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A few times a year, we set aside a weekend afternoon to make a big family batch of ravioli. We each choose a flavor combination and we make a large batch of pasta dough and spend the afternoon rolling, mixing, and filling. It might sound laborious, but it’s actually quite fun, easier than it sounds, and an excellent project for the kids to join!
Most importantly – homemade pasta tastes amazing. It has such a pure, wholesome, and full flavor that really just doesn’t come through in boxed dried pasta.
We’ve learned some tips along the way, honed our favorite recipes, and landed on some repeat winners when it comes to fillings (yes, one year we even had a contest).
This article covers the basic pasta recipe, options for fillings, the tools/supplies we recommend, and the process for putting it all together! Read the whole article first so that you can determine what supplies you’ll need and which fillings you’ll be preparing; you may want to do some work ahead of time to get things ready (like roasting a squash or making homemade ricotta).
Step 1: Making Pasta Dough
Pasta dough is pretty simple when it comes to ingredients. We use a recipe that combines 4 cups flour with 6 eggs and a few tablespoons of water as needed. Other recipes add salt or olive oil. You can play around with recipes to find one that is your personal preference, but a few you might try to start include this one from King Arthur Flour or this one from The New York Times. In either case, you can also double the recipe if you want to have a bunch of ravioli for the freezer too (these recipes both use 2-3 cups flour whereas ours uses 4).
The old-fashioned way to make dough is to put your flour on a counter or in a bowl and make a well in the center into which you drop your eggs and gradually mix the whole thing together. This is fun to try and might work great for you. But, if you find that you’re not getting the job done very quickly you can also make pasta in a food processor or stand mixer; either way, you’re aiming to end up with a ball of pasta that is nice and stretchy and smooth.
Since our recipe is rather large, we start by mixing by hand then we divide the dough in half and make two dough balls by doing the last stir one at a time in our food processor. Again, try the recipes we linked to above and see what works for you; this is as much an art as a science!
Step 2: Making your Fillings
While the dough is resting, turn your attention to making your fillings. You have so many options here, the fun is endless. A good rule of thumb is that you need about a cup of filling for a dozen medium-sized ravioli (see below for the ravioli-maker that we use). In our experience, a recipe that uses 2 cups of flour will make about 2 dozen ravioli (maybe a bit more) so plan on 2 cups of filling. If you’ve made a recipe with 4 cups of flour, double that.
Here are some filling options we love:
Goat cheese with grated parmesan and chopped spinach;
Roasted/pureed squash with a dash of nutmeg and fresh ricotta;
Fresh ricotta with grated parmesan and lemon zest;
Three cheese: ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan.
Again, making your filling is an art – have fun with your combinations and proportions, we really have never found that something felt “wrong”.
Step 3: Making the Ravioli
Here’s where the tools come in! You have some options; you don’t necessarily have to run out and buy fancy equipment but I am recommending a few tools we use.
First – roll out your dough. Here, your choice is between either a good old fashioned cutting board and rolling pin or a pasta machine. But, if you plan to make a homemade pasta frequently a machine like the Marcato Atlas is a valuable investment and doesn’t cost too much (this is the one we own).
Either way, to make your ravioli you need to roll your dough out and end up with strips that are a little more than the width of your ravioli mold (if you’re using one) or whatever your tool of choice. The dough should be about the thickness of a slice of deli meat or cheese (on our pasta machine, we roll to about the “6” mark).
Second – make your ravioli. A ravioli mold is a cheap and easy option if you’re going to make a lot of ravioli; we love our Norpro Ravioli Maker and it has been worth it even though we only use it a few times of year.
With a mold, you place the dough over the top and gently press it down into the mold spoon in your filling (about a teaspoon in each spot for our medium-sized mold) and then cover with another sheet of pasta. Use a rolling pin to press down on the ravioli until the edges are sealed and the metal edges of the mold have come through. Then you simply pop the ravioli out of the mold.
If you don’t have a mold and don’t want to buy one, you could make the ravioli by hand buy cutting your dough into small circles, putting filling on one half, and then folding over and pressing the edges together with a little bit of water. You can also try something like a single pierogi mold.
Step 4: Drying the Ravioli
If you want to eat your ravioli right away, sorry, you won’t be able to too just yet. 😊 The first step is to let the ravioli dry for about an hour. Put the individual pieces on a lightly floured cookie sheet, and flip them once about half way through. When done, the pasta shouldn’t be sticky anymore (let it dry longer if its humid or it is still sticky when you touch it).
Step 5: Cooking or Freezing the Ravioli
Ok, now we can talk about eating. Once your ravioli has dried, you can either cook it to eat that day or you can freeze it for later meals. We like to do both! To cook it fresh, simply bring a pot of water to a boil, turn down the heat so the boil reduces to a rapid simmer, add in the ravioli, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
To freeze, simply put the tray with the ravioli on it in your freezer (if they are sticking at all, you might want to put them on parchment paper) so that they freeze individually. Once frozen, pop them in a freezer bag and label by type. Cook frozen ravioli right from the freezer (do not thaw) using the same directions as above but add 1-2 more minutes.
Step 6: ENJOY!
Serve ravioli with your favorite sauce – tomato, pesto, brown butter and sage, alfredo – try all different combinations!