Pig Skin Ravioli (aka Pancetta and Guanciale Ravioli) — Top Chef Night

This is an ode to leftovers. Also, a confession.

My confession, I’ve always dreamed of making homemade ravioli and filling it with wonderful, magical things. So, when the Top Chef challenge arose to make meals from pig parts and chef Sarah Gruenberg made pig skin ravioli (click here for recipe), I knew my dream could come true. We were making homemade ravioli.

We couldn’t find pig skin (unsurprisingly), but the good people at Clancey’s meat market  recommended pancetta (unsmoked pork belly) and guanciale (pork jowls). So, meat in hand, we were ready for ravioli.

Because we weren’t working with pig skin and didn’t have to tenderize it in a pressure cooker as called for in the recipe, we skipped the braising in beef broth. While I started the simple flour and egg yolk pasta dough, K chopped the pancetta and guanciale in the food processor. He sautéed some shallot in olive oil and tossed the pork in the pan to crisp up.

I kneaded the dough before running it through the flattening “sheet” area of our hand-cranked pasta maker. However, instead of the lovely, nearly transparent rectangles of dough you see in cooking shows on TV, the dough was thicker and much more raggedy and uneven.  The recipe was very specific about the thickness settings to use on the pasta maker. We figured it was to keep the dough thick enough so it could contain the filling and not fall apart in the water. With that in mind, we didn’t roll the dough any thinner. I used the rim of a glass as a template to cut the ravioli, but each “sheet” only made about three circles. With one for the top and one for the bottom of each piece, we needed many circles. Once the sheets were spent, I’d mash them together and roll them out again so we’d end up with about six ravioli each. This probably overworked the dough, but it also cut down on dough waste. It also took forever and, as I was cranking out pasta dough, I was getting hungry and grumpy.

K mixed in some ricotta and parmesan into the pork mixture and we spooned it into each ravioli circle. We wet the edges and crimped them together with a spoon. I crimped like I’d never crimped before because I didn’t want any water to sneak in or any filling to sneak out. While the ravioli were boiling away, K put together a quick sauce of a little beef broth, butter and thyme.

When the ravioli came out the dough was done, but it was very thick around the edges where the two circles had been pressed together and the edges were a bit chewy. The filling was rich. Too rich. The combination of pork was almost feral it was so rich. The maximum number anyone should eat of these ravioli are two. They were good, not great. They’d actually make pretty good appetizers, if you’re into your appetizers taking a really long time to make.

Pancetta and Guanciale Ravioli

Alterations: Used a mixture of guanciale and pancetta instead of pig skin, sautéed the meat instead of braising in a pressure cooker, made our own beef broth/butter/thyme version of the braising liquid sauce.
Soundtrack: Airborne Toxic Event since we were going to see them at First Ave. the next day.
Would we make this again: Unlikely. Lots of work for just an okay payoff.

But here’s where the ode to leftovers comes in. Because we could only use a small spoonful of the pork filling in each ravioli, quite a bit remained. Two nights after Top Chef Night, K had a genius idea — use the pork filling to make a version of spaghetti a la carbonara (a la as we did here). He sautéed the guanciale/pancetta mixture until everything was hot and crispy then we tossed in our cooked spaghetti (from a box). It was amazing. A case in which the leftovers were a much better use of the pork than what it was originally intended for. Simple, salty, crisp, lip-lickingly delightful. Thank you, leftovers, for taking a disappointing homemade ravioli experience and turning it into a tasty, comforting, warm and relaxed dinner.

Leftover Love -- Spaghetti "a la Carbonara"

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