Happy Mother’s Day Weekend ~ Fresh Asparagus, Pine Nut and Tarragon Ravioli

To celebrate Mother’s Day weekend this year, my mom came up for a visit filled with the things we love to do together! Things like shopping at some of our favorite stores, taking a cooking class, and enjoying this fresh ravioli for dinner.

I have recently learned that fresh pasta is actually amazingly easy, and it feels so much more special than dried. It is a little time consuming, but it freezes beautifully, so you can make it on a night when you have time and enjoy it whenever you’d like.

This dish was based on a recipe from one of Sur La Table’s cooking classes. They offer many fresh pasta classes that have really demystified the process for me. The original dish was tossed in a mushroom cream sauce, but I simply tossed the finished ravioli in a little bit of melted Earth Balance buttery spread and sprinkled them with fresh tarragon. I also used less vinegar than called for. Just add the filling ingredients to your taste, and sample as you go before you fill the ravioli.

Fresh Pasta Dough

Yield: 4 servings

2 1/2 cups (12 ounces) all-purpose flour or “00” flour, plus more for dusting

1 tablespoon kosher salt

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (optional)

Place flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Make a “well” in the center of the flour mixture and add eggs and oil, if using. Using your fingers, blend the eggs into the flour mixture, stirring the flour in from the sides of the well and working outwards. When the pasta dough is thoroughly mixed, turn it out on a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until it is smooth and flexible but not sticky, about 5 to 10 minutes, adding small amounts of flour as needed. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Cover in plastic wrap and allow dough to rest for at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour at room temperature.

To roll dough, secure a pasta machine to the edge of a long countertop. Using a bench scraper, cut dough into thirds. Keep extra dough covered in plastic while working with one piece. Flatten the piece of dough into a rough square that will fit inside the width of the pasta machine. Place the rollers on the widest setting and roll the dough through the machine, catching it with one hand as you roll with the other. Take the dough and fold into thirds towards the center of the dough. Turn the dough so one open end faces the machine and roll it through on the widest setting again. Fold, turn, and roll once more on the widest setting. Continue rolling the pasta through machine without folding, adjusting the rollers to the next smallest setting each time, until the desired thickness is reached. If the pasta sheet becomes too large to handle, use a bench scraper to cut it into more manageable lengths and continue rolling until pasta is less than 1/16-inch thick.

(This whole process can also be done with a rolling pin. It takes some muscle, but it works really well).

Asparagus, Pine Nut and Tarragon Ravioli

Yield: 4 servings

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 large bunch tarragon, washed and dried, stems removed

1/2 pound asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths, blanched and cooled

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, plus more as needed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 recipe Fresh Pasta Dough

To prepare filling, place garlic, pine nuts, tarragon, and asparagus pieces in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to a rough chop. Add 1/3 cup olive oil in a steady steam and process to a smooth paste. Stop motor and add cheese and vinegar, stirring by hand to combine. Taste and season with salt, pepper and more vinegar as needed. Set aside.

Place pasta sheets on a lightly floured work surface. Place tablespoons of filling in rows down the length of the pasta sheet, leaving at least 2 inches of space around each tablespoon of filling. Using a pastry brush, moisten the surface of the pasta around the filling with water or egg wash. Place a similarly sized pasta sheet on top of the filling, gently pressing to seal the pasta around the filling without creating air pockets inside the ravioli. Cut the ravioli using a cookie cutter, a ravioli stamp, a pizza wheel, or a ravioli maker. Place ravioli on a rimmed baking sheet lightly coated with flour. Dust the tops of the ravioli with flour and cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel. The filled ravioli can be cooked immediately or covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 hour before cooking.

To cook ravioli, heat a large pot over high heat until boiling. Add enough kosher salt to season the water like seawater. While salted water boils vigorously, add ravioli and stir immediately to prevent them from sticking. Boil until ravioli are al dente, about 4 to 5 minutes. Reserve about 1/4 cup pasta water and drain ravioli through a colander. Alternately, remove the cooked ravioli with a slotted spoon or spider and reheat water to boiling before cooking another batch.

Toss hot ravioli with your sauce of choice, using the reserved pasta water to thin the mixture as needed. Garnish as desired and serve immediately.

(If you decide to freeze your ravioli, don’t thaw them before placing in boiling water. They will just take about a minute or two longer than room temperature dough to thaw and cook).

I hope you’ll give these a try for a spring dinner! 🙂

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