and use a fork to incorporate the inner layer of flour, stirring in a continuous motion around the circumference to combine. Continue adding the rest of the yolks, incorporating the flour as you go. If you bust through your barricade, not to worry. Use your bench scraper to catch the egg mixture and fold it back into the flour, doing this at every edge until you have a mixture that is thick enough to contain itself. Set your tools aside, roll up your sleeves, and get to work kneading. The dough will be sticky at first, so as you work it, continue to remove the dough that clings to your hands and return it to the mass.
The dough will begin to firm up as the gluten is activated by kneading, but if it feels a touch too dry and is not integrating (this can happen when the environment is drier, such as during the winter or when you're working in an arid climate), add about 1 tablespoon room-temperature water to loosen it. The kneading motion is simple, but it does take some time to get the rhythm right. You essentially want to fold the dough in on itself, pressing down and away from your body with the heel of your dominant hand, relying on the weight of your body to do so. (You can hold the edge of the dough closest to you with your other hand to keep it in place as you stretch it away from you.)
Rotate it 180 degrees, fold, and press again. Repeat this rotating, folding, and pressing motion until the dough is smooth and relatively firm to the touch, 8 to 10 minutes. Use your bench scraper to clean off any pieces of dough that clump and stick as you're kneading. Lightly dust the board with flour if needed; be careful not to add too much, as it will dry out the dough.
When properly kneaded, the dough should resemble the texture of Play-Doh and should spring back just slightly when poked. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set it aside for a least 30 minutes. This allows the dough to become more pliable. If you are not forming pasta until the evening or the next day, place the dough in the refrigerator and remove it 20 minutes before you plan to roll it out so it returns to room temperature. Makes 1 batch. Use the dough within 24 hours.
For the simple red sauce, place a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over low heat, add the oil and garlic and cook gently until aromatic and without color, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the chili flakes.
Add the tomatoes and their juice and cook over low heat until the flavors are well blended, 25 to 30 minutes. You are not looking to reduce the mixture, just to bring the flavors together. Season with salt.
Set aside off the heat until ready to use, or let cool, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 1 month for another use. Makes 9 cups.
For the ravioli filling, place a tamis or fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Pass the ricotta through the tamis.
Add the mozzarella, Parmigiano, and pecorino to the bowl and fold to mix. Season with pepper and salt. It should taste well-seasoned. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To finish, roll out the egg dough, then make 50 to 60 square pieces with the filling using the following methods.
The rolling and sheeting instructions that follow assume that you’re using a manual sheeter. If you're working with the KitchenAid attachment or another motorized sheeter, more power to you. It will undoubtedly make your life easier, and the instructions that follow will be more detailed than necessary, though they will still apply. I do recommend, however, starting with a manual sheeter, as it will help you learn to make decisions based on feel rather than prescription. For instance, cranking by hand assists you in determining, by the tension in the handle, whether your dough sheet needs to go through the same setting again (and again) or if it's ready to go down (or up) one.
To start, cut your dough into quarters so you're working with smaller, more manageable pieces. Begin with one piece and cover the remaining pieces with the plastic wrap. Dust your board and rolling pin with a bit of 00 flour. Roll the dough out to an oval ¼ to ½ inch thick and about 8 inches long. You want it to be thin enough to fit through the widest setting on the sheeter, but not so wide that it doesn’t have room to expand widthwise as it's fed through.
Feed the dough through once, cranking with your dominant hand while you very gently lead the dough through with your nondominant hand. Then fold the dough into thirds by bringing one end to the middle and then the other end over the top as if folding a business letter. Lightly press on top to seal and then feed one narrow end of the dough through the sheeter again. What you're doing at this point is essentially re-kneading the dough and making sure there is no extra air in it.
Repeat the fold and feed at least three times, until the dough is smooth and uniform. Decrease the setting on your sheeter (to "5" on the Imperia Model 150 or "2" on the KitchenAid) and feed the dough through again. At this point, the sheet will be long enough to be a bit unwieldy to work with. You can return it to your floured board, cut it in half and work with only one length at a time, covering the length(s) not in use with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. The shape you intend to make will determine how thin you sheet the dough from this point.
Don't be afraid to pause and adjust or to cut your sheet in half if it becomes a bit unwieldy to work with. (Just cover the half you've set aside with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap.) The dance between cranking the machine and feeding the dough through on one end while catching it on the other is not second nature—indeed, it's a job better suited to three hands than two. It will be awkward at first, and you will certainly turn out more than a couple of unseemly sheets. You can always fold the sheet in half and feed it through again to even it out.
Continue this process until you've achieved the desired thickness for the shape you intend to make (with Imperia, "2" setting, passed through 3 times; with KitchenAid, "6" setting, passed through 3 times). As you work, your sheet may become tacky and require a light dusting of 00 flour; be careful not to add too much or you'll end up with a sheet that's too dry.
Lightly dust with 00 flour and transfer to a parchment-lined sheet tray, layering parchment between each sheet to ensure they do not stick together. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and repeat the process until you have sheeted your full batch of dough.
Lightly dust a wooden work surface with 00 flour. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly dust with semolina. Lay your sheet(s) of pasta on the work surface. Use a knife to cut 18-inch-long sheets, removing the scraps from the unclean edges (save them for soup). Cover the sheets with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel.
Place one pasta sheet on your work surface. Spoon the filling into a pastry bag. Cut a 1-inch hole in the tip of your pastry bag and pipe small circles of filling about 1 ½ inches wide and ½ inch high evenly across your sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
Evaluate your dough. If it feels moderately tacky, you can eliminate this next step. If the pasta feels a bit dry, hold a spray bottle filled with water 8 to 10 inches above the work surface and spray the pasta. This will enable the second sheet to stick.
Lay a second sheet of pasta gently over the first, making sure the edges line up and there aren’t any wrinkles. Using your two index fingers, gently press around each dollop of filling to express any air pockets. For extra insurance, flip a #30 (1 ⅛-inch) plain round cutter to the dull side and gently press over each dollop to express any excess air.
For square ravioli, use a fluted pastry cutter or fluted dough divider to cut the ravioli into 2 ½-inch squares. You can also use a 2 ½-inch fluted square cutter to the same effect. After you have pressed down, gently move the cutter clockwise while still pressing to ensure a full cut. Gently remove the scraps surrounding the ravioli by lifting the sheets from one end. Discard the excess dough or reserve for use in soup.
Place the finished pasta on the prepared sheet pan in a single layer. Give the pan an extra dusting of semolina to prevent sticking. Repeat with the remaining sheets. Place in the refrigerator uncovered (if they are covered, they will sweat and become too wet) to dry for 45 minutes to 1 hour. If not using right away, remove from the refrigerator, loosely cover the sheet pan with plastic wrap, and return to the refrigerator for up to 8 hours.
When you're ready to cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water.
Place a large saute pan over low heat. Add the red sauce. If needed, add a splash of pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce.
Add the ravioli to the water and turn down the heat to bring the water to a gentle simmer instead of a rolling boil. It is important to cook these gently at a simmer instead of a boil. The filling is delicate and the ravioli can break if cooked over high heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender at the thickest closure point.
Using a spider or pasta basket, remove the ravioli from the pot and transfer to the saute pan. Turn up the heat to medium. Swirl the ravioli in the sauce for 30 seconds to 1 minute to marry, using a spoon to gently turn them over and coat all sides. If the sauce begins to tighten, add a splash of pasta cooking water to loosen and continue swirling to marry.
Transfer to a serving platter or divide among plates. Garnish with Parmigiano and pecorino. Finish with chili flakes.