These fennel ravioli are heavily inspired on these fennel ‘meatballs’ (polpette) that I discovered in Sicily at the great trattoria Tischi Toschi in Taormina. I prepare a lot of fennel, either in a salad, in pasta, or braised as a side. Usually I don’t use the tops/fronds, and save them in the freezer to make the fennel polpette. When I was deciding on a primo piatto for a dinner party, I thought the fennel polpette could quite easily be transformed into ravioli, and that is exactly what I did. I dressed them with the same tomato sauce as the polpette, and this vegetarian fresh pasta dish was a great success. Here is what I did…
For about 20 ravioli, serves 4 as a small primo or 2 for lunch
200 grams (7 oz) fennel fronds
50 grams (1.8 oz) fresh dill
2 Tbsp pine nuts
2 Tbsp ”Corinto Nero” currants, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and drained and patted dry
50 grams (1.8 oz) fresh bread crumbs
50 grams (1.8 oz) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1 can (400 grams/14 oz) peeled tomatoes, or 400 grams tomato puree (passata di pomodoro)
1 small onion, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fennel seeds and more grated parmigiano for garnish
fresh pasta dough made with 2 eggs and about 200 grams (1 1/3 cup) Italian 00 flour
Put the fennel greens in the blender together with 50 grams breadcrumbs, 50 grams parmigiano, and an egg.
Process until quite smooth, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and refrigerate to allow the filling to firm up.
To make the tomato sauce, stir a small minced onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the onion is soft and fragrant, then add 400 grams of peeled tomatoes pureed in the food processor, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
When the tomato sauce has thickened, press it through a food mill…
…to obtain a smooth sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Make pasta dough using 2 eggs, allow it to rest in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap, for at least half an hour, then roll it out to the thinnest setting and make ravioli using the prepared filling. Click here to read how to make ravioli. Each 1 pine nut and 1 currant to the filling of each ravioli.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
When the water boils, add salt and ravioli. Cook the ravioli for 2 to 3 minutes only.
Meanwhile, gently reheat the tomato sauce.
When the ravioli are cooked, lift them from the pot with a strainer and add to the tomato sauce.
Gently toss them to cover with the sauce.
Serve at once on preheated plates, garnished with fennel seeds and grated parmigiano.
We enjoyed this with a Friulano from the North-Eastern Italian region of Friuli, the local autoctonous grape variety that in this case was made in large old oak barrels rather than stainless steel to give the wine more depth and roundness. The vegetal notes of the Friulano work very well with this vegetarian pasta dish. Another dry white with vegetal notes, depth and roundness or a similar rosé would also work.
Each region of Italy has its own pasta shapes. One of the typical shapes of Sardinia (Sardegna) is fregula or fregola, made from durum wheat flour and water, and similar to cous cous. As Sardinia is an island, it’s not a surprise that a traditional preparation of fregola is with vongole (clams). They are called cocciua niedda in the local dialect. Fregula with Clams (Fregola con Cocciua Niedda) is prepared very much like risotto, with the juices released by the clams as stock. There are versions with or without tomato. This dish is simple but loaded with flavor.