It’s no secret that Italian cuisine is one of, if not THE most, popular cuisine in the world. Italian restaurants are on nearly every corner, and a meal with pasta is almost as familiar to Americans as burgers, dogs, steaks, and fast food.
Yet, despite our love for pasta, nearly all the pasta Americans consume is cooked from dry pasta not fresh.
What’s the difference?
Don’t get the idea that I’m knocking dry pasta entirely; I’m not. Dry pasta certainly has its place in modern Italian cuisine and in my home pantry.
Dry versus fresh pasta is not entirely a good versus better scenario. I’d liken it to, let’s say, enjoying both ground beef and a beef steak. Both are beef, but each texture is different, and each has its own subtle flavor nuances.
We’ve been making our own fresh pasta at Nino’s ever since our Clinton location opened in 2003. Our pasta is made fresh daily from a mixture of durum and semolina flours, eggs, and water.
Simple and 100% authentic, our pasta is extruded into many different shapes, including sheets that many people use to make their own homemade lasagna and ravioli.
Using fresh pasta makes lasagna a bit easier to cook because you can skip the step of boiling dry pasta to partially cook and soften it before layering it with the rest of your ingredients. Fresh pasta also has a particular “chew,” which I find adds that additional “stamp” of authenticity to homemade pasta dishes.
Of course, the only way you can make ravioli at home IS with fresh pasta and, for that reason, buying it already made for you is labor-saving and less messy. Win-win.
If you’ve never made ravioli at home, it’s not really that difficult. You only need to make a filling mixture of nearly anything you want, lay out a sheet of pasta, portion your filling in about 1 TBSP mounds about 2” apart from one another, and brush a beaten egg around the filling mounds and over the exposed pasta. Then, place an equal size sheet of pasta on top, gently press it down and over all the filling mounds, and cut between each to create separate ravioli pieces.
As far as how your ravioli looks, you have two choices. You can either use a ravioli tray mold (which will make your finished ravioli a bit plumper, uniform, and usually square), or skip that and just lay out your pasta on a flat table and go from there, cutting your somewhat-flatter ravioli into squares or rounds.
If you’d like to see how easy it really is, here are a couple of YouTube videos that show two additional methods of making these delicious treats.
If layering or stuffing isn’t your thing, rolling might be an even simpler way of enjoying Nino’s fresh-made pasta sheets!
I’d suggest you try making Chicken Cannelloni!
First, buy one of our delicious rotisserie chickens, allow it to cool, and then pull off all the cooked meat and tear it into ½” to 1” pieces.
In a separate bowl, mix together 1 cup of ricotta cheese with 1 beaten egg and season with salt and pepper.
Lastly, have on hand some fresh basil pesto, some shredded mozzarella cheese, and a pasta sauce of your choice.
Lay out 1 full pasta sheet, and cut into equal thirds. Spoon approximately 2 TBSP of the ricotta mixture along the bottom edge of each sheet, and place some of the pulled chicken, shredded cheese, and basil pesto on top.
Roll each pasta sheet into a tube shape around the filling, and place them SEAM SIDE DOWN in a small casserole dish that has been prepped with some pasta sauce over the bottom surface.
Pre-heat your oven to 375F.
Pour an additional amount of pasta sauce over your stuffed pasta, and sprinkle with some additional shredded cheese. Bake until heated through and bubbly. That will take approximately 20 minutes.
You can, of course, make all sorts of different fillings to suit your tastes.
And here’s a short tutorial.
Pasta sheets can be used to cut your own wide egg “noodles” for all sorts of pasta dishes. They can also be fried in oil as an alternative chip snack.
If you’re in the mood to try something that’s not only unique but also authentically Italian, stop by Nino’s and pick up some fresh pasta sheets to create what I’m sure will be a truly memorable meal.