The first meal my husband and I shared while honeymooning in Italy—the trip that sparked my love of pasta-making—was a simple but perfect ravioli in tomato sauce. We ate it alongside espresso and biscotti, atop a cliff in Sorrento overlooking the glittering Bay of Naples toward the Island of Capri. In that moment, we couldn’t have asked for anything more.
This recipe is pieced together from memory and taste, and it’s a meal I hope will bring a bit of Italian summertime magic into your homes (even if summer vacation looks very different this year). Plus, it’s the perfect way to take full advantage of the best season: tomato season!
I should also note that, after falling down a very, very deep internet rabbit hole, I discovered that the ravioli we enjoyed that afternoon were a version of ravioli Capresi, a traditional dish from Capri. Ravioli Capresi are filled with caciotta campana, a local semi-soft cheese that was described to us at the time as “farmer’s cheese.” It’s not the relative of cottage cheese I grew up with, but instead most similar to Monterey Jack, which is why I’ve included it here—it'll taste great even though it's not traditional, which is also why I recommend butter in place of olive oil in this sauce. And trust me, both are a little something unexpected that make these ravioli melt in your mouth. —Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club
Test Kitchen Notes
Pasta Social Club is a column by Meryl Feinstein, Food52's Resident Pasta Maker, community builder, and pastaia extraordinaire. Meryl will teach us about everything from semolina to spaghetti to sauce—and will show us how pasta is a great way to make great friends and have lots of fun. —The Editors
- Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- Serves 4
- For the pasta & filling
(~3 cups) '00' soft wheat or all-purpose flour
(~1/4 cup) semolina or semola rimacinata flour*
eggs, (approximately 4 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk, depending on egg size), whisked together
Semolina flour, polenta, or coarse cornmeal, for dusting
(2 cups) whole milk ricotta
(~3/4 cup) caciotta campana or Monterey Jack cheese, grated
A very generous grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
fresh marjoram, leaves only (optional)
freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
- For the sauce
unsalted butter, divided (or half as much very high-quality olive oil)
garlic cloves, minced
sweet cherry tomatoes, like San Marzanos
( 1 1/2 cups) tomato passata
Salt and pepper to taste
Basil leaves, for garnish
Make the pasta:
Make the pasta dough by hand according to the well method (see my master pasta dough tutorial that teaches you how: https://food52.com/recipes/83340-semolina-pasta-dough-recipe).
Alternatively, add the flour and eggs to the bowl of a food processor with the steel blade attachment. Pulse together until beads of dough start to form and a coarse couscous-like texture emerges, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a flat, ideally wooden surface, bring it together and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and firm.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Make the filling:
If needed, drain any water off of the ricotta and transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate. Spread it out a bit and top with more paper towels to absorb any excess liquid (it should be as firm as possible; skip this step if your ricotta is already firm).
In a food processor, pulse the cheeses and marjoram until thick, smooth, and creamy. Season to taste with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse again.
Transfer the filling to a bowl or piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the ravioli:
Flatten the dough with the heel of your hand until it’s about ¼-inch thick. Set your pasta machine to its thickest setting and roll the dough through once—it will be tapered at the ends. Fold the ends into the center like an envelope so the width of the pasta sheet is similar in width to the pasta roller. Roll the dough through the thickest setting once more so the result is a wide, even rectangle.
Continue rolling the pasta sheet through the machine once on each progressive setting until you can begin to see your hand through it, about setting 6 or 7 on a Marcato Atlas 150 manual roller or KitchenAid attachment. If the dough is at all sticky going through the machine, dust it with a light layer of ‘00’ or all-purpose flour on both sides before sending it through the machine.
Once you have a long, thin sheet of pasta, lay it on a wooden surface and trim the ends of any uneven areas (it’s important that you’re working with as even a rectangle as possible). If you don’t have a wooden surface, dust some flour on the bottom of the pasta sheet and your countertop to prevent sticking. Fold the pasta sheet in half crosswise and crease it lightly to mark the midpoint, then unfold it again—one half will serve as the bottom of the ravioli, where you’ll place the filling, and the other half will be layered on top.
On one half of the sheet, use a 2- or 2½-inch cookie cutter or sturdy rimmed glass to very lightly mark the outlines of the ravioli. Make sure not to cut through, and leave about ½ inch of space between each circle and the edges of the sheet. This will be your guide for where to place the filling.
Next, spoon or pipe a dollop of filling in the center of each circle, leaving about ½ inch of space between the dollop and the outline of the cookie cutter. Piling the filling vertically and leaving a generous amount of space around it will ensure the ravioli will be well-filled and able to seal properly.
If the dough is dry, add a small amount of water with your finger around the filling pockets. Then, carefully lay the other half of the pasta sheet on top, making sure everything is completely covered (you can stretch the dough a bit if needed).
Before cutting, gently trace your fingers around the dough overlaying each dollop of filling to remove any air, pressing it out toward the nearest exit to prevent the ravioli from bursting when cooked. To make the ravioli look more uniform, you can lightly press the blunt side of the cookie cutter around the filling and move it in a circular motion to concentrate the filling in the center.
Finally, cut out the ravioli by twisting the cookie cutter around the filling pickets. Pinch around edges to remove any remaining air and seal firmly. Set aside on a semolina-floured baking tray and repeat with the remaining dough. (You can ball up any dough scraps and re-wrap in plastic to rehydrate, then re-roll these through the machine once all of the fresh dough has been used.)
Storage note: To freeze the ravioli for future use, pop the baking tray in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour, until the pasta is solid. Dust any excess semolina from the bottom of each piece, then transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container. These keep best for 1-2 weeks, and well up to a month or two. Cook straight from frozen.
Make the sauce:
If using fresh cherry tomatoes, halve them and toss in a bowl with a generous coating of kosher salt. Marinate for about an hour, until they release their juices and concentrate in flavor. Blend on high speed until smooth and set aside. (You can de-seed the tomatoes before salting, if desired, but I don’t mind the seeds.)
In a medium saute pan with a lid, cook the garlic in 2 tablespoons of butter (or olive oil) over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add the fresh tomato purée and tomato passata and stir to combine.
Cover and simmer the sauce over medium-low heat until the tomato caramelizes and deepens in color, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finish with the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter (or a generous drizzle of olive oil) and adjust seasoning as needed.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously with kosher salt and add the ravioli. Cook for 2-3 minutes, tasting to check for doneness. Once cooked to your liking, transfer the ravioli directly to the sauce with a slotted spoon, along with a spoonful or two of pasta water. Toss gently to coat and cook 1-2 minutes more to meld the flavors.
Serve immediately, topped with fresh basil leaves.