In the cookery course which I teach, this week’s class featured bread and pasta, the theme being dough and what to do with it. I don’t make a lot of fresh pasta, so I dug out the machine and had a wee practice. Truth be told, for staples such as spaghetti dishes I prefer the dried stuff. Where fresh comes into its own is in the making of ravioli. When I were t’lad, ravioli came in a tin, a sweet tomato sauce bathing little parcels containing something which may once have been meat. We didn’t let the exotic foreign name fool us – you can usually tell when you’re in the presence of something ordinary. Scotland being Scotland, I have on more than one occasion seen ravioli listed on a menu as a vegetable. (Unlike lasagne, of course, which would be served with garlic bread and chips on the side.)
The real thing can be sublime. This is a good example. Ravioli are often served with a buttery sauce. This version is quite creamy with the mascarpone, so that wouldn’t work so well. To make your pasta, blitz the flour and eggs in a blender. Tip out on to a board (wooden is the purists’ preferred option), form the dough, and knead for a few minutes. Leave to one side at room temperature, wrapped in clingfilm.
Ingredients (will make about 10 – 12 ravioli 10cm wide)
For the ravioli
Fresh pasta, made with 200g 00 flour and two eggs; 150g white crabmeat; 150g mascarpone; zest of 1 lemon; small handful chopped parsley; pinch cayenne pepper or a few drops of Tabasco (optional); black pepper.
For the bisque
1 shallot, chopped; about 100 – 200g prawn shells, coarsely chopped; 2 tbsp olive oil; 1 tsp fennel seeds; about 75 ml brandy (cooking brandy, please, not the good stuff); 1 tbsp tomato purée; about 300 ml water; fish sauce, pepper; double cream (optional).
Make the bisque first. Soften the shallot over a gentle heat in the oil, in a frying pan large enough to hold the shells. Sprinkle the fennel seeds in, and mix well. When the shallot has softened, turn the heat up to medium, add the shells to the pan and shake around for a couple of minutes. Add the brandy. Either flambé it or bubble at high heat to burn off the alcohol. Stir in the tomato purée, add some of the water and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Adjust the liquid up or down to get to the consistency you want, and check the seasoning. If using, add the cream at the last minute. Personally, I wouldn’t use cream in this recipe, because of the mascarpone.
To make the filling, simply mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Check the seasoning. Roll out the pasta in the usual way, and cut into rounds about 10cm across. Make the ravioli, resisting the temptation to overfill. Use water to seal the edges, and try to eliminate any air pockets. Dust with plenty of flour to prevent them sticking.
Cook the ravioli in a pan of simmering water for three minutes, drain well and serve in a bowl with a helping of the bisque. Top with chopped chives or the green part of spring onions, very finely sliced.