I Tried To Give You New Ravioli, But I Failed

Overseeing school dinners very many years ago in an unnamed establishment outwith Edinburgh,  L asked what the day's veg was. Ravioli, came the reply. In our enjoyment of pasta in Britain we've come a long way since then, but when it comes to the stuffed stuff, we're still a long way behind the home country. Shop bought can be OK, but for the best results make your own. Trust me, it's easier than you might think.

It's four years since Tom Cooks! first featured this, in Home Made Pasta Part 1 and Part 2. If you haven't made filled pasta before, go back to these two articles. The first tells you how to make the pasta itself:  the second refers to ravioli and the like.

I decided that, back from Italy, I could help us advance the cause. But I encountered a problem.

The classics are so called for a reason. Spinach and ricotta, sage butter, cheese and pepper. Always reliable, never out of fashion. In today's Tom Eats! I rhapsodise about a dish of capellacci (literally bad hats) stuffed with braised beef and served with mushrooms and a red wine reduction. And in Rome you're never far from oxtail, a classic going back to the days when abbatoir workers would be paid partly in offal.

We want to move on, I hear you cry. To which I respond, walk before you can run. Try some of the versions from four years ago. I still haven't made the one containing a whole egg yolk. But what I wanted to do today was to give you some new ideas. Asparagus, for example. The simplest way would be to season a ricotta stuffing with lemon, nutmeg and pepper. Steam some asparagus and cut into small pieces. Serve on top of the ravioli with some butter, with or without sage.

That's fine, but what next? Well, I did some researching.

I'm still shaking my head at one of the more outrageous filling recipes which I found. This one requires you to take a bunch of wild asparagus, five (yes five) eggs, 50g butter and a bunch of rocket. You cook and dice the asparagus and mix everything together. This, we are told, is enough to serve four. What planet are you on, Carlo Brovelli?

Don't worry, there's more.

I'm working my way onwards through the definitive book on Italian cooking, Il Cucchiaio d'Argento (The Silver Spoon). It contains a lot of the material for the Part 1 and Part 2 articles. The last 80 pages of the book contain menus from celebrated chefs, some of whom are well known to us. From the UK, Giorgio Locatelli, Aldo Zilli, and Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. All good, eh?

Here's one you might like, I thought. Fish Ravioli with Shellfish by Fulvio Pierangelini. Once again, for four people. A quick skim through the ingredients.

A kilo of skate; a litre of fish stock; 1 medium cuttlefish; 1 small octopus. 20 prawns and 10 mussels.

For four. That's it! I quit. I really, really wanted to help everyone to up the game, but I failed. Sorry. Instead, go back to the recipes from four years ago and consider delights such as stuffings made of, say, crab with mascarpone; minced prawns with a bisque made from the shells; lamb shank; braised beef, or just good old fashioned ricotta and spinach. I really did try for a bit of progress, but sometimes you have to face facts.

Nonna knew best.


  1. Michael Greenlaw on 26th April 2024 at 8:53 pm

    A joyous article to read Tom, thanks.
    Any advice on a carbohydrate-free pasta?

    • Tom Johnston on 27th April 2024 at 9:35 am

      Sadly, no.

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