Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ravioli Stuffed With Olive Oil: Easier Said Than Stuffed

Fig.1. When cut, the oil in the ravioli releases and mixes with the vin votto in the plate. This recipe is all about the olive oil, so make sure it's a good one.

Much has been touted about olive oil. The benefits of good quality olive oil has advantages both from a nutritional aspect as well as taste; but olive oil conversations and research can lead to confusion. In an effort to keep things simple, I keep two olive oil varieties in my kitchen: one for cooking—which gets heated—and one for finishing— which gets splashed across meat, pasta, soups and salads.
When it comes to olive oils, it helps to speak to an expert. Three questions should be asked: where are the olives from? Is the oil blended? (ask what does the blend consists of) And how are the olives pressed?

First cold pressed olive oil is the best you can buy, some producers in Italy and Spain, however, advocate heating the oil slightly in the belief that it improves flavor. And if a producer is pressing old olives, or pressing fruit that travels long distances, than a 'first cold pressed' label is only there as a marketing tool.
When good quality olive oil is concerned, you don’t always get what you pay for. Again, ask someone who knows. Specialty shops will let you sample before buying. And it’s all right to use different varieties from time to time in an effort to change things up.
Because of the rampant ‘olive oil fraud’ in North America, it pays to speak to an expert and get informed, here are some places in and around Montreal that can help. Specialty grocers are also a good place to get informed about olive oil. (locations in Montreal and Laval)

Les Douceurs du Marche (located in the Atwater Market)

Olive & Epices: 7070, av Henri-Julien, Montréal. 514 271-0001 (Located in the Jean-Talon Market)

Ravioli Ripieni Con Olio di Oliva
Ravioli Stuffed With Olive Oil
Makes about 20 ravioli

I don’t know what I was thinking when I dreamed up this recipe; it would have been easier to win an argument with my wife than make these ravioli. Once I get something in my head however, I need to see it through. If your patience can persevere, these ravioli provide an optimal vehicle to sample how satisfying and important a good quality olive oil truly is.
As with most things I do, I made things complicated when it first came to solidifying the oil, experimenting with everything from gelatin to ground chia seeds. In the end, I was inspired by oil stored in my cold room that had congealed as a result of the frigid temperature.


For the pasta:
20 tbsp (or 1 1/4 cup) good quality, extra-virgin olive oil
200grams (or 1 1/2 cup) 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
3 eggs
1 egg, beaten (this egg will be used to seal the ravioli and is not mixed with the flour.)

For the garnish:
good quality vin cotto or thickened balsamic vinegar (available in Italian specialty shops)
Freshly grated Grana Padano cheese
Sea salt


Pour the olive oil into a bowl and place in the freezer for several hours or overnight.
To make the pasta, mound the flour in the middle of a work surface and make a small crater in the center. Add the eggs to the center of the flour and begin to incorporate the flour and eggs using your fingers or a fork, in a circular motion, until you get a nice even dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, wrap in plastic wrap, and let it rest in the fridge. (This dough needs to be cold or it will melt the oil too quickly.)
Remove the oil from the freezer just before you begin to roll out the pasta. Cut 1/4 of the dough and feed it into a pasta machine. Spin out a thin sheet (not too thin) and lay it on a well floured surface, being careful not to get too much flour on the top of the pasta sheet (the top is where you'll place the olive oil)
Using a spoon. crack off a piece of the frozen olive oil and place on the pasta sheet, making sure to leave space between each piece of oil. Brush some of the beaten egg around the oil pieces, this egg will create a seal which will keep the olive oil, once melted, contained within the pasta. (It's important that the oil not touch the sections of the pasta brushed with the egg.) Fold the top of the pasta over and seal shut, making sure no air pockets remain in the ravioli. Press the edges firmly and cut with a pasta cutter. Place ravioli on a floured cookie sheet and store in the freezer immediately. (don't make all the ravioli before freezing, or the oil will melt. The seal only becomes solid once the egg dries completely.) Repeat with the rest of the pasta.
Once the ravioli are frozen, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook. While the pasta cooks, drizzle some of the vin cotto on the bottom of plate, remove the ravioli from the water with a slotted spoon (be gentle, the ravioli are delicate, and don't worry about oiling the ravioli, some oil will leech out into the boiling water which will prevent the ravioli from sticking to one another.) place the ravioli over the vin cotto, sprinkle with sea salt and grated cheese and eat. Serve with some fresh bread to sop up all of the oil and vinegar left on the plate.

Fig.3. You need to work fast before the oil melts all over the pasta. The oil is frozen.

Fig.4. Brush the edges of the pasta with a beaten egg. This will create a seal strong enough to contain the oil once it cooks.

Fig.5. When you fold the pasta over make sure the brushed egg comes into contact (press the edges together well), and that no air pockets remain in the ravioli. This is tricky because you need to make sure the oil doesn't move around and ruin your egg seal.

Fig.6. Cut with a pasta cutter.

Fig.7. Place on a floured cookie sheet and freeze immediately until ready to cook.

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