Goat’s cheese and spinach ravioli

Food machines are my favourite toys, but I do draw the line occasionally. Asparagus cookers? Forget it. Expensive steamers? What’s wrong with a battered old colander? Ravioli makers? Now that is the limit.

There was a time when I thought you couldn’t make ravioli unless you had one of those extraordinary instruments that attach somehow to the top of those extra useful, tried and trusted, hand-powered pasta machines. The ravioli extra is something like a laundry shute, as seen in forties hotel movies. Two strips of pasta approach each other from opposite sides and a highly flavoured mixture is gobbled up as the strips rush through the machine. At least that’s what happens in the literature.

What really happens is that you get bored, and end up in a sticky mess, and in a tizz, and probably give up. The attachment ends up in the back of the cupboard with the jams and chutneys you bought at a fete in 1979. You know the place.

There’s another, simpler solution, but don’t be fooled by it either. This is a tray – like an ice-block tray, with ridged squares on top, looking not unlike moulds of ravioli – a roller, and that’s it. They sell like hot cakes at Christmas. You lay a sheet of pasta on the tray, easing it into the slots, spoon in your mixture, lay another layer of pasta, roll, and pop, you have your ravioli! Forget it. Another waste of money. Why? Too few ravioli per gram of sweat, too sticky, too messy. A waste of time. There’s only one advantage to the show. The tiny roller makes for a terrific first pastry roller for the kids.

It is clear why such ‘machines’ as these proliferate. We are so gullible, such consumers, such dreamers. Suckers. We see and love a bowl of ravioli in a flash restaurant. Next we are strolling past a food shop, and there it is, the answer to our dreams: a ravioli maker.

I have mentioned to friends that I have made ravioli. They look at you aghast, as if you had said you were best mates with Frank Sinatra. If I’d a spare ravioli machine on me, they’d have snapped it up in a flash, used it once, and offered it for sale in the local trader for a quarter of what they paid for it.

The local trader is a great place to watch as dreams explode into life’s shrapnel. You see whizzers, bread makers, electric pasta machines, mixers, juice machines, coffee makers, microwaves, ice cream machines; and of course, ravioli makers. Forget the tricks. Think of ravioli as a pair of silk sheets. You slide in between and cuddle up. There’s your filling. There’s your ravioli.

80g spinach, weighed after it has been cooked and wrung out of any excess moisture (about 1/2 bunch)

80g goat’s cheese, or a strongly flavoured cheddar, or Ricotta – Goat’s cheese has taken off in the last few years, at no surprise at all to me. It has more guts per cubic millimetre than any other cheese I know. It makes for a glorious key component of ravioli, a luscious topping on pizza for a quick but delicious lunch, and much more. Ricot ta is a terrific cheese for this dish if you look at it from another flank. If you go for goat’s cheese you are looking to it to provide the dominant flavour; if you use Ricotta, then the spinach provides the guts. Don’t take that as a put-down of Ricotta: spinach is a really gorgeous, much under-rated vegetable. And one other thing: Ricotta is about ten times cheaper than goat’s cheese.

1 chilli, chopped finely

1 clove garlic, chopped finely

juice of 1 lemon

a good pour of olive oil

a little nutmeg, grated

¼ bunch of chives, chopped


black pepper


Break up the cheese into walnut- sized pieces.


When the spinach is as dry as you can get it, toss it into a whizzer with the cheese, chilli, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, nutmeg and chives, and let ‘er rip. When the mix has become a puree, taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.


Make the pasta as usual (see page 15). Roll it out to its thinnest and place two sheets side by side. Spoon bits of mixture about 6 cm apart on one layer, moisten with a little water around the filling, put the other layer on top, and push down gently with your fingers. Slice into separate rounds, squares, whatever, and re-roll the edges. You must do this or you will have a ravioli with two different thicknesses of pasta – one covering the filling, and the two parts coming together at the edges. Cut away any excesses caused by the re-rolling and keep the extra pasta for soup, or something.


Bring some water to the boil and cook the ravioli for about 4-5 minutes, testing all the while. They are done when the edges are done.


Serve the ravioli with your favourite cream or butter sauce, or pesto, or a tomato puree given a lift with a handful of herbs. There’s another ripper sauce that takes any ravioli into the glorious: a good pour of the best virgin olive oil, a vigorous turn of the pepper mill, fresh herbs, a touch of balsamic vinegar, and plenty of Parmesan. Always serve a gentle sauce with ravioli. If you have made them properly, they should provide enough flavour and fun of their own: the sauce is only for its moisture, and middle flavour.

Note: There’s another rule to knowing whether the ravioli will work. If the mix is happy on a piece of thick, crusty, buttered bread, then it’s a goer.

WINE: Light red has always sounded more like a faction of the Labor Party rather than a wine style to me. Too many of them lack complexity of flavour. The best in this style is Cab Mac -or just buy a good medium-bodied shiraz.