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Asiago & Pear Ravioli

I'm on a pasta bender. It just keeps snowing and snowing up here so I'm still in winter, carbo- loading mode. Plus, I love, and I mean absolutely love, working with pasta dough.There is something magical about the transformation from shaggy, floury mess to a pliant, silky dough; and it only gets better when I stuff that lovely pasta dough with an equally lovely filling. There isn't anything revelatory about an Asiago and pear combination but sometimes an old 'tried and true' option is a good idea and these were really, really good. 

I bought a ravioli stamp and was excited to give it a whirl. It makes 'professional' looking ravioli, the crimped edges look cool and they hold up in the boiling water— only one ravioli come apart at the seams. I've hand-cut ravioli in the past and the stamp is a lot easier— it reminded me of when I was eight years old and played with my pizza shop Play-Doh set. Although this time, I could eat what I made (I never ate my Play-Doh creations but was tempted to give it a try a few times). The good people at NOAA are forecasting another snowstorm for Sunday night, looks like I'll be breaking out the ravioli stamp again soon. Spring in Northern Wisconsin is a fickle beast but pasta takes the edge off another 6 inches of snow.

Pear & Asiago Ravioli

Pasta Dough
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 eggs
3 - 5 tablespoons water

Filling
1 pound Asiago, grated with a box grater
8 ounces mascarpone, at room temperature
3 pears, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation
Place all the pasta ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, except for the water. Turn the mixer on slowly and add 3 tablespoons of the water. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together and forms a ball. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board to make sure it is well mixed. Cover and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl, mix to thoroughly combine and refrigerate until you are ready to use.

Generously flour your counter top or work area. Cut the dough into 6 pieces and cover with a towel (don’t cover the pasta with kitchen towels if you use a scented fabric softener because the pasta will pick up the scent—use parchment instead). With your hands, flatten and shape one piece of dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle. Dust it lightly with flour and pass it through the widest setting on the pasta machine. If the dough comes out oddly shaped, reform into a rectangle. Fold it in thirds, like a letter, and if necessary, flatten to 1/2 inch thick. Pass it through the widest setting again with the seam of the letter perpendicular to the rollers. Repeat this folding and rolling step three or four times, dusting the dough with flour if it becomes sticky.

Without folding the dough, pass it through the next setting on the pasta machine. Keep reducing the space between the rollers after each pass, lightly dusting the pasta with flour on both sides each time ( I stop at # 5 on the KitchenAid pasta roller).

Dust the counter and sheet of dough with flour, lay out the long sheet of pasta, and brush the top surface with the water. Drop a tablespoon or so of the squash filling on the top half of the pasta sheet, about 2 inches apart. Brush the area between each mound of filling with water. Fold the other 1/2 over the filling like a blanket. Using your fingers, gently press out air pockets around each mound of filling. Use a sharp knife or a ravioli stamp to cut each pillow into individual ravioli and crimp the 3 edges with a fork to make a tight seal (if using a knife). Place the ravioli on a floured sheet tray and lay them out to dry slightly while you assemble the remaining ravioli.

Cook the ravioli in plenty of boiling salted water for 5 – 10 minutes (depending on how big they are). They’ll float to the top when ready. Carefully lift the ravioli from water with a large strainer or slotted spoon. Place in a bowl and serve with a simple cream sauce and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan.

Simple Cream Sauce

1 1/2 cups heavy cream 4 tablespoons butter 1 garlic clove 1/2 cup Parmesan, finely grated Pinch of red pepper flakes 1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste 1/4 teaspoons black pepper, coarse grind

Preparation Place all ingredients, except Parmesan, in a medium saucepan and cook over medium low heat until slightly thickened (about 20 minutes). Add the Parmesan and continue to cook until the cheese has melted. Taste for salt and pepper and serve immediately.