Wintertime tempts you to stay in your house and be reclusive and lazy. All the more reason to look for excuses to invite a bunch of friends over for some productive fun. Gather them together for a good-old fashioned food ‘bee!’
What’s a food bee, you ask? Think of it as a way to share the workload of food production. Everyone works a little bit and goes home with a lot of diverse, ready-to-be-made meals for their freezers. For once, wikipedia said it best:
A bee, as used in quilting bee, working bee or spelling bee, is an expression used together with another word to describe a gathering of peers to accomplish a task or to hold a competition. Especially in the past, the tasks were often major jobs, such as clearing a field of timber or raising a barn, that would be difficult to carry out alone. It was often both a social and utilitarian event. Jobs like corn husking or sewing, could be done as a group to allow socialization during an otherwise tedious chore. Such bees often included refreshments and entertainment provided by the group.
Awhile ago, a few of us gathered together to have a ravioli bee. Some of us had made ravioli before and some were novices. We all agreed, though, that it would be a very good thing to have freezers full of ravioli this winter. (It came in handy when, after a prolonged, island-wide power outage, more than one of us confessed to breaking out the ravioli and boiling it on top of the woodstove.) Ravioli is a good way to preserve food in nice, ready to eat packages. Boil a little water and and you have a gourmet dinner ready five minutes later on a busy night.
How to have a ravioli bee:
- Gather the people and pick the place. Encourage interested friends to pick a good day and time. This may mean many emails and calendar checks, but eventually, you’ll find a slot that works. Schedule yourself ample time to get the job done. Persuade the friend with the most counter space to invite everyone over. Think about how many stations you need and how many people can reasonably work in a kitchen together.
- Assess the available ingredients. Decide on your fillings. For our bee, everyone arrived with fillings completed. You probably want to have fillings that use diverse ingredients, so that everyone goes home with a variety.
- Check equipment. What will you need at each station? We worked in pairs, one person rolling and one person filling. At each of three stations we had: pasta roller, pastry crimper, cutting boards, small bowl with water, small bowl with flour, cloth for fingers, baking sheets lined with parchment (to hold completed ravioli).
- Make your dough. We arrived with dough completed and ready to roll, but keep in mind that you shouldn’t make your dough more than a half hour ahead of time or it may dry out. You can easily make your dough balls at your station before you begin rolling.
- Roll and fill. Be sure to seal your ravioli well, eliminating all the air. Lay each one out on the parchment-covered baking sheet. Flash freeze if space is available or cover with plastic wrap until you can take them home to freeze.
- Freeze and label. You’ll have so many different types of ravioli, you’ll need to keep them straight! A good idea is to label the parchment paper with a permanent marker, as you lay out your ravioli.
Here are a few recipes to inspire you. Check here for ravioli formation tips.
Make homemade ricotta. Season with white pepper and salt to taste. Add fresh herbs like parsley or oregano, if you like.
1. Heat olive oil. Dice and sauté any combination of celery, carrot, onion, and garlic until soft and fragrant.
2. Add 1 pound of ground beef and cook, stirring often until brown.
3. Deglaze with 1/2 c. white wine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add about 1 cup of stock and boil until liquid is nearly gone (about 15 minutes.)
5. Cool mixture slightly.
6. In a food processor combine: meat mixture, 1 egg, 1/4 breadcrumbs, and 1/4 c. parmesan. Mix until it’s “thick like paste.” Add in about 1/4 c. finely chopped parsley (or other fresh herbs of your choosing.)
Other recipes that we made and liked:
Chanterelle Ravioli (“Dry saute” chanterelles to make the puree and use it as a filling.)
Use any traditional pasta dough recipe for ravioli. You want it to be strong and supple.
Here are some alternative doughs, if you have differing dietary needs:
Pasta dough (without white flour)
4 oz semolina
4 1/2 oz whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 T olive oil
1/2 c water
Incorporate as in traditional dough.
Sourdough Pasta Dough
2 c flour whole wheat bread flour
1/2 c sourdough starter
1/2 t salt
1-2 T olive oil
enough water to get desired
Incorporate as in traditional dough and allow to proof, wrapped in plastic, over night.
Thanks to everyone who participated in our first ravioli bee and provided recipes. And especial thanks to G., who coined the term ‘ravioli bee.’