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Pasta night

Chief sub-editor Laura Venuto attempts 'The Silver Spoon's' Ravioli Napoletana.

Pasta night

Our great pasta adventure was not off to a
good start. “They’ve run out of ‘00’ flour,” said my partner from the
grocery store. I had never made pasta with plain flour before but I had
promised my niece, who was visiting from Queensland with my sister, that
we would make fresh pasta together so I decided we’d still give it a go
and prayed for the best.

I don’t get the chance to entertain
often so decided it was time to dust off my copy of The Silver Spoon –
the ultimate classic Italian cookbook. After a quick flick through, we
settled on the Ravioli Napoletana. My first choice of Pumpkin Tortelli
with burnt butter and sage sauce was met with a grimace from my
seven-year-old niece, Emma (pumpkin is apparently quite gross), so we
opted for the one filled with cheese and ham instead.

Making
dough sounds straightforward enough: “Make a well in the flour and add
the eggs. Using your fingers, gradually incorporate the flour”… well, it
took fingers, palms, hands and almost elbows to get the two combined
once the egg broke free from the flour well, but thankfully I managed to
avoid eggy toes in the nick of time.

After facing down the
challenge of turning the un-kneadably dry and crumbly dough into a
smooth, elastic mound (by adding an extra half an egg), we moved on to
the filling, which couldn’t have been easier, combining fresh ricotta
with ham off the bone, parsley and mozzarella cubes.

Soon
Emma was ‘karate chopping’ between each pillow of filled pasta (rolled
flat with the trusty pasta machine from setting 1 through to 7) to mark
out each ravioli and remove excess air, which prevents them from
exploding when cooking – a technique I’d been taught (albeit not by that
name) by Luciana Sampogna at a Cucina Italiana cooking class
(cucinaitaliana.com.au).

We served the pasta with a dollop of
Napoletana sauce because, unlike dried pasta, the taste of fresh pasta
is worth savouring. The mozzarella was a fantastic addition in the
filling, creating long melted strings as we cut into each pillow. And
the plain flour substituted just fine – I couldn’t notice any difference
in texture to previous times I have made pasta. All in all, it was
messy, fun, delicious and I’d definitely make it again. 

– Laura Venuto

THE SILVER SPOON (Phaidon, $70)

THE SUNDAY COOK LOWDOWN:

Ingredients:

Easy. Plain flour substitutes for 00 if you can’t find it, and that’s the most difficult thing on the list.

Cooking time:

Started cooking: 5.30pm

Plated up: 7.30pm

Not one for after work. Definitely a lazy Saturday or Sunday needed.

Skill level:

Easy/Intermediate.
While there’s nothing overly tricky in here, the book does assume a
certain amount of knowledge, especially with the different pasta shapes.
But this particular recipe is not bad for pasta novices because the
filling doesn’t require anything other than chopping and mixing, and the
sauce is also extremely simple, so you can focus your time and energy
on getting the pasta right.

Presentation:

Impressive
yet easy. If you take the time to make evenly sized ravioli, this one is
sure to have your family and friends rather impressed at your
cleverness.

Serving size:

Italians don’t generally eat
pasta as a main so the recipe is listed in primi piatti (starters). It
said it served six as an entree so we figured it would be enough for
three adults and a child as a main, and it was, but only just!

Entertaining:

Fresh
pasta is perfect for entertaining as it allows you to make the pasta
before guests arrive. You can then set the ravioli aside on floured tea
towels and simply drop them into the water and warm up the Napoletana
sauce once guests are seated, meaning you won’t be stuck in the kitchen
while everyone else mingles. 

Participation:

Perfect
for getting the kids involved. After all, the bulk of the cooking is a
bit like playing with edible playdough – from kneading to filling to
cutting out the pillows.

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