Ricotta and Bacon-filled Kale Ravioli

Another year, another triumph.

My beloved and I have developed a bit of a Valentine’s Day tradition. Either on the day, but typically a weekend day shortly before, we forego the usual formalities of a hard-to-get dinner reservation (which are also often crowded and disappointing) and plan and prepare our own elaborate meal. And there is one course that appears every year – ravioli. With a few years under our belts, experience and creativity are on our sides, so the ravioli course while a constant, is also constantly changing from year to year.

ready for their bath

ready for their bath

Accompanying this year’s ravioli were a first course of La Tur – a soft, buttery mixed-milk cheese – with homemade quince paste and crusty no-knead bread. Next was a mussel and winter root vegetable soup enriched with bacon fat. Dessert was fudgy, from scratch brownies with raspberry frozen custard from our our neighborhood scoop-shop, the Dairy Godmother.

But, ok, the real reason we’re here is to talk about ravioli. For the last several years, we’ve been using various round, square, and of-course, heart-shaped cookie cutters to form our ravioli. And the results, while really good and satisfying, have been, well, maybe a little amateurish, admittedly. So, in an attempt to up the ante, we splurged for a ravioli maker to add a little legitimacy to this operation.

ravioli all in a row

ravioli all in a row

In the weeks leading up to the dinner, ideas are thrown out regarding what we’ll do this year. I wanted to try a flavored pasta, so I proposed using kale as a base. Then, as we contemplated a sauce, we naturally tended toward something smokey and porky. And then, as if it were staring us right in the face, we thought, “what if we put bacon on the inside of the ravs?” And so it was decided. And this was no ordinary bacon. This was Benton’s bacon, one of the best bacons around from Tennessee  that we smuggled back from a recent trip to New York City. Seriously, this stuff is just about the pinnacle of all bacon, but that’s another story.

The operation was pretty simple and along with our new fangled ravioli press, we also employed a food processor for the first time in our dough making. It all just came together relatively quickly. The only laborious part being the rolling of the dough. The end result was by far our finest performance. Not just uniformly shaped and filled, but the filling was simple, but fluffy and exquisitely bacon-y.

we couldn't forget a couple of heart-shaped ones

we couldn't forget a couple of heart-shaped ones

After they were filled and boiled, we sauced them with some rich tomato sauce that was leftover from the summer that reduced on the stove slowly for several hours.

ravioli and tomato sauce

ravioli and tomato sauce

Ricotta and Bacon-filled Kale ravioli

makes about 36 ravioli, about 4-6 servings

the dough

  • 2-3 c. uncooked kale
  • 9 oz. AP flour (more as needed, also keep more on hand for dusting)
  • 3 eggs
  1. Remove and discard the stems of the kale, and cook the leaves in a about 1/4 c. of water in a covered pot until they’re tender – about 20-30 minutes.
  2. Squeeze all of the liquid from the kale and let it cool. You’ll end up with about a cup.
  3. In a food processor, chop the kale and add the eggs and give it a spin for about 20 seconds.
  4. Add most of the flour and process. The dough should start to come together after a minute or so. Continue to add more flour until the dough comes together in a ball but is still the slightest bit sticky.
  5. When the dough is formed, dump it out and pat it into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least an hour.

the filling

  • 16 oz. ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 3-5 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled
  1. Put the ricotta and bacon in a bowl.
  2. Beat the egg separately and then add to ricotta.
  3. Mix to combine, then whip vigorously with your spoon for about 30 seconds till the filling fluffs a little bit.

the ravioli

  1. Cut your dough into 6 equal portions and roll out sheets in a pasta machine. They should be as thin as you can get them without tearing. Set each aside in a floured towel.
  2. Fill your ravioli. If going free-form, lay out one sheet of pasta and spoon about a teaspoon of filling equally spaced on your sheet and then lay another pasta sheet over, pressing out the air around the filling and cut out ravioli with a knife or cookie cutters, pressing on the edges of each ravioli to be sure they’re sealed. If using ravioli maker, just follow the instructions provided (like we did.)
  3. Flour the ravioli and return to the floured towels.
  4. Repeat 2. and 3. till you’ve used all of your pasta sheets and filling. You can roll out any scraps of pasta you accumulate along the way to extend your production.
  5. Cook as many ravioli as you plan on serving in gently boiling salted water for about 5 minutes till the pasta is cooked through.
  6. Freeze any leftover, uncooked ravioli.

Gnudi, the new day after Valentine’s Day tradition

Let’s say you’ve got a yearly tradition of making ravioli with your sweetheart every Valentine’s Day. And let’s say that tradition usually involves making more ravioli than any couple could eat in one night as well as even more of an excess of the filling. And, finally let’s just say that while always delicious, you’re looking for a change of pace from the baked pasta with leftover ricotta filling. Well, if all of this applies to you, I’ve got a new alternative for you. Gnudi.

Huh?, you say? In Italian, it’s a derivative of naked. In reality, it’s basically a ricotta-based gnocchi. It’s pretty simple if you’ve already got the leftovers from filling ravioli or a lasagne.

This year’s Valentine’s Day ravioli featured a filling of broccoli rabe, ricotta, eggs, and lemon zest (served with an arugula pesto, alongside a tiny wild boar roast.) The day after, I simply added a little flour to the mixture (about 1/2 c. flour to the 1 c. of filling,) let that sit for a couple of hours, then rolled out little dumplings and boiled them gently for about 6 minutes.

The result was light, fluffy, almost matzo ball-like, but tasting very much of the main ingredients of the filling. I served this with a simple tomato sauce and penne. It was so good and easy, this is likely to become a new tradition in its own right.

Broccoli Rabe and lemon Gnudi

Broccoli Rabe and lemon Gnudi

… with Bibiana for lunch

Love Bibiana.
It’s quickly become my favorite lunch place, and is high on the list of places, period. I first heard about Bibiana at 12th & H NW from Metrocurean, thanks to her frequent postings of good deals around town. The usual deal at the bar during lunch is order one of five or six homemade pastas, a sorbet, and a drink (wine or italian soda) for $15. The couple of times I’ve been the portions were perfect and the pasta and sorbet were incredibly good. Each time I leave perfectly satisfied. I decided to spend the extra $5 and eat like a big boy in the dining room during their extended restaurant week.
Seated in the bright, airy dining room, I noticed one item missing from the menu that I had seen online (penne with confitted tuna) so making my choices were a little harder. I went with the polpette to start — a big veal meatball in a tomato sauce on white polenta. This was just plain awesome. The meatball was light in texture, the sauce was rich in flavor, and the polenta was soft and creamy.
Veal meatball floating in creamy white polenta

Veal meatball floating in creamy white polenta

Next up was the Agnolotti – sheep’s milk ricotta-filled agnolotti with spinach and lemon. Visually, this was a beautiful dish. The agnolotti looked like bright yellow half-ravioli sitting in a slightly lemony sweet sauce with leaves of perfectly sautéed spinach strewn about. The agnolotti were delicious and the pasta was so thin, that it lacked the usual “bite” (which I do love) of the other pastas I’ve had. This was a great, light pasta dish that I could certainly see trying to recreate at home. And, as usual, the portion was spot on.


For dessert, I went for the chocolate mousse which had some sort of crunchy tuille and whipped cream. Like the courses before it, this was the perfect combination of richness and lightness.
Yet again, I left Bibiana feeling perfectly satisfied.
Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

And, given the title of this blog, it was all I could do to resist the urge to grab a lobster roll from the truck right around the corner.