This ricotta and Parmigiano filled ravioli with meat sauce comes from the Central Italian region of Marche, also known as Le Marche. The traditional homemade ricotta ravioli is easy to make as the filling requires no cooking.
The meat sauce is made with small pieces of beef instead of ground beef and is seriously delicious! Of course, you can serve the ravioli with a tomato or vegetable sauce for a just as yummy meatless meal.
Sheep or cow’s milk ricotta?
Known as calcioni or cargiù in the local dialect, the ravioli in this traditional recipe is usually filled with sheep ricotta, which is what I used. Of course, you can use fresh cow’s milk ricotta instead. This is a recipe that comes from inland Marche where sheep and goat farming is more predominant than dairy cow farming.
This is traditionally true of most of Central and Southern Italy, where the climate and arid mountainous landscapes make dairy cow farming difficult. In fact, many local cheeses in the lower regions of the Italian boot are made from sheep and goat’s milk.
Step 1 Gather the ingredients to make the ravioli dough and filling.
A ravioli recipe for family occasions and holidays.
In Marche, they make this traditional homemade ricotta ravioli with meat sauce most often for holidays and family lunches in the Spring. Apparently, this is when the sheep have the most milk and the ricotta is at its most delicious! Nowadays, we can buy good sheep or cow’s ricotta all year. But, I love the fact that so many Italian dishes are based on such seasonality.
Step 2 Combine the 2 types of flour and add eggs. Mix together until you have a ‘dough’.
Other ways to serve traditional homemade ricotta ravioli.
You can also serve your homemade ravioli with just butter and Parmigiano, pesto, a simple tomato sauce or your favourite ragu. However, if you are a meat eater, I highly recommend trying the meat sauce in this recipe because it’s really very good. Vegetarians will need to leave out or replace the Parmigiano in the filling as Italian Parmigiano isn’t vegetarian.
Step 3 Turn the dough out onto a pastry board and knead until soft and pliable. Roll in a ball and let rest for 30 minutes.
Making the ravioli dough.
Like most ravioli, the dough for calcioni from Marche contains flour and eggs. I first found this recipe in a book I have of recipes from Marche. That recipe calls for just Italian ‘00’ soft wheat flour.
Step 4 After draining the ricotta, put the ingredients for the filling together into a bowl.
However, most other recipes online for the same dish use a mixture of soft wheat flour and hard wheat flour (durum wheat semolina flour). I decided to use both flours in equal proportions. You can use just the soft wheat flour or all-purpose flour.
Step 5 Mix the filling ingredients together with a fork.
For every 100g of flour you will need one large egg. Here in Italy, we can buy eggs with an orange yolk for making pasta! These eggs give the pasta a beautiful deep yellow colour. I think it’s better for the flavour of the dough to use organic eggs but, needless to say, any type of egg is fine.
Step 6 Roll 1/4 of the dough out using a pasta machine or rolling pin.
If using 2 types of flour, you need to sift them together and then add the eggs. I like to start my dough in a bowl and then turn it out onto a pastry board once it’s looking more ‘dough’ like! You could also use a kitchen aid or start the traditional way by creating a well of flour on a wooden board, adding the eggs to the middle of the flour and mixing together using your hands, a fork or a scrapper.
Step 7 Cut 15cm circles out of the dough sheet, place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each and fold the dough over the filling to make your ricotta ravioli. Seal using the tines of a fork.
Once the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl or kitchen mixer, knead it on a dusted pastry board until it’s soft and pliable. Then roll it into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes. In the meantime, you can make the ravioli filling.
Step 8 Put the ready ravioli on a flour dusted surface. Repeat with all the dough.
Assembling the ravioli
Calcioni (or cargiù) are normally slightly larger than other types of ravioli and usually square or half-moon in shape (Italians say mezzelune). You can also make them round. We made mezzelune.
Making the meat sauce Step 1 Gather the ingredients for the sauce.
After rolling the dough out using a pasta machine, we cut 15cm circles out of the dough sheets. Then placed a generous teaspoon of filling in the centre, brushed the edges with egg white and folded the dough over the filling to create half-moon ravioli. Finally, we used a fork to press the edges, so they seal. Plus, it makes a nice pattern along the rounded side of the ravioli.
Meat sauce step 2 Prepare the sauce ingredients.
In total we had 36 homemade ricotta ravioli which is a good portion for 6 people as they are quite big. Until you are ready to cook the ravioli keep them on a floured surface (I used baking paper). You can prepare these ricotta raviolis the day before and keep them in a cool dry place but not the fridge as the humidity will make them soft and sticky.
Meat sauce Step 3 sauté the chopped vegetables in olive oil.
Making the meat sauce.
The meat sauce for this homemade ricotta ravioli from Marche is a little different to iconic ragu like Bolognese. There’s no ground meat in it, although you could use it if you wish. Instead, the beef is sirloin or rump steak cut into very small pieces. In addition, there are beef bones cooked in the sauce for extra flavour and nutrients! Of course, these are removed before serving.
Meat sauce step 4 brown the beef bones with the vegetables.
The sauce also has the traditional Italian soffritto ingredients of carrots, onion and celery; peeled canned or fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, fresh marjoram and salt. Because the beef is a tender cut and in small pieces the sauce doesn’t need long cooking. 45 minutes in total is enough.
Meat sauce step 5 Brown the chopped beef with the bones and vegetables.
Cook and serve ricotta ravioli and sauce.
Once your sauce is ready, then just boil a large pan of salted water and cook the ravioli for about 5 minutes. It’s better to test taste one before serving as cooking times may differ depending on the thickness of the dough. You’ll probably have to do them in batches and remove them from the water with a slotted spoon. Serve your ready ravioli with the sauce and some more grated parmigiano.
Meat sauce step 6 Add the tomato passata or peeled tomatoes, tomato paste, marjoram and salt to taste.
You can freeze your ravioli for later.
Because 36 raviolis were way too many for my hubby and I, we froze some for later. To freeze them, put the ravioli on baking paper on a tray or plate in the freezer. Make sure they don’t touch each other. Once they are frozen you can transfer the ravioli to sealed freezer bags. Frozen ravioli needs to be cooked from frozen. Cooking times will be longer.
Meat sauce Step 7 Simmer the sauce for about 40 minutes.
Using up leftovers and meal prep ideas.
Apart from freezing some of our homemade ricotta ravioli, we baked our leftover ravioli with meat sauce with some grated cheese on top. This was such a delicious way to use them up and meant not having to cook the next day.
You could also prepare this dish in advance, even the day before, and then bake when ready to serve. Alternatively, freeze the sauce and ravioli for another day!
Let me know what you think.
Whichever way you decide to serve this traditional homemade ricotta ravioli from Marche, I’m sure it will be a winner with friends and family.
If you do try this recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
Your feedback means a lot to me!