Homemade Caramelized Cauliflower Agnolotti (Ravioli)

Belissimo! The soft textured pasta encloses a creamy blend of caramelized cauliflower and ricotta. The agnolotti is topped with a sweet reduced balsamic glaze. This is the classic dish of savory and sweet. The dish is best served with lightly grilled asparagus or a simple grilled steak. Get the meats, cheese, bread, and wine going for the appetizer and you can make it a rewarding summer dinner for after school or work.

I must credit this dish to one that I tasted in Seattle, Washington at the restaurant How to Cook a Wolf. Though it is not an exact replica, it is certainly tasty and hope you can try it one day. The key is the homemade pasta dough which does take some time and work but is incomparable to store-bought pasta. The other key is the reduction of the balsamic. A good reduction takes almost a half an hour, or until the glaze becomes viscous and separates when you run a spoon through it. And finally, you cannot forget a decent bottle of wine, probably best with a red but quality has no face so a good white or red would do it.

This is the recipe from the bare bones. You make the dough. You must set aside a day for this product. I would be glad to teach you one day if you would really like to learn. Experience in dough-making is key. Keep at it!

Ingredients for pasta dough:

  • About 5 cups flour
  • 5 eggs
  • About 1/4 cup water

*this recipe makes 60+ ravioli, but you can easily half it or store away the extra dough in the fridge or freezer. But, remember to generously flour the dough in storing it.

1. Make one small mount of dough on a large flat surface. Make sure the surface is clean (do not use bleach or chlorox) and is low so that you can get leverage over the dough. The dinner table may work best.

2. Make a well in the center of the mount, a hole that is deep but shallow enough so that there is still a substantial layer of flour in the center.

3. Crack 2 eggs into the center of the well and carefully mix with a fork.

4. Slowly incorporate the flour from the sides into the middle with the fork. Be careful not to break the sides of the well otherwise the egg will escape and run on the table. The idea is to use the fork to mix little amounts of flour into the egg circling the well. Do it as evenly as possible. This is the tricky part, simply go slow and methodically. But, believe me, this part improves with experience.

5. Once all the egg is mixed in, its time to get your hands dirty. Form the dough into a ball and whip it into shape. Roll it and press it until it is as soft as a baby’s bottom. That’s when you know you’re done.

I know this part is easier said then done. Use small amounts of the water at a time ( a tablespoon at a time) to form the dough. Also, you can use extra flour too if it gets too sticky.

6. Immediately wrap it in plastic wrap tightly. Let it sit for 30 minutes. This is is to allow the dough to expand. If you simply rolled out the dough right away, it is too elastic and would come right back to you after you roll it out. Trust me.

7. Repeat this with the remaining flour and eggs and any necessary water.

8. After 30 minutes, unwrap your dough. Roll it out with a rolling pin until it is almost transparent and you can see your fingers through it in the natural light. A little thicker is ok as long as you are consistent with all the dough and make the thickness the same throughout. If you have a pasta machine you can save a bundle of time but this way you will mostly likely get a work out so be ready to use some arm strength.

9. Once the dough is rolled out, cut it into small squares, about 2X2 inches for raviolis. Below is a picture of the general size the dough should be. Essentially, a hearty teaspoon of filling should comfortably fit the square and be able to close up. This concludes the pasta portion of the recipe. To follow is the making the ravioli filling and balsamic reduction. Hang in there you’re still listening.

Ingredients for filling and balsamic reduction(for 60+ ravioli):

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
  • 1 batch homemade dough
  • Splashes of olive oil
  • Dash salt and pepper
  • Sugar (tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Get a large pot of water and set it to a boil.

2. While waiting, clean and cut cauliflower, removing stem and tough parts. Cut into fairly small pieces, keeping the pieces as uniform as possible. About 2 inches each is desirable.

3. Place the cauliflower pieces into the boiling water for 3-4 minutes (called parboiling).

4. Immediately drain the cauliflower and put into ice water. Have this ready before hand. This is to keep the cauliflower crisp and stop it from overcooking. You will saute it later.

5. Dry the cauliflower thoroughly. Placing the cauliflower on a clean dish towel works well.

6. Caramelize cauliflower in frying pan. Make sure the pan is steel and not a non-stick. This is crucial for the browning in the caramelization. Put a splash of olive oil on high heat. Add the cauliflower. Do not move too often, allow the first side to brown. Salt and pepper the cauliflower lightly (teaspoons). Also, add a couple tablespoons of sugar evenly over the cooking cauliflower. Taste the cauliflower for the sugar-you only want a faint sweetness.

7. Continue to saute the cauliflower until all sides are browned. Flip them here and there when needed. The browning takes about 15 minutes. Medium to high heat works best in the beginning and then switching to low near the end prevents burning.

8. Then, combine the cauliflower and 3/4 of the ricotta container into the blender. Add a small amount of water to get it started if needed. Blend it until it is a thick puree.

9. Gather puree and dough squares. Place a small teaspoon of puree onto center lower area of square (seen above). Fold over, using water to make the dough more sticky. Seal by pressing fingers and then use fork to press edges. Do not overfill and remember to seal tightly. Place on floured baking pan. Flour all surfaces and raviolis generously. They will easily stick to surfaces and break when you go and try to pick them up if you do not use lots of flour.

10. Once you set aside your raviolis, use the same pan you sauteed the cauliflower in to reduce the balsamic. Add 1 1/2 cups balsamic to the pan on high heat just until it bubbles on the edges. You must whisk the balsamic continuously to prevent it from burning. Then, lower it to low to medium heat and slow whisking but still continuing to whisk. Put it on low for about 20 minutes occasionally whisking. The balsamic will becomes thick.

11. Boil water to cook ravioli. Ravioli will cook in about 4 minutes. Strain immediately to cool and stop cooking, Serve with drizzled balsamic glaze. Bon apetito!

More Cauliflower Recipes: 

For more recipes and stories, check out my new cookbook “Stories from Morocco: a food and travel memoir” now available through Kindle. 

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