That, my friends, is cold.
No, actually, that is frigid.
That being said, it was not enough to stop my friend Caroline and I from making the trek to Eastern Market on the Southeast side of the Capitol to gather fresh ingredients for our culinary project: Ravioli stuffed with pears and pecorino cheese.
We were first introduced to this pasta pairing at Quattro Leoni – a restaurant located in the Oltrarno in Florence where one can feast on purses of pasta in a light asparagus cream sauce. Quattro Leoni was the first restaurant to which we went upon arriving in Florence last January, after our first day of an Italian prep program during study abroad. The city was also incredibly chilly that day, and I think that Caroline would agree that the combination of pears and pecorino was comforting both on that first, intimidating, day in Italia and on this blustery, nostalgia-filled day in D.C.
We opted to use the same recipe from my last pasta endeavor—that of Lidia Bastianich—for today’s feast. Unlike last time, however, we stopped short of running the dough through the very last setting on my pasta machine and decided to stop after the second-to-last setting, meaning the dough was still thin enough to see the outline of one’s hand, but sturdy enough to withstand the weight of the filling. We also chose to follow the advice of my Italian host father, Paolo, and use semolina flour to dust our work surface and the finished ravioli to prevent sticking. The slightly coarse texture of the semolina was perfect for keeping the dough from sticking to the surface of my counter, and the slightly thicker sheets of pasta made sealing the ravioli a far less precarious process. I think that’s what I love most about cooking – you learn something new every time you make something.
I actually wound up liking this dish better than the spinach and ricotta ravioli that I wrote about last time. The saltiness of the pecorino just pairs so nicely with the sweetness of the Bosc pears, and it didn’t hurt that we knew exactly from where the fruit came! I love supporting local farmers and sustainable produce, and starting our day at Eastern Market definitely made this dish extra special. I suppose that I am also biased due to the memories from Florence, but I like to think its just because this dish was incredibly satisfying and that I had wonderful help in the kitchen!
Pear & Pecorino Ravioli
Note: We actually had the opposite problem that I had last time: too much filling and not enough pasta. I think this is a result of making the dough a bit thicker and that the ingredients for our filling also did not wilt the way spinach does. As per usual, I’ve adjusted the ingredients for what I presume would be the perfect amount of filling. The only change I would make is possibly adding a bit of nutmeg to the filling. We also did not add any extra salt to the filling, as the pecorino is pretty salty on its own.
For the pasta
- 4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon EVOO
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large or 3 medium Bosc pears, grated on the largest holes of a grater
- 3/4 pound of grated pecorino
- 3 tablespoons marscapone
- 3 tablespoons ricotta
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- Pepper to taste
For the sauce:
- 3-4 tablespoons EVOO
- 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup of fresh basil leaves
- First, make your pasta: on your countertop, make a well with the flour, reserving 1/4 of a cup. In the center, put the six eggs, olive oil and salt.
Whisk those together to combine, then, with a fork, begin incorporating the flour, being careful not to break the wall until the eggs are no longer runny. Once you are certain the eggs will not run all over the countertop, you can begin using your hands to break the walls of the well and incorporate the remaining flour. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle some of the reserved 1/4 of a cup of flour and continue kneading until you have a fairly smooth and elastic dough. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.
- For the filling: Combine the pears and pecorino, then add in your marscapone and ricotta cheeses. You may need to add in another spoonful of each if the filling looks too dry. Add in the sage and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Assemble the pasta: After the dough has rested, cut the dough into sixths and roll each piece through the pasta machine: once through the widest setting, then, fold into thirds, and roll through again. Repeat for the next widest setting, then, proceed to roll through once for subsequent settings, stopping after the second thinnest setting.
- Place the sheets on a countertop sprinkled with semolina flour. Place tablespoons of filling, 1.5 inches apart on the top half of the sheet of dough, leaving a 1/4 inch border. Fold over the bottom half, then use a knife or pizza cutter to trim all of your edges and separate the ravioli. Use a fork to seal the edges since the filling is pretty heavy.
- Spread out the ravioli on a semolina-dusted baking sheet until you’ve assembled all of the ravioli and you are ready to cook them.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil 6-10 ravioli at a time, removing with a slotted spoon after 2-3 minutes and immediately tossing with olive oil to prevent sticking.
- For the sauce: in a large pan, combine your EVOO and butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add in your basil and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the ravioli to the pan and toss to coat.
- Serve immediately with a sprinkling of pecorino.
A quick note: If anyone has any suggestion for interesting ravioli fillings, feel free to leave a comment below. I am always open to new suggestions and will try almost everything (as long as it doesn’t break the bank!).