People Staff
March 24, 2017 11:45 AM

The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) is one of the largest culinary schools in the world, offering both professional and recreational programs in New York City. Here, Chef Robert Ramsey of ICE’s School of Culinary Arts gives PEOPLE the key to making picture-perfect ravioli at home — plus, the buttery sauce that will have you licking the bowl clean.

I get it — with so many options for store-bought out there, why bother making ravioli at home? Making pasta from scratch does take a little more time (perhaps more of a Sunday than a Monday night undertaking), but with simple, straightforward ingredients and a few tools, a steaming hot bowl of homemade ravioli is totally doable. With a classic ricotta filling and an uncomplicated but rich brown butter sauce, this is the perfect recipe to get you started.

When I share this recipe with ICE career and recreational students, there are two things that blow everyone’s minds. First — how easy it is to make perfect ravioli with just a tray and your freezer. Second — yes, you really do need to put that much salt in your pasta water: salty like the sea is key. (The pasta doesn’t absorb it all, trust me, it just makes your pasta taste extra delicious.) Before you get started on your fresh pasta dough, here are a few more tips for nailing your homemade ravioli every time — and you’ll never look at the store-bought stuff the same again.

  • Using a ravioli tray is incredibly efficient and makes picture-perfect ravioli — but separating them can be tricky. “Flash” freezing them for 10-20 minutes in your freezer will make this step a snap, literally — you will know the ravioli are set once you can snap them apart easily, like a chocolate bar.
  • Don’t have a ravioli tray? Just make the ravioli the same way, laying out a sheet twice as long as you need, piping the filling equal distance apart, folding the second half of the dough over the first, and then cutting with a ravioli wheel or knife. (That said, a ravioli tray costs the same as a wheel, and it’s easier to use. You can find one.)
  • When cooking the ravioli, you can tell they’re ready when they puff like a balloon — this means that the filling is hot enough to create steam.
  • Remember to reserve some of the pasta water for your sauce. Because of the starch in the pasta water, adding a spoonful of the cooking water will make the sauce “creamy” without adding cream. But be careful not to add too much as the pasta water is already salty.
  • If you’re looking for other sauces to substitute, try these combinations: tomato sauce, oregano and Parmesan; classic pesto with a sprinkle of pine nuts; or capers, olive oil, lemon zest and parsley.

RELATED: A Pastry Chef’s Guide to Making Perfect Chocolate Ganache

Ricotta Ravioli With Brown Butter, Sage and Hazelnuts

Serves 4

For the pasta:
11 oz. all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. salt

For the filling:
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 tbsp. heavy cream
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper

For the sauce:
4 oz. (1 stick) butter
1 bunch fresh sage, leaves picked
6 oz. hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
¼ tsp. salt
2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese

1. To make the dough, place the flour on your work surface and make a well in the center. Break the eggs into the well and add the salt. With a fork, begin to gently beat the eggs in a circular motion, incorporating approximately ½ of the flour. Using a bench scraper or your hands, bring the entire mixture together.

2. Knead the dough with your hands for 3 to 4 minutes. At this stage, the dough should be soft and pliable. If bits of dried dough form (which is normal) don’t incorporate them into the dough — brush them off of your work surface. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. Cut the dough into four pieces and recover with the plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.

3. Remove one piece of the dough at a time from the plastic wrap and knead through the rollers of a pasta machine set at the widest setting. Fold the dough like a business letter to form three layers, pressing out all of the air. Turn the open end of the dough to the right (like a book) and repeat the rolling process. Continue the folding and rolling process five times on this setting.

4. Repeat the folding and rolling process for the three remaining pieces of dough. Roll a piece of the previously kneaded dough through the pasta machine, reducing the setting with each roll until reaching the fifth-narrowest setting. Do not fold the dough between each setting. Once the sheets of pasta have been rolled out, use immediately, keeping the remaining sheets covered with a kitchen towel until ready to use.

5. For the filling, combine all ingredients in the work bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. With the whisk attachment or hand whisk, whip the mixture until completely smooth. Transfer to a piping bag and reserve in the refrigerator until ready to fill pasta.

6. To assemble raviolis, place one pasta sheet onto a well-floured ravioli tray. (Don’t have a ravioli tray? See Chef Robert’s tip above.) Using your hands, gently press the dough into the divots in the tray. Pipe about two tablespoons of filling onto each sheet of dough. Next, brush a second sheet of dough with cold water and place the wet side down on top of the bottom ravioli sheet.

7. Use a rolling pin, roll over the raviolis back and forth to seal and crimp the raviolis. Flip the ravioli tray to unfold the finished pasta. Transfer to a floured sheet pan and place immediately in the freezer.

8. For the sauce, melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat, swirling constantly. When it begins to bubble and sizzle, keep swirling and watch carefully for browning. As soon as the butter turns golden brown and smells nutty, carefully add the sage leaves and remove from heat. The sage will fry in the butter, making it crispy and aromatic. Finally, add the chopped hazelnuts and the salt. Reserve the sauce in a warm place until you’re ready to serve the pasta (do not refrigerate).

9. To assemble the dish, bring a large pot of water to a full, rolling boil. Add about ¼ cup of salt per quart of water. Remove the ravioli from the freezer. Break the raviolis apart and carefully place them into the boiling water and cook 4-5 minutes, until tender but not mushy.

10. Remove and toss directly into the pot of butter sauce. Gently mix to coat, and then spoon into a large pasta bowl. Finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and an extra touch of chopped, fried sage, if desired.

Want more recipes from ICE and PEOPLE? Click here to get decadent chocolate cake, three ways to use a watermelon and more. Want to take your cooking up a notch? Get more information about ICE’s award-winning career programs here.

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