I considered not posting this comparison because I had so many problems when trying to make homemade ravioli. I ended up with lumpy, misshapen squares with too thick of pasta and filling that kept escaping! Then I realized, the point of comparison posts is to relate my experience with trying a new technique and tell you whether I think it is worthwhile for the average home cook. Since the average home cook is probably not an expert pasta maker, I guess my experience may be relevant after all. So, here is an account of my ravioli adventure:
First, the recipe. I used a version of a homemade pasta recipe found on marthastewart.com. Perhaps because of the extra-dry environment I live in, I found that I had to add significantly more liquid to make this dough workable. I also decided to add a bit of salt to the dough after seeing that many other pasta recipes had salt in them. Below is the actual recipe I ended up using for homemade pasta, although those who live in a more humid climate may want to follow the original recipe that I linked to above.
Makes about one dozen large pieces of ravioli (probably enough for 3 to 4 people)
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose or 00 flour (00 flour is finely ground and has extra gluten so it produces softer noodles)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs and 3 egg yolks
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 recipe Herbed Ricotta filling, below
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt thoroughly. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until well blended. Pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, whisking as it is added so that the eggs and oil emulsify.
2. Pour the egg and oil mixture into the larger mixing bowl with the flour and, using a wooden spoon, stir until a soft dough forms. If the dough seems so sticky that it sticks to your fingers, add a few extra Tablespoons of flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes or until a soft, but not sticky, dough forms. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside to rest for about 1 hour.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Divide the dough into thirds. Place one smaller piece of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out as thin as possible. Trim the dough into an 8 by 12 inch rectangle. Using a teaspoon, place one small mound of ricotta filling about 1 inch from the left edge of the dough and then position 3 more small round of filling, 3 inches apart, down the left side of the rectangle. Wet all edges of the rectangle with a little bit of water then fold the right edge of the dough over to the left side and press lightly on all sides to seal. Using a sharp knife or fluted pastry wheel, cut between the mounds of ricotta filling to create four individual pieces of ravioli. Set aside covered with a damp towel. Repeat this process with the remaining 2/3 of the dough and filling.
4. Cook the finished ravioli in the boiling water for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain in a colander and serve immediately.
Herbed Ricotta Filling
Makes enough for 12 large ravioli
1 cup store bought or homemade ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (I used a mix of chives, parsley and basil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl until well combined.
So, first the good news! The herbed ricotta filling (I made mine with homemade ricotta) was amazingly delicious. It was cheesy and creamy with a fresh herb flavor that just cannot be replicated in store bought ravioli. However, the pasta was another story. I had trouble getting the pasta thin enough, so my ravioli was much too thick and the pasta tasted kind of gummy. My first mistake was not using a pasta machine . . . mostly because I don’t own one. But I would definitely not attempt to make homemade ravioli again without one. You really have to have uniformly thin, perfectly shaped sheets of pasta to produce ravioli that is tender and attractively shaped. As I discovered, it is very difficult to get pasta very thin and measured perfectly using just a rolling pin. My husband said my ravioli looked “rustic”, but that just shows how nice he is. I would have no problem with going straight to calling it ugly! Even with a pasta maker, I can tell that homemade pasta is going to be something that just takes practice to perfect. I fully plan on trying homemade ravioli again someday (hopefully with the help of a borrowed pasta machine) but it is not going to be a recipe that is easily perfected on the first try; unless you are much more talented than I am, which is entirely possible!
Of course, homemade ravioli is also far more time consuming than store bought. With the time needed to mix up, knead and rest the dough, it easily takes 2 hours from start to finish. Compared to the 7 minutes it requires to cook store bought ravioli, this is a lot of extra effort! The price is of homemade ravioli is also not encouraging. While an 8 ounce of package of store bought ravioli cost $2.99, the homemade equivalent comes in a bit higher at about $5.00 (mostly because of the cost of fresh herbs).
Bottom Line: Making homemade ravioli was a fun experiment, and it is a recipe that I hope to get better at in the future. However, the amount of extra time, effort and money needed to make ravioli at home is probably prohibitive for most home cooks on a regular basis. Also, I would not try to make it regularly without the help of a pasta machine. We will be sticking with the convenience of store bought ravioli for the time being!