This decadent egg pasta dish is a complete triumph if you get it right – with a little care it is easier than one might expect. The crucial thing is to keep the whole egg yolks intact, but it is also essential not to overcook the ravioli as the whole point is that the yolk is the sauce so it must not be cooked through. The effect of cutting into the ravioli so the yolk oozes over the pasta is always going to be impressive.
Makes 6 large ravioli, serves 6 as a starter or 2 as a decadent main course.
For the pasta:
200g ‘oo’ flour
2 fresh eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
For the filling:
50g finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
200g baby leaf spinach
Zest of ½ a lemon
A sprinkle of fresh nutmeg
Small handful of fresh thyme
6 fresh eggs, room temperature
6 tbsp butter, melted
Freshly Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to serve
Salt and pepper
- To make the ravioli make sheets of pasta as you would for lasagne, as thin as possible. A pasta maker is really the way to go here as you need the sheets very thin.
- Place the flour, eggs and salt into a food processor and blitz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs – about 30 seconds – then slowly add the oil and whizz for 15 seconds more.
- Carefully tip the mixture onto a floured board and knead for 2-3 minutes, then wrap in cling film for 30 minutes and refrigerate.
- Blanch the spinach and immediately plunge into cold water, then drain and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Rolling in a clean tea towel works well – make sure as little moisture as possible remains.
- Finely chop the spinach – it’s surprising how little remains compared to the big pile you started with.
- Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl – the ricotta, chopped spinach, grated Parmigiano, spinach, lemon zest, nutmeg and thyme. Give it all a good crunch of ground pepper and a little sea salt, then leave to one side.
7. Roll the pasta dough onto a floured board until thin enough to pass through the widest setting of the machine. Fold in two and repeat. Do this 6 times – you will notice the pasta becoming smoother each time. Then adjust the setting so it is one click narrower and pass the pasta through the machine. Repeat on the next setting and continue until it is at the thinnest setting. An occasional dust of oo flour helps stop the dough sticking. Your pasta will now be very thin and you will need to cut it into smaller sheets as one very long sheet isn’t easy to work with, but make sure they are the same length. You will need to dust them again with more oo flour as you go as otherwise they will stick to wherever you place them – a good surface area is key as the sheets take up some space!
8. Assemble the ravioli. Place a small amount of filling – about a tablespoon – about an inch in from the side of the pasta and then continue placing small blobs of filling making sure they are 4 inches apart.
9. Using a spoon make a small well in the centre of each pile of the ricotta mix. You will need to use great care when doing this next bit! Crack each egg and separate so you have just the yolk without any bits of white attached. We use a tablespoon and a small bowl, plus immense patience! Place the yolk into the well you have made in the ricotta. Carefully cover your sheet of pasta with the filling and yolk with a second sheet – very carefully so as not to break the yolk. Once this sheet is in place steadily seal the gap between the piles of filling and then on the outside, taking care not to include any air bubbles as these will expand on cooking and burst the ravioli. Using a sharp knife or pasta cutting wheel cut the ravioli into individual pieces.
10. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Very gently lower the ravioli into the water one at a time with a slotted spoon and cook for two minutes only.
11. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sauté pan. When the ravioli are cooked, gently remove them from the water with a slotted spoon, drain very carefully, and serve each one on a small plate as a starter, or pile the 3 gently together if you are making a main course. Drizzle with the melted butter. generously sprinkle with grated Parmigiano and season with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.
A wine match is a challenge here as eggs and wine are often a tricky combination. An oaked Chardonnay (such as De Wetshof Lesca Chardonnay) or Semillon (Rockford’s ‘Local Grower’s Semillon) is good, and a good dry Riesling (Dr Loosen’s Dry Slate Riesling was a fine match) also works well, but for an unexpected and decadent twist serve this egg yolk pasta with a glass of fine Oloroso sherry (such as Hidalgo’s ‘Faraon’ or Fernando de Castilla’s ‘Antique’ Oloroso). On a recent visit to Jerez we learned that Oloroso is just about the best possible partner for runny egg yolk – it succeeds in spectacular fashion whereas so many wines just can’t cope!