Caprese Ravioli with Pesto Butter

This is a sumptuously indulgent dish, bursting with rich Italian flavours. Making your own pasta might seem like a big, unnecessary headache, but believe me, once you get the hang of it, it’s great fun and it’s guaranteed to impress. Although it sounds really fancy, it’s actually a very simple process. A pasta machine will make the whole thing much quicker and easier, and you can pick one up for as little as £20 (check out the Kitchen Bits & Bobs page for more info), but you can also roll it out with a rolling pin – just make sure you keep going until the pasta is really nice and thin, ideally about 2mm.

For the pasta:
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
250g strong white flour
For the filling:
1 ball of mozzarella
A big handful of cherry tomatoes
A handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 handful of grated cheddar
Salt and black pepper
For the sauce:
A couple of tablespoons of butter
A handful of fresh basil leaves
A handful of grated parmesan
A clove of garlic
Grated cheddar, to serve

Serves 2.

Start out by making the pasta dough – get a large casserole dish or bowl, and pour in the flour, then make a well in the centre and add the eggs and egg yolks. Using a fork, break up the eggs and mix with the flour until it starts to come together, then discard the fork and with your (well-scrubbed) hands, knead the mixture until you end up with one solid ball. On the counter top, roll and knead the dough until it’s smooth and silky and slightly elastic – give it some proper elbow grease; the muscles along the underside of your forearms should be aching by the time you’re done! Wrap the ball of dough up in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge to rest for an hour or so.

When you’re ready, make the filling – tear up the mozzarella, chop the cherry tomatoes into quarters, and mix in a bowl with the grated cheddar and the chopped fresh basil. Season with salt and black pepper.

Next, start rolling out the dough – separate the ball into five pieces, and wrap up the others while you roll the first one. If you’re using a pasta machine like mine, which has seven thickness settings, start at five and work your way downwards – first flatten the dough between your palms, then run it through the machine, fold it in half, and run it through again. Repeat this process for each setting – folding and rolling again makes sure that you get a nice even texture. If it’s getting stuck, flour it on each side. If holes are appearing in the dough, then you’re rolling it too thin too soon – try going back a setting.
If you’re using a rolling pin, scrub, dry, and flour a large countertop, then roll out the dough. Alternate between rolling it and stretching it out with your fingers – try to get it as thin as possible.

Once you’ve got one thin sheet, use a glass to cut out circles of pasta. Place a spoonful of filling in the centre and wet the edges of the circle, then place another circle on top and stretch the edges so that they match up. Use a fork to press the edges together so that you end up with a nice stripy pattern all the way around.

Flour a plate and put the ravioli on that. Continue rolling out the dough, one lump at a time, and as you make more ravioli, sprinkle them with flour so that they don’t stick together. Once you run out of pasta dough, if you’re not ready to eat, pop the ravioli in the fridge.

When you’re ready, fill a saucepan with boiling water and add the ravioli once the water comes back to the boil. Set a timer for five minutes.

While the pasta cooks, prepare your pesto butter – soften the butter a little in the microwave (no more than 30 seconds), then crush the garlic, finely chop the basil, grate the parmesan and mix it all together. Season with black pepper.

Test whether the pasta is done by scooping out one ravioli and cutting off a little piece of the border – this is the thickest part so if it’s cooked, the rest will be too. Drain the ravioli, then return to the pan, spoon in the pesto butter, and stir gently until it melts and coats the ravioli. Serve up a steamy, fragrant plateful and grate over a little cheddar or parmesan – delicious.