Inspired by the dish Marco Polo brought back from China, raïoles have been a traditional treat in Provence for centuries. The little squares of dough can be filled with beef, veal, ham, lamb’s brains, pumpkin, and rice. The Niçois version is truly superb—it is as light as it is fragrant. The secret here is the savory combination of boeuf à la niçoise (with its wine and orange flavor) and spinach.
This is not a quick dish to prepare, but it is well worth the time. Frozen spinach and a pasta machine are great helpers. The boeuf à la niçoise must be prepared a day ahead, then chopped for the ravioli.
So with recipe in hand and a little time, you can now produce a most wonderful dish.
Prepare the beef stew, then dice the beef. Reserve the stew sauce. Chop the salt pork. Blanch and drain the spinach; squeeze it dry and chop. Grate the onion.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet and add the salt pork and onion. Cook for 5 minutes. Place the beef, spinach, onion, and salt pork in a blender in three batches until it becomes a paste. Or chop them on a board as finely as you can. Pour into a large bowl and add the garlic, nutmeg, eggs, cheese, thyme, salt, and pepper. Check the seasoning and stir well. You should have a smooth and fairly dry mixture.
Sift the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the olive oil, eggs, water, and salt. Mix with a fork until all the flour is absorbed, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary. Knead for about 10 minutes, either in the bowl or on a floured table or counter, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Form a ball of dough, place it in an oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth and let it rest for 1 hour.
Put your pasta machine on the table or counter and flour it. Divide the dough into 4 balls the size of small apples. Roll each ball through No. 1, then 3, then 5, then 7. Reach underneath and pull out the thin strip as it is being rolled. If allowed to pile up under the machine it will stick together. Lay the paper-thin sheets of dough on a floured tray or table to dry for about 10 minutes.
If you do not have a pasta machine, roll each small ball of dough on a floured board as thinly as you can. Let the sheets rest for 10 minutes. (Left longer they will become difficult to work with.)
Place a sheet of dough on a floured surface. Put a teaspoon of filling every
Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Add
Arrange the ravioli in a warm dish, alternating layers of ravioli with a layer of warm beef stew sauce or grated cheese and olive oil (or sauce aux noix).
If you have roasted a chicken or leg of lamb, deglaze the pan with a little white wine while scraping the bottom of the pan. Use this sauce with the ravioli, which can accompany the chicken or lamb.
© 1990 Mireille Johnston estate. All rights reserved.