How To Avoid Homemade Ravioli From Breaking While Cooking And Having Success Every time
When I was a little girl, Ravioli was always a special treat. My Father loved them. Unfortunately, Cheese filling was the only type of Ravioli we ever had and it wasn’t until I was married that I tasted other fillings or experimented with my own creations. We also never had Chinese Food other than canned Chicken Chow Mein. What can I say, my Parents were set in their ways. My first time going to a Chinese restaurant was the night of my Bridal Shower. A whole new world opened up to me. And to my Parents as I explained to them what they were missing.
Ravioli are traditionally made with an Egg Pasta Dough. The Dough is rolled out, filling spaced in mounds, pasta sheet placed over, pressed and sealed and cut. Simple…
Until you attempt to make them and instead of pillowy pockets of heaven you look in the pot of boiling water floating and fighting to get on a plate, and all you see is the filling bubbling everywhere.
I cannot express the frustration and depression that sets in to any poor soul after making the dough, rolling it out, especially if by hand, making the filling, carefully pressing and sealing and cutting, only to cook them and see the boiling water turn heart into a million pieces like the filling boiling in the pot.
Or you roll. Fill. Seal. Cook, and they are so tough, no one eats them.
There is just so much a person can do to keep attempting to make something. If this has happened to you, let me tell you, you are not alone. In my years as a Chef, and Teacher I have had many people share their stories and express their doubts to ever succeed. I myself, even with making them since a child with my Mother and Aunts, had failed miserably many times when making them on my own.
But as I have stated before, when I fail at something, especially when it comes to cooking, that empowers me to succeed. And Success is attainable when it comes to making Ravioli and not having most of them break up as they cook. As I learned, with some simple tips and instructions, you too can succeed and make delicious and mouth watering Ravioli that won’t break up in the water or be the reason you wind up in therapy. I examined what I was doing and doing wrong. Once in a while I will still have a traitor amongst the masses, but one, I can live with. And it is usually when I freeze them and one has cracked. But I don’t have half or more breaking anymore and rarely when I make them fresh and don’t freeze.
First Lets talk about your Pasta Dough, because without the Dough, there is no Ravioli.
As I said traditionally they are made with egg pasta dough, I was taught this way and told by experts for decades you only want to make them with an Egg Pasta Dough. Nevertheless, I am making mine these days with a semolina and water dough, as they come out fluffy and when you are out of eggs during a Pandemic, flour and water can be extremely surprising.
Now there are a few main reasons why Ravioli making fails.
Either the dough is rolled out too thick.
The Dough is rolled out too thin
The Ravioli are not sealed properly.
You over fill the Ravioli
You undercook or overcook the Ravioli.
Let’s look at these reasons and show the solutions to succeed too!
So How Do I Roll Out My Dough And Get The Proper Thickness?
A common mistake on the first attempt at making Ravioli is rolling the dough too thick resulting in a very heavy and chewy Ravioli, or making the dough so thin, it breaks either after you fill the Ravioli and stretch the dough over the filling or when transferring and dropping in boiling water. Getting the correct thickness is a must.
This is easily attained if you use a Pasta Maker with the roller attachment. Depending on your maker, on a Kitchen Aid, which I feel is the best out there, you never roll your pasta past 4, 5 or 6 on the dial for filled pastas or Lasagna. I roll until 5. On other makers it may vary but you will need to test your maker to see what number on its dial is best. Roll out a piece of dough, make 1 Ravioli with instructions below and see how it cooks if you are not sure. Once you figure out your thickness perfection, use that number for all your filled pasta, tortellini, etc.
What if you are a Pasta snob and only roll out by hand? You still need to roll it out thin but not so thick. You usually roll out your dough as thin as possible so you can easily see your hand through the pasta for fettuccini, etc. but this can be too thin for Ravioli and will result in breakage. You want to be able to see your hand, but not a lot. Again, cut off a piece and fill it, seal it, cook it.
I say the above because you can roll it out thinking you are all good. But you have to keep the stretching and the following in mind.
When you are putting two sheets of pasta together, you are doubling the thickness. So the trick is to roll thick enough so you don’t have the Ravioli breaking, but thin enough so they aren’t chewy. Don’t Fret. You will eventually get there. I have never met anyone that didn’t fail somehow.
How Do I Seal And Cut My Ravioli Properly?
Next, sealing your edges is another important part. If your edges aren’t sealed properly, they will break open. They will look like talking pocketsKindle Unlimited Membership Plans
I know you are probably feeling discouraged. But don’t be. I am pointing out all the pitfalls so hopefully you will have a successful outcome. Learn from my many mistakes so you can learn not to make the same ones. But if you still do make mistakes, learn from them.
There are many sealers on the market. The old fashioned way is to place your filling on the pasta, brush the top pasta sheet with water so it acts like a glue, cover with the second sheet water side down on first, manipulate the pasta filling to the edge and at the same time getting all the air out of the Ravioli so there is only filling and pasta and pressing to compress and thin out the two joined sheets a little, and seal, then cutting the Ravioli into squares with a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, or knife, then with the tines of a fork, going around the edges crimping them to ensure the Ravioli are sealed. This is how most people have learned from their Grandmothers, Mothers, and Aunts.
Some like using a Ravioli form that you lay your sheet of pasta on, put your filling in where the holes are, brush your second sheet with water, place your second sheet of pasta on top, and roll over the form with a small rolling pin, sealing and closing the Ravioli. These are great, but you are limited to the size the form is.
Others like a Ravioli Stamp. You place your filling on your sheet of pasta, brush with water, cover, getting air out, pressing sheets together to thin out some, and stamping down around mounds of filling, crimping and cutting.
I love using a Crimper Wheel. I put the filling on the Sfoglia, sheet of pasta as it is called in Italian, cover with second pasta sheet brushed with water, manipulating pasta to edges and getting air out, pressing dough, then with the crimper wheel, cutting and crimping all in one motion. For me it is not only the fastest way, but easiest. I suggest investing in a Crimper Wheel before buying stamps. Although, Stamps look cool and you can make round or heart shaped or other shaped Ravioli with them.
Now if you aren’t using a Ravioli form you may be saying
How do I know where to put the filling?
First is to determine how big do you want your Ravioli? You don’t want them too big and you don’t want them too small. You need to take into account that the Ravioli is made with Pasta Dough. Pasta Dough expands and grows when you cook it. So if you make a 3 inch wide Ravioli, it will be almost 4 or 4 ½ inches when cooked.
There is no rule as to how big, Just remember, the bigger they are, the harder it is to remove them from the pot and bigger chance for breakage.
Next is, how much extra Pasta do you want. Some like less pasta, more filling. Some like more pasta less filling. It is a matter of choice. It is what you and your family or guests will love the most. Some like to make with more pasta and less filling when feeding big families to save time and money. That’s ok if that’s what you have to do. Just make sure you cook the Ravioli enough.
I like making mine around 3 inches wide leaving around ¾ of an inch around the edges of the pasta from the filling. This allows some pasta, a nice amount of filling, and room for cutting and crimping or stamping. To me this is balanced, something I always try to achieve in life especially cooking. They grow as they cook but are not so big, they fall and break. Everyone is happy with the amount of pasta to filling and never complaints from others that there isn’t enough filling. You aren’t part of an Italian family if there are never complaints about food By the Way.
As I said when I cut my pasta into strips, I allow room for cutting and crimping, around ¼ to ½ inch. So if I am making my Ravioli 3 inches wide, I am allowing room for the filling, the extra pasta, and cutting room with waste. (Don’t be afraid to use a ruler. In fact I strongly suggest you get a ruler that you will use only for your kitchen and keep it with your tools.)
If you use a Ravioli Stamp, take it and place the stamp on the edge of the sheet of pasta leaving a little room for crimping and cutting, leaving a slight indent so you know where you will cut your sheet and where to place your filling in the middle, leaving room to crimp and cut. I go all down the sheet of pasta so I can see exactly how many and how wide. Then you can cut your strips to the correct width. Remember, you need a bottom sheet and a cover sheet to make the Ravioli
If I am using a crimping wheel, or just a fork, I use a small round glass, like an oversized shot glass or a small beer sample glass. Mine is 2 1/8 inches wide on the rim. I allow for my 3 inch Ravioli, and place the rim of the top of the glass and leave a slight imprint in the middle and all along the strip of pasta. This allows me to cut my strips, and know exactly where to place my mounds of filling.
How Do I Put The Filling On The Pasta?
I use a Large Pastry Bag or a Gallon sized Plastic Storage Bag, place the filling inside, twist the top tight, and pipe the filling in the middle where I placed the indent from the glass. I pipe it inside the circle making a small round mound of filling leaving the edge in view. Think of an egg yolk. After I place the second sheet of pasta on top and join the top edges together, I can take the shot glass, place over the mound, and press slightly to seal the mound and getting most of the air out leaving a perfect circle of filling. I take my fingers and press the pasta down, sealing and thinning the two sheets slightly and getting any extra air out. Then, using the crimping wheel, cut along the edges lengthwise on top and bottom of Ravioli, then cut in between the Ravioli separating them. I check them to ensure they are sealed and press or run the crimper over again if they aren’t. I will say, with the crimping wheel, the Ravioli not sealing rarely happens if you press hard, and you want to press hard. If you don’t have a Crimping Wheel or Stamp and only a fork, cut into your strips, use the glass for placement, press, cut, and crimp around each side of each Ravioli ensuring all you edges are completely sealed. Always check them no matter which method you use.
If you have followed all of these suggestions, no matter what tools you wind up using, you should have a great outcome. If any break reexamine what you did or didn’t do. I do suggest not cutting corners. But if you don’t succeed 100% or only 50 to 80%, don’t give up. Write down what you didn’t do and do it next time. Learn from your mistakes.
After your Ravioli are filled, you will want to take a large baking sheet or tea towels and spread course Semolina Flour on the pans or towels and lay your Ravioli one at a time keeping the separate so they do not stick together. Do not EVER skip this step! If you aren’t going to cook them right away, you can place in the freezer until they are frozen, then you can place in plastic storage bags and place back in freezer. I like to use mine within 6 months as they start losing flavor or can get freezer burn.
Always keep in mind that laying Ravioli on top of one another will result in them sticking together. So unless you have plastic trays like they use for store bought Ravioli, or parchment paper, do not place them on top of each other. And if you use trays or parchment, use more semolina on top too.
As I stated before, Ravioli are traditionally made with an Egg Pasta Dough. But what if you don’t have eggs in the house? And again it wasn’t until recently during the 2020 Pandemic that I attempted to make Ravioli with Semolina and Water Pasta Dough and to my amazement, I once again learned NEVER SAY NEVER!
They were light, fluffy and my family actually enjoyed them more than the usual Egg Pasta Dough. Game changer for sure!
Whichever dough you decide to use, the tips are the same.
- Do not roll your dough out to thin or too thick. I cannot express this more, and it may take a few times to learn the correct thickness. If you fill and the dough is really thin with filling trying to pop out of top, it will break up in water
- Don’t overfill or under fill.
- Seal with water, get as much air as possible out from the pocket and crimp properly.
- Cook your Ravioli until the corners are completely cooked. Test one to make sure. I cook mine in salted boiling water for 6 to 7 minutes if fresh, 8 or 9 minutes if frozen, but yours may cook slower or faster, so after they come to the top on the water, check them after cooking for 4 minutes. If they are tough or doughy, cook a minute more and test again. If they are still chewy, add another minute and continue to do this until they are cooked to your liking.
- Do not overcrowd your pot. Just as when you fry food, if you put too many in, they will take longer and may not cook properly and will be slimy.
The traditional Cheese filling is mainly Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese. Using Whole Milk gives you a creamy center.
Pumpkin, Mushroom, Meat, Eggplant, Egg Yolk are other fillings you can use and I will include some recipes Later.
I Hope you attempt making Ravioli. They really are fun to make. In the past I have had Ravioli Parties. I will make a couple of sauces in advance, and make the dough, then allow the guests to roll out their dough, fill, seal and cut and then I would cook them for each guest using separators in the water and then they would choose their sauce. Always a hit with family and friends and everyone loved learning to make Ravioli.
So which Dough to use? It is up to you. I will give you both below and you try both and see what you and your loved ones like the best. There really isn’t a right or wrong way. I have been proven wrong about that.
Semolina and Water Pasta Dough.
This is a Great recipe for someone that can’t eat Eggs as the dough is made with just Semolina Flour and Water and no eggs. I like adding a little salt and olive oil but this can be avoided if you don’t want to. It is a preference or personal choice. I find I like the flavor that little bit gives the pasta.
This dough is actually how most boxed pasta you buy in the grocery store is made. Look on a box of macaroni or spaghetti. No eggs.
The Ravioli are light and fluffy and very flavorful.
Using a Kitchen Scale to measure out your Flour and Water when making pasta dough,
ensures a better outcome and I Highly recommend you invest in one.
A little information on flour. In the USA, Wheat flour is graded by gluten content and is usually Whole Wheat, All Purpose, Self Rising, or Bread Flour. In Europe Flour is graded by how much it is ground.00, #1, #2, Farina.
00 is what is preferred for pastas and bread, but most will use a courser Farina semolina when making Semolina and Water Dough, but a finer flour when rolling out. I like using a #1 semolina which is closer to the USA All Purpose grind to make the dough and roll it out. But if you don’t have a finer #1 semolina and make your dough and use a courser semolina, use All Purpose or Bread Flour to roll out your dough. NEVER use Self Rising Flour to make Pasta as it contains leavening Agents. You can use the courser semolina to keep your pasta from sticking after it is cut, but again, while rolling out use a finer ground flour not course Farina style semolina. Your Pasta will look and feel like you threw grains of sand in it.
Semolina and Water Dough:
This Recipe will make Approximately 35 - 45 3 inch Ravioli
600 Grams or approximately 3 ½ cups plus 2 Tablespoons Semolina Flour
18 grams or 1 Tablespoon of Salt
13 ½ grams or 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
350 Grams or approximately 1 ½ cups Hot Water, approx. 170 degrees
You can make this by hand or with a Stand Mixer or Food Processor which is faster and easier and doesn’t affect the final result. It is the kneading and rolling out on a wooden surface with a wooden rolling pin or Mattarello, that gives pasta the surface and texture Italians insist on. Using a pasta maker is okay, the result will be good, but it will not be what Italians in Italy insist on. If you do not have a Mattarello or Long Rolling Pin that is more than 30 inches but have a Pasta machine, you can use the pasta machine and learn how to make Ravioli and pasta. You can buy a 1 inch dowel from the hardware store, but it hurts your hands and takes longer than a real Mattarello. I learned with a dowel and the Mattarello is a lot better and easier. When you are able to get a Mattarello get one and learn to make it by hand.
If making Dough by hand, place semolina flour in a large bowl. (You can place on the counter and make a well as you do with egg pasta, but the water is hot and if your walls break, water goes everywhere. It is up to you.)
Add salt and olive oil to hot water and with a large wooden or metal spoon, mix well until salt is dissolved, add to flour and mix until dough comes together, using your hands after dough is forming and has cooled down from hot water so you don’t burn your hands.
Turn dough onto pasta board or counter and knead into a big ball, then start kneading your dough grabbing the top of the dough and folding over to the bottom and pushing away from you like you do to bread when kneading it.
Turn a quarter and repeat the folding and pushing. Do this for at least 10 minutes, you cannot knead it enough. Put some good music on and usually by the end of the second song or into the third, you are done.
If you choose to use a Food Processor or stand mixer Place all ingredients in a food processor and mix and pulse until a ball of dough forms, scraping down sides if needed. Turn onto Board or counter and Knead as above.
After your dough is kneaded properly, form the dough into a ball and wrap your dough tightly in plastic wrap, you do not want any air around the dough. Place on the counter for at least 2 hours before rolling out or place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours. The gluten in the flour needs to develop to allow the dough to stretch out.
After the Dough has rested, if you are using a pasta machine, cut your dough into 4 pieces and cover and dough you are not rolling out.
Press your piece of pasta dough down, you may use a smaller rolling pin to do this, and with your machine dial on #1, roll your dough through 3 times, folding dough over and sprinkling flour on dough if needed so it doesn’t stick to rollers. After third roll, do not fold over and put your dial on #2. Roll dough through, the put your dial on #3, sprinkling flour on strip of dough if needed so the dough doesn’t stick to the rollers, all the way up to #5 or #6 or whatever you determine is the best thickness for you. Your Pasta sheet should be long.
Use semolina flour on Strips to keep from sticking to pan or counter as you roll other portions out.
If you will roll out by hand using a Mattarello or Longer Rolling Pin that is at least 30 inches long, you will need to roll out longer than wider if you have a smaller Mattarello, keep that in mind, but it is better to roll out the entire ball or half at a time, it’s a lot of work to roll by hand. Press the rolling pin or Mattarello with the palms of your hands forward to stretch the dough, but do not press as you come back using your fingers or you are undoing the stretching. Turn your dough a quarter at a time. Stretch and roll out until desired thickness.
I am attempting to make videos on rolling by hand. But in the meantime, go to You Tube and search for Pasta Grannies or using a Mattarello. There are a couple of videos in English and Evan Funke is an American Pasta Master everyone should watch. But even if you do not speak or understand Italian, watch the Italian ones. You will still learn something.
Egg Pasta Dough
The instructions for Egg Pasta dough are similar. Add ingredients, mix, rest, roll out however you can roll your dough out after 30 minutes as the egg aids in the gluten developing faster.
For each Serving I use 100 grams of flour to 60 grams of Egg per serving. If you will be making Ravioli, use 600 grams of flour and 360 grams of eggs. If you do not have a scale start with 7/8 cup of flour per egg and use Extra Large Eggs.
Egg Pasta Dough:
This recipe is enough for approximately 35 – 40 Ravioli
600 Grams or 5.5 cups of 00 Flour, Bread Flour, or All Purpose Flour
6 whole Extra Large eggs
18 grams or 1 Tablespoon of Salt
13 ½ grams or 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
If making by hand, place Flour on Pasta Board or Counter and make a large well.
Crack eggs in small bowl of middle of well, adding salt and olive oil and beat well. If using bowl, Add eggs to well.
Keeping your walls in tack until your mixture is thick enough not to roll out.
Take a little flour at a time adding to egg and mix well until your mixture is thick enough to use your hands adding flour until you get a firm ball of dough.
If you measure using a scale, your dough should be a great consistency and you may use all your flour with minimal left.
If you measure by cups and depending on the humidity level in your house you may use less flour or more. I highly suggest investing in a good kitchen scale. I use mine when measuring out dough for breads, rolls, cookies, burgers, etc. But especially when making Pasta and Baking, it really makes a difference.
If you use a Food Processor or Stand Mixer, mix your eggs, olive oil, salt, and mix well. Add ¾ of your flour and add more until you get a firm but soft dough. A too dry of a dough will not roll easily. Too wet, adding too much flour that hasn’t had time to rest and combine to dough as you roll out.
Don’t get discouraged. I am writing this because this is where people attempting making any pasta usually fail. I always say, if you are going to attempt making egg pasta for the first time, plan on making it twice in case you add too much flour. Less flour at first is best until you get comfortable and know how it is supposed to turn out.
Your Dough should be soft but not sticky and not too dry.
Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at least 30 minutes in Fridge, but no more than 24 hours. Egg pasta tends to turn after 24 hours. I will usually make my Dough in the morning and roll in afternoon.
Divide in 4 if rolling by machine or roll out entire ball, flattening and rolling out just like Semolina Water Dough above.
To make Ravioli, Fill, seal, and crimp the same for both Doughs as explained before.
And Remember, Cook your Ravioli until they are soft in the corners, cut a piece off and taste it. If you rolled your dough out correctly, the top and bottom and sides will all be the same consistency.
I usually cook 5 to 7 minutes if fresh, 8 to 9 if frozen and DO NOT OVERCROWD.
Remove Ravioli to a Large Platter or pan with Sauce and cover with a little sauce if you are cooking for more than 3 people while you cook the remaining Ravioli. Then Place remaining Ravioli when cooked on Platter or Pan and cover with sauce and serve immediately.