scallion ravioli with lamb ragu [photograph: Dino De Angelis]

Scallion Ravioli with Rosemary-Scented Lamb Ragu

The inspiration for this dish is an Afghani specialty called Aushak:  thin pasta dough filled with spiced leeks, topped with a quick lamb sauce and dollops of minted yogurt. I wanted to reinterpret the flavors and play with them in an Italian way. The result: brightly flavored, light ravioli sauced with a robust, herbed lamb ragu enriched with a spoonful of Mascarpone. Quite the dish for company! The ravioli can be shaped up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated, covered with a clean kitchen towel, or they can be frozen for up to 1 month; if you freeze the ravioli, do not defrost them before dropping them into the boiling water, but allow 1 extra minute for cooking. The ragu can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated;  warm it through before serving, while you boil the ravioli.

Serves 4 to 6

For the dough:

  • 1 and ½ cups (200 grams or 7 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter and trays
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs

For the filling:

  • 1 pound (6 large bunches) scallions, washed thoroughly, trimmed, and very thinly sliced (white and green parts)
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the lamb ragu:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, minced (1 cup)
  • 1 and ½ pounds ground lamb shoulder
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced rosemary
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 and ½ cups chopped canned Italian plum tomatoes (San Marzano are best)
  • 1 cup cool water, plus extra as needed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Mascarpone sauce:

  • ½ pound Mascarpone (preferably imported Italian)
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon minced rosemary
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To cook the ravioli:

2 tablespoons salt

Make the dough: Mix the flour and salt on a counter and shape into a mound. Make a well in the center and add the eggs to the well. Using your fingertips, work the flour into the eggs, then gather into a dough and knead by hand; add a little water if the dough is too dry or a little flour if it is too moist. Knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth, then shape into a ball, wrap in plastic, and let rest 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and adjust the salt to taste if needed. Set aside.

Assemble the ravioli: Cut the dough into 2 pieces. Working with 1 sheet at a time and keeping the other covered, roll out into a thin sheet using a pasta machine; the sheet should be nearly transparent after rolling. Be sure to lightly dust the sheet of pasta with flour every time you roll them through the pasta machine or it may stick or tear.

Cut the sheet into 2-inch squares. Make sure the squares are on a lightly floured counter, or they will stick while you assemble the ravioli. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of filling on each square. Using your fingertip, rub a bit of cool water around the filling. Pick up each square and fold into a neat triangle, sealing the edges well. Place on a lightly floured parchment paper-lined tray. Continue with the remaining dough and filling. If you like, knead any dough trimmings with a touch of water to soften a bit and roll out again if you need additional dough for any leftover filling.

Refrigerate the ravioli until needed, covered with a clean, dry towel.

making scallion ravioliMake the ragu: Place the olive oil and onion in a 3-quart saucepan. Set over medium-low heat and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until the onion is very soft and aromatic. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the lamb. Cook until browned nicely all over, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Drain off any fat if the lamb seems fatty. Stir in the garlic and rosemary, and cook 2 more minutes, or until aromatic. Add the wine and cook until it evaporates, about 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any bits that have stuck and caramelized. Add the tomatoes, water, bay leaf, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, making sure the bay leaf is fully submerged in liquid to better extract its aroma, and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for 1 hour; the tomatoes should break down and the sauce should take on a deep brick color. Adjust the seasoning and keep warm; add a bit of water during cooking if needed to maintain a happy level of moisture in the pan. (The sauce can be made up to this point 3 days in advance; refrigerate until needed, then warm gently before proceeding.)

Make the Mascarpone sauce: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl; adjust the seasoning and set aside.

When you are ready to serve, cook the ravioli: Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the ravioli. Cook until the ravioli are al dente, about 4 minutes, making sure the water does not boil too rapidly or the ravioli may fall apart. Drain gently, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water to thin out the ragu if needed.

Spoon half of the ragu onto a platter. Top with the ravioli. Spoon on the remaining ragu. Top with dollops of Mascarpone sauce and serve hot.