Basic ravioli and mezzelune

I started making mezzelune when teaching English through cooking. Thought I had invented the name, and then saw some in Tesco’s a week later. These are finished in the oven – I think it makes for a more delicate mouthful. It’s best to choose only a few ingredients, as on a pizza. But here I am suggesting two different fillings and a sauce. If you think making the ravioli is too fiddly, just roll out the dough in thin rectangles and make lasagne instead.

Ingredients:

  • For the pasta dough: 175g/6oz pasta flour, 2 eggs, a little olive oil, water, salt, pepper and a small bunch of fresh thyme leaves.
  • For the spinach and ricotta filling: half a small tub of ricotta cheese, several large handfuls of spinach leaves, a few spring onions, salt.
  • For the mushroom filling: half a punnet of mushrooms, a few broccoli florets, 50g/20z parmesan cheese, pepper
  • For the creamy tomato sauce: 1 can of chopped tomatoes, 100ml water and the same of white wine, 200ml single cream, fresh basil leaves, pepper, a little olive oil, olives

Method:

  • First put the flour in a bowl and add the eggs, oil and a tiny bit of water. Throw in a handful of finely chopped thyme leaves, some salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir it all together and firm into a ball. Turn out the ball onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Leave to rest.
  • Sauté the spinach with finely sliced onions and a tiny bit of oil. Drain off any excess liquid, then leave to cool. Stir in the ricotta.
  • Sauté the chopped mushrooms and broccoli. When pretty much cooked, leave to cool before stirring in a spoonful or two of coarsely grated parmesan.
  • Put the can of tomatoes, water and wine in a non-stick pan and cook on a low gas until reduced to a paste. (You might want to add a little olive oil and/or a few olives.) When cool, stir in the cream and hope it doesn’t curdle.

Assembly:

Roll the pasta dough out as thin as you can on a floured surface. It might help to roll out the dough in smaller rectangles layered between sheets of baking paper. Pick up the rectangles and stretch them too.

When it is as thin as you can get, cut out circles from the dough sheet. For each circle, pick it up and gently stretch the edges to make the circle even larger. If it tears just press together and keep going. Then, holding the circle either in your palm or flat on a surface, put a teaspoon of filling slightly off centre, fold the other side over, nearly but not quite to the edge and crimp with a fork. This is a mezzaluna. Alternately, put two teaspoonfuls of filling in the centre, cover with another pasta disc and tuck it around the filling, then crimp to make a raviolo.

Put a pan of salted water to boil and, in very small batches of five or so, immerse the pasta in the boiling water. After just a few seconds they pop up and can be scooped out and set aside. And you can trim the edges if you want perfection but I never do.

Finally, loosely fill a baking dish with the mezzelune/ravioli. Pour over the tomato sauce (and any leftover cheese/ filling if you don’t mind a messy look) . Put in a medium oven for about 20 minutes. Take out when quietly bubbling, scatter on some basil leaves and serve. Good with a green salad.

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