Many years ago, when my daughter was a student in Florence, Italy, she took us to a restaurant called “Quattro Leoni” where I first ate little bundles of pasta wrapped around pear and pecorino cheese. I’ve been wanting to make them at home for years and finally got around to trying, inspired by the restaurant in Florence.
I’ve got time on my hands these days, as many of you do, with so many people quarantined due to the Coronavirus outbreak. I hope and pray that the deaths around the world will soon taper off and stop, especially for Italy, where more people have died from the illness than anywhere else in the world. Meanwhile, stay indoors and keep “social distancing” when you need to go out. Wear a mask if you have one, even if it’s not an N-95. My brother-in-law, who is a leading aerosol scientist in the world and studies movements of aerosols (small airborne particles), says that spray droplets are huge and that almost any cloth should stop them effectively. If you must be in situations where you encounter people, breathe through a cloth covering of some sort. There are many links on Youtube showing how to sew your own mask like this one, even some that don’t require sewing, like this one.
A great stress reliever in these troubling times is pasta making. I won’t give a primer on how to make the pasta, but there are instructions in the recipe below and if you want more detail, click here on how to make homemade pasta. I used “OO” flour from Italy, or you could use a combination of semolina and all-purpose flour. In a pinch, all-purpose flour will do.
My version is slightly different from Quattro Leoni, in both the shape and the sauce. Their’s look more like little purses, but I decided to try shaping mine into these small bundles instead. And their sauce was made with taleggio cheese and asparagus – so delicious but I had neither in the house so used butter, sage and walnuts with a sprinkling of pecorino on top.
After you’ve kneaded the pasta dough, you need to let it rest a half hour, so take that time to make the filling. I used a mixture of pear, pecorino and ricotta cheese, with a little white pepper.
Mix it all together very well.
Dab a teaspoonful onto each 3″ x 3″ square. In the background, you can see I pieced together some strips of pasta so I could make continuous strips without having to knead the scraps back together and roll them out a second time. Each time you roll the pasta, it will get tougher, so try to avoid doing that. Just make sure you wet the edge of the strips so the pasta adheres. You don’t want it separating when you cook it in the boiling water.
To help you shape the pasta into the little bundles, I made this short video with instructions:
The recipe below makes enough for about 20-22 bundles, and I made small “quadretti” with the scraps, to use in some soup.
While the pasta is boiling, put together the sauce by melting some butter, adding sage and chopped walnuts.
Drain the pasta loosely, leaving a little water on each one as you place it directly into the pan. Add more butter and more of the pasta water if you want more sauce, but this was a rich dish and I didn’t feel the need for additional calories.
This serves two people generously as a main meal, and would even be enough for four if you’re serving it as a first course. But if you’re cooking for more people, you can easily double the recipe. Sprinkle grated pecorino on top and enjoy.
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- FOR THE PASTA:
- 1¼ cups flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 large eggs
- FOR THE RAVIOLI STUFFING:
- 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
- 1 pear, cut into small dice
- ¼ tsp. white pepper
- pinch of salt
- FOR THE SAUCE:
- 4 tablespoons butter
- some fresh sage leaves
- ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
- fresh pecorino cheese to grate on top
- FOR THE PASTA:
- Put the flour into a food processor, along with the eggs and salt.
- Process it for a couple of minutes until the mixture comes together.
- If it's too sticky, add more flour. If it doesn't seem to adhere to itself, add a little water.
- Knead it on a board for a few minutes, then let it rest for ½ hour, covered.
- Roll out the dough, either by hand or in an electric pasta roller.
- Don't roll it to the thinnest setting though, or the filling might break through when you're handling it.
- Place the dough on a board and cut it into 3 inch squares.
- Patch some of the long pieces together so you don't waste the dough, or so that you don't have to re-roll and re-cut it.
- The more you handle the dough, the tougher it will get.
- Place a teaspoon of the filling in the center and press the edges together, as in the picture, until you have a square shape with the four points meeting at the top center.
- Boil gently in water until cooked, which may take 5-8 minutes.
- Make the sauce, adding butter to a pan until it melts, then add a few fresh sage leaves and the chopped walnuts.
- Remove the ravioli from the water with a strainer, but don't worry if some of the water adheres -- it will help with the sauce.
- Gently stir the ravioli in the sauce, tossing them to coat with the butter sauce.
- Remove to plates and sprinkle more pecorino cheese on top.