Last night Molly, Aviva, John and I invited over our friends Ben, James, and Ken (Ken just started culinary school at CHIC, I'm jealous) to make ravioli. This was my first time ever making homemade pasta and it was great. We borrowed a pasta machine from John's mother and we based much of the recipes and techniques on the excellent stuffed pastas tutorial at eGullet.
I went directly home after work to start making the dough. I followed the above recipe exactly and I made four batches (I know, I know, we'll get to that). This dough was much more dense than bread dough and my body was becoming quite annoyed with me when James kindly offered to knead the last batch. It really doesn't seem like it is going to smooth out and become less chalky for most of the kneading process. But, if you persevere I promise it actually does come together, don't add water!
We then started on the fillings. I believe we ended up making a spinach, ricotta, and garlic filling. An apple, lemon juice, walnut, and gorgonzola filling. And a chevre, asparagus, and tomato filling.
We then started to roll out the dough with the machine (there's Aviva and John with dough above). Here we also followed the tutorial instructions, beginning on the widest setting and decreasing. As we began to cook the first few batches we noticed the pastas were limp and way too soft. This may have been in part due to overcooking them, but we also realized that the smallest setting was way too small. At this point we rolled the remainder of the raviolis to the second to last setting and they worked much better. They were easier to handle, cooked better, and the texture and taste was superior to the initial product. So, I would suggest trying a first run on your smallest setting and then doing the very next run on the second smallest to see what your machine is giving you and what you prefer.
The other change we made was to use an egg wash (beaten eggs and a pinch of salt) to seal the raviolis together. We found it easiest to brush the entire insides of the sheets before adding the fillings.
Ben and Molly made a delicious salad and we all had our fill of ravioli and wine. For those of you well-versed in making pastas, you must have balked at the quantity of prepared dough I mentioned above. Quadrupling the recipe was far too much. I think we only made it through about 1.75 of the four pieces of wrapped dough. Therefore, before calling it a night Ben and I ran some of the excess through the linguine setting of the machine (see the picture above) and froze this in single serving bags. There is still one more dough portion at home that I hope to do the same with this evening.
Overall, lots of fun and pretty easy to do. This was a good culinary activity for a group of people. The pasta machine can use 3 people manning it once the dough starts to get long and the others can be making fillings and cooking the prepared pasta. After last night we all felt pretty confident that next time we give this a try the whole process will go much more smoothly and quickly. I hope we start to make our own pasta more often. I also hope we get to hang on to that pasta machine for a while.