pasta pronto

oxtail ravioli with gremolata 

It’s amazing how intertwined food and travel can be and how one can inspire the other. In my own past pretty much every trip has been inspired by the desire to eat or drink and in the future no doubt this will continue. (Although with my recent rejection from the el bulli reservation lottery that trip to Spain and Morocco might just have to wait another year.) But what is really special to see is when someone is so captured by the food they experience on holiday that they embrace it on their return home.

Earlier this year my good mate Ades and his lovely wife Jo were lucky enough to travel to Italy. Before they had even left, I noticed some subtle changes. Like the fact that Ades had pretty much planned and booked the trip himself using his newly acquired ’email Italian’ and was starting to show a serious interest in good olive oil or ‘olio’ as he had begun to call it. But this did not prepare me for the Italianophile who returned.

Rather than his habitual footy jumper attire (predominantly the Sydney Swans), young Ades was stylishly dressed by Dolce and Gabanna among others. Yes the boy from the suburb of Waniassa in Canberra had changed. Someone who had joked that his upbringing on a steady staple of takeaway fast food had made his body turn into some kind of ‘fresh food rejecting machine’ was now happy to discuss in detail the best pasta, the best coffee and the best olio of his trip.

And it didn’t stop there. With the guidance of his fellow metaphorical ‘lobster’ farmer and best mate, Robbie, a styling little electric pizza oven, dubbed the ‘pizza pronto’ was purchased and a certain unit in Neutral Bay started hosting pizza nights. With top quality olio and panne to start things off I for one was chuffed that my mate was not only getting into food but getting into cooking.

So when it came time for me to return the favour, the first thing that sprang to mind was to continue on the Italian theme and wow them with some fresh homemade pasta. With one dinner inexcusably postponed, things were a little warmer than I had originally planned by the time our pasta dinner eventuated but with an essence-of-Spring starter of baked zucchini flowers and a meat-lovers oxtail ravioli (or mushroom for our vego guests) given a freshen up with zesty gremolata and a green salad no one was complaining…..all good things…

an italianish dinner
baked zucchini blossoms with ricotta & basil oil
oxtail ravoli with gremolata
green salad
tea, coffee & chocolates

oxtail ravoli with gremolata
serves 8
Adapted from a recipe by Elizabeth Egan and Domenic Pipicelli of Becco Restaurant in Melbourne published in the Australian Gourmet Traveller Italian supplement from June 2004.

While you can prepare your ravioli in advance, freeze until ready to use and then pop straight into a large pot of boiling water from the freezer, I find that it is better to make and use fresh. Freezing tends to allow moisture migration from the filling to the dough which causes weak spots in the dough which lead to water getting in during the cooking process and ultimately soggy pasta and no one likes soggy pasta.

The thing I love about this dish apart from the absolute meatyness is serving the ravioli with the reduced cooking juices to keep everything moist and delicious. Just as tasty as your more traditional burnt butter with sage but far far lighter.

2T extra virgin olive oil
2kg oxtail bone in, cut into chunks
2 brown onions, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs thyme
1 400g tin tomatoes
1C (250mL) red wine
1 1/2C (375mL) chicken stock
1 quantity pasta dough, see below
for the gremolata:
½ bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
zest 1 lemon
parmesan cheese, to serve

Preheat oven to 160C. Heat oil in a large flameproof casserole dish and brown oxtail over a medium heat. Remove meat and reserve while you cook the onion, celery, carrots and garlic stirring occasionally until they are softened but not browned. Return the meat to the pan with the remaining ingredients except gremolata. Season and cover and cook for 3-4 hours or until oxtail is super tender.

Allow to cool slightly then strain meat and vegetables, reserving the cooking juices. Skim the fat from the top of the juices and then place in a saucepan and simmer until reduced to approx 1 1/2C.
Meanwhile remove the meat from the bones, discarding the bones and shredding into chunks. Combine back with the veg and season well.

Take your pasta sheets from the recipe below. I tend to roll one sheet then fill and then repeat with the remaining dough and filling. To fill place pasta on a workbench and place generous teaspoonfuls of meat filling along the top half of the sheet approx 5cm apart. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, moisten the dough surrounding each mound of filling. Fold the bottom half of the pasta over to cover the filling smoothing to remove any air pockets as you go. It’s important to keep the amount of air to a minimum and to make sure you press down well to seal and avoid the dreaded soggy ravioli. Cut each ravioli into squares and place on a well flour dusted tray while you repeat with the remaining filling and pasta. You may have some filling left over depending on how generous you are.

To make the gremolata finely chop everything together. Its best to do this just before you are ready to cook the pasta to keep it nice and fresh.

When you are ready to serve return the sauce to a simmer and bring a large stockpot of salted water to the boil. Add half the ravioli and cook for approx 3 mins or until the filling is hot and the pasta is cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel on a plate in a low oven. Return the water to the boil and cook the remaining pasta.

To serve, divide ravioli between warmed pasta bowls and drizzle over sauce. Scatter with gremolata and serve with cheese passed separately.


fresh egg pasta
makes approx 800g

The Italians tend to specify tipo 00 flour for pasta but if you can’t get your hands on any, I find that regular high protein bread flour works well. I tend to mix my dough in a bowl but feel free to go for the more authentic old school method of creating a crater of flour on your bench top and mixing the egg and oil through. The general rule of thumb is 1 egg to 100g flour but I prefer to start out with a moister dough as it is easier to knead and add back more flour rather than trying to moisten an overly dry dough.

While a pasta maker isn’t essential to the process, it does make things a lot easier in the rolling department and even if you only make pasta every now and then it’s a worthwhile investment.

500g pasta flour
6 eggs
2T extra virgin olive oil
extra flour for dusting

Place flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Season well and add eggs and oil to the well. Mix with a fork until it comes together into a dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead, adding additional flour if it is too sticky until you have a smooth elastic dough. This takes a bit of work but can be quite therapeutic. Wrap dough in cling wrap and allow to rest for at least 30mins.

Cut your dough into quarters and take one while leaving the remaining dough covered so it doesn’t dry out. Squash dough out into a flatter shape then dust well with flour and pass through your pasta maker on the widest setting. Keep passing the dough through and dusting with flour until your dough is approx 2mm thick (setting No. 6 on my machine). It is then ready to cut into your desired shape or for use in the recipe above.

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  • Oxtail ravioli in our house is a way of using left overs. If there is any oxtail daube – that I make in my pressure cooker – left it is usually only a small portion, so I take gao tse wrappers from the chinese grocer and make ravioli with it.

    Then I reduced some Vietnamese Beef Pho soup I keep in the freezer, add some pomegranate molasses and drizzle it over the ravioli and garnish with watercress.

  • Most of my holidays are structured around food too, and I too am waiting for a table at El Bulli before visiting Spain :)

    How amazing and great that a trip to Italy can inspire someone to that extent!

  • had i not read this post recently I wouldn’t have bothered to make my own pasta for a recent cannelloni experiment (worked a treat). I had planned to just buy some fresh stuff, but the urge to go buy it was outweighed by all of the correct ingredients upstairs and so off I went and made it.

    I don’t have a pasta maker and I commented to hubby that I now know why italian women have a strong upper body look about them!

    i didn’t need the whole mix so what i didn’t use I wrapped in cling film and put in the fridge and during this week have made lasagne and for lunch today with the remaining scrap i made a rough cut ribbon pasta and tossed through tuna, zucchini carpaccio, olives, fromage blanc and a sliced chilli.

    the point of all of this detail? to thank you for not one, but at least 5 sensational meals over the past week (lunches and leftovers included) and for opening my eyes to how easy this is and how different it tastes to what we blindly eat as “pasta” day in and day out.

  • I’ve been oxtail ravioli for a while, having learned it off my Grandmother, but I’m going to try your version too. The gremolata sounds like a great touch.

    I sauce mine with brown butter & sage, and the version I use has white wine instead of red, veal instead of chicken stock and no tomatoes. After cooking the oxtail is finely shredded and then chopped capers and parsley are added, and a bit of the cooking juices which kind of sets it like jelly in the fridge overnight. One of my all-time faves.

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