If you’re planning to make your own filled pasta, you will start with fresh pasta dough. You will then roll the pasta very thinly and finally fill and shape it. This article will cover everything from the pasta dough and equipment needed to fillings and shaping of the stuffed pasta!
What Pasta Dough to Use for Stuffed Pasta?
There are three main types of pasta dough (you can read all about pasta dough in Home Made Pasta: Three Doughs & 10 Different Shapes). One made with water, another one with whole eggs and the third one with just egg yolks.
When it comes to Filled Pasta, you want to ensure that your pasta dough is strong enough to withstand the boiling process and protect the filling inside. If you pasta bursts, not only will you lose flavour, but the filling will cover pasta from the outside, spoiling your presentation.
So which pasta dough works best. We have experimented with all three doughs and found that egg pasta made with 00 flour worked best for us. Firstly, the moisture in this pasta dough comes from eggs which is a much stronger binder than water. However, when it comes to flour, you can use either 00 or semolina flour. Semolina flour typically has higher gluten content. That makes the pasta dough softer and more elastic, which is beneficial for filled pasta. We, however, haven’t noticed much difference in terms of the strength of the dough, based on the flour we used.
Pasta bianca (made with semolina and water only) lacks resistance, so may burst in the cooking process. Likewise, egg yolk pasta dough won’t have the strength of the egg white to bind it together, so your pasta may fall apart. In summary, we recommend using whole eggs in your dough, whether you choose 00 flour or semolina flour. The Recipe for the dough is below.Jump to Recipe
Tools & Equipment:
Yes, you can make filled pasta with just a rolling pin and a sharp knife! However, if you’re planning to make pasta regularly, it’s definitely worth investing in some great tools that make the processes a breeze. Here’s what we have and use:
A Food Processor (optional): food processors can be used to make the dough. It helps distribute the water or eggs in the flour by pulsing the blades. However, I feel it’s easy enough to do it with your hands. What food processor is extremely useful for, though, is making fillings for your stuffed pasta and a variety of pasta sauces. We highly recommend the Kenwood Food Processor.
Pasta Machine is essential for thinly rolled pasta. Whilst you can roll your dough using a rolling pin, it is unlikely you will get it as thin. The best filled pasta has the filling as the star of the show, so you don’t want it to be too dough-heavy. We use Marcato Atlas Pasta Machine.
Dual Cutter (or a very sharp knife): a cutter we use has two blades, one for a straight edge, and another one for fluted. You can simply use a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife.
Ravioli/ Girasoli Stamps: An easy way to stamp out pasta that is even in size and have lovely fluted edges. This can be replaced with cookie cutters.
Bicicleta: for the purposes of transparency, we don’t have one of those (Yet!), but it looks like a wonderful tool to have to ensure your pasta is cut evenly without having to measure every single piece.
Fillings for Stuffed Pasta:
You can fill your pasta with whatever your heart desires. There are a few things to keep in mind though:
- Rich meat fillings are more suitable for smaller bite-size shapes, like tortellini (small tortelloni). Bigger shapes are best filled with cheese and vegetables.
- Make sure your filling isn’t too thin in its consistency. You want to be able to either spoon it or pipe the filling and then fold the pasta dough over it, so it may get very messy if it is so thin that it doesn’t hold shape.
- It’s best not to leave large bits of ingredients in the filling. A large spinach stalk or a corner of unmashed butternut squash may pierce the pasta dough when you shape your pasta.
Over the coming month, we will be sharing our favourite filled pasta recipes, so keep an eye out if you’re looking for ideas. When it comes to fillings, the possibilities are endless. Most traditional Italian pasta fillings include simple seasoned ricotta, spinach & ricotta, pumpkin or butternut squash and sausage and cheese.
Some of our favourites include (that we will be sharing over the course of this year):
- Mushroom & Rocket
- Smoked Salmon Mousse
- Beetroot & Goat’s Cheese
- Butternut Squash & Nutmeg
- Lavender & Parmesan
Tips & Tricks:
- Roll the dough out thinly: when eating filled pasta, you need to be able to taste the filling. That’s why you should make sure that you roll your pasta dough out so thinly that the filling is the main flavour and the pasta is merely a parcel holding it all together. Our Marcato Pasta Machine has 6 settings and we roll ours to the last (thinnest) setting (sometimes it’s 5 for bigger shapes that can hold more filling). It is risky though, as the thinner you roll the easier the dough will tear and the more likely it is to burst in the boiling water. However, as you practice more and become more confident in shaping the pasta, thinly rolled dough will certainly make your filled pasta more special and technically impressive. To start with, work with small pieces of dough so that you don’t have to handle a meter at a time when rolling.
- Moisten the dough: Once your dough is rolled out and is spread across kitchen surfaces, it may take a while to fill and shape. That means your thin dough is likely to dry out. It will lead to it cracking when you shape your pasta and it simply won’t seal very well. To prevent that, once your dough is rolled out, spray it with some water using an atomiser (I simply use one from my travel-size bottle kit).
- Don’t overfill your pasta: Whilst you don’t want to be stingy on your lovely filling, if you overfill your pasta you won’t be able to shape it properly. What is more, if the filling gets into the seal, your pasta will burst when boiling and all the filling will escape.
- Squeeze the air out: Another reason why filled pasta bursts in boiling water is air pockets trapped within the filling. Air heats up and expands turning into steam. This creates pressure from the inside and eventually thin pasta dough bursts. To prevent that, make sure you don’t leave any air around your filling when shaping.
- Seal well: If your dough is moist, you may be able to simply press the edges together to seal the dough. If your dough feels dry, brush the edges with some water or egg wash (beaten egg with a couple of tbsps of water).
- Cooking: Like with any pasta, it is important not to overcook your filled pasta. Since you don’t want your pasta bursting, when you first drop the pasta in the water, shake the pot by the handles gently to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom and to each other.
Shaping Filled Pasta:
- Ravioli: likely the most popular filled pasta shape. Ravioli are most commonly square and can have straight or fluted edges. Traditional fillings vary across regions, with most popular being spinach & ricotta. Using a Ravioli Mould make them look very neat and tidy, but we don’t use one for a more rustic home-made look. To shape ravioli, roll out two thin sheets of pasta. Pipe or spoon your filling on one of them leaving approx 3-4 cm between depending on the size of your ravioli. Carefully place the other pasta sheet on top draping it down in between piles of filling to avoid air being trapped. Press around each mound to seal well pressing outward toward edges, pushing out any air pockets. Using a sharp knife, a ravioli stamp or a cutter, cut out even squares of ravioli.
- Girasoli: this pasta shape gets its name from a beautiful sunflower (girasoli means sunflower in Italian). It is essentially a round ravioli with fluted edge. Use the same technique as making the ravioli (method above). We opted to use a girasoli stamp to make ours.
- Mezzaluna: half-moon shaped filled pasta is native to Tyrol. Similarly to ravioli, mezzalune are filled with both vegetarian or meaty fillings and served with a variety of sauces including pesto, tomato or butter sauce. To make Mezzaluna Pasta, cut rounds of thinly rolled out pasta dough. Pipe/ spoon the filling in the centre. Fold the dough over to create a half circle and seal the edge with your fingers. Finally, press the edge down with the frok to create indents.
- Tortellini/ Tortelloni: Both are shaped exactly the same way, but tortellini is a much smaller version. Normally filled with a meaty filling and served in broth, these are the size of the tip of your thumb. Tortelloni on the other hand are larger, traditionally filled with cheese or vegetables and served with butter sauce. Whilst there’re lots of variations, we make our tortelloni starting with a square piece of dough, filling it, folding into a triangle, sealing and then drawing the two bottom corners of the triangle together.
- Cappelletti: similar in shape to tortelloni, we made these with a circle of dough to start. Cappelletti means ‘small hats’ in Italian. After you’ve added your filling, simply fold it to form a semi-circle and bring the bottom corners together. The signature move in shaping the cappelletti is folding down the brim of each hat. These are traditionally filled with meat and served in poultry broth.
- Agnolotti: smaller than ravioli, these are made by folding the pasta sheet over the filling, making it square shape, but with only three fluted edges. Originating in Piedmont region, agnolotti are traditionally filled with vegetables or mushrooms.
- Sacchetti/ Sacchetinni: literally ‘sacks’ or ‘little sacks’ in Italian, Sachetti are little parcels of filling held by a bag of pasta dough. A more modern filled pasta shape, these can be made with any filling your heart desires. To make Sacchetti, start with a square thinly rolled piece of pasta dough. After placing your filling in the middle, pinch together the two corners on the right and the two corners on the left keeping the middle open (Photo 2). Meet all the corners together in the centre (Photo 3) and seal the four edges into a pyramid.
Another variation of Sacchetti or Sacchetinni are made by pulling the dough up and around the filling and crimping off the neck, leaving some pasta overhanging.
Fresh Egg Pasta Dough
- See the list in the text above
- 200 g 00 flour or semolina flour we prefer 00 flour
- 2 eggs medium
- Place the 00 flour or semolina on a clean kitchen surface. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it.
- Using a pinching motion, incorporate eggs into the flour as much as possible.
- Flour your hands and begin kneading. If your dough is too dry and crumbly, add a tbsp of water, if it's too wet, add a sprinkling of flour. After about 10 minutes of vigorous kneading, you will end up with a ball of smooth, silky and elastic dough.
- Wrap it with clingfilm and leave it to rest for about 30-60 min at room temperature before rolling it out.