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|PANTRY RAVIOLI OR LASAGNA|
Here is a recipe for when you can't or don't want to leave home; or for those times when you have a leisurely afternoon to spend in the kitchen and you don't want to waste it shopping for ingredients. Making ravioli by hand is a time consuming process, but the results can be well worth it when you compare your own economical and wonderfully rich ravioli with the cardboard-like commercial product found in stores.
These can be made from simple ingredients commonly stored on the shelf. But if you're on your way to the store anyway, pick up fresh ingredients, such as full milk ricotta to use in the filling, as well as fresh herbs. The same recipe can be used, either way, by skipping the cottage cheese-making step below.
Home-made cottage (or Ricotta cheese - for filling):
1 gallon reconstituted dry milk
1/2 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Prepare the filling for ravioli by creating a made-at-home ricotta cheese substitute.
Using a thermometer, heat the milk until it reaches a temperature of 190°F. If no thermometer is available, judge the temperature approximately by bringing the milk to a near boil, then removing from heat.
Stir in the vinegar, then allow the milk to sit until it has reached room temperature.
The milk will separate into curds and whey (coagulated cheese in water). Scoop the curds into a colander and drain off the whey. Sprinkle with salt. (Save the whey - it can be used as a substitute for buttermilk to make tender biscuits or other baked goods). Cream and butter may optionally be added to the curds for a richer texture. The curds have now become cottage cheese and are ready to be used in the filling.
Measure out 4-5 cups of the cottage cheese. Season it with cracked black pepper, chopped fresh or dry parsley (about 1/4 cup) or use the same amount of thawed frozen or chopped fresh spinach to combine with the cheese.
A 1/4 teaspoon each of basil and oregano, and 1/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese along with 2 whole eggs (dry whole eggs or egg substitutes can be used in a pinch). Add a dash of nutmeg, if desired.
Mix well to distribute seasonings. Tiny bits of thinly sliced and shredded prosciutto can be added for variation. Any leftover filling may be combined with shredded Mozzarella cheese and used to fill calzone or pizzagaina.
Pasta Dough and Assembling the Ravioli:
Prepare the recipe above for the pasta dough, as directed. Thinly roll out dough in rectangles, then use a ravioli mold (if you want to make 12 ravioli at a time) or round ravioli can be cut using a sharp glass or biscuit cutter.
Another method is to cut multiple squares at a time using a pizza wheel or pasty cutter (or sharp knife!) A wavy pie cutter makes a nice decorative edge when used to make the cuts, otherwise, a pizza wheel makes a nice sharp and efficient cut.
Roll dough to 1/8" thickness or less, evenly. This is best done using a pasta machine, but can be accomplished with a rolling pin.
Make 2 rectangular dough sheets about 12 inches long by 6 inches wide. This is the ideal size for most ravioli tray, but if you don't have one, make them the old-fashioned way! Place scoops of filling on top of the first dough sheet at intervals about 2 inches apart. Top with the second sheet of dough, covering the filling gently, then cut the ravioli out by slicing between the filling "pillows" to yield individual pockets.
If you're making circular ravioli, you can sandwich the filling between two layers of pasta, then cut circles around the filling mounds using a cup or a special ravioli cutter, available at kitchen supply shops. Or simply cut a single circle, add filling to one side, then fold over and seal, to make half circles.
Be careful not to drop any filling onto the edges of the ravioli or you won't get a good seal. It's also important to make sure that the edges are well pressed together so that the filling doesn't fall out when the ravioli are boiled. If in doubt, the edges can be pressed together with the tines of a fork.
Cook the ravioli in a large quantity of rapidly boiling salted water. Drop them gently into the water and watch carefully, as fresh pasta cooks quickly. When the ravioli is cooked, it will rise to the surface. Remove using a slotted spoon or drain in a colander. Serve with a rich, simple, pasta sauce.
Variation - Lasagna:
As a variation, the same ingredients may be used to create a lasagna.
Just spread the first pasta sheet at the bottom of a rectangular ovenproof casserole dish. Add a layer of filling, then cover with pasta sauce. Sprinkle with a small amount of grated Parmesan and add a sprig of fresh basil in the center, if desired.
If you have some ground beef or spinach, this can constitute another layer, but is purely optional. Spinach can be combined with a thick white sauce or bechamel and poured into the center layer. Sliced, boiled eggs can be added to the white sauce and spinach layer.
Optionally, sprinkle in some Mozzarella or Parmesan cheese, then repeat again with more pasta, filling, and sauce, cheese, etc until all ingredients are used, or lasagna dish is filled to within 1/2 inch of top. Cover with aluminum foil. To avoid oven spills, consider placing the dish on a baking sheet.
Bake at 375°F for 50 minutes or so, depending on the quantity you've made. Larger lasagnas will require longer cooking times to set.
During the final 15 minutes of cooking time, remove foil and spread a new layer of sauce over all, so that edges won't crisp.
Remove from oven and let sit for 25-30 minutes before cutting into squares.
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