This isn’t your ordinary beef cheek ravioli recipe, and let me explain why. Even though this is an Italian dish, the concept was inspired by a Chinese dumpling called shao long boa (xiaolongboa), also known as soup dumplings or buns. The dumpling is crafted by encasing a chilled ground meat and gelatinized broth mixture inside a flour-based dumpling skin. When cooked, the gelatin liquefies and creates a hot steamy delicious broth. The technique is so simple, but cracking into one for first time and finding soup inside is an unexpected, but fun surprise. I love these soup buns. When my family eats Chinese, shao long bao are always the first food to disappear and a few chopstick wars have ensued from fighting over the last one. Now let’s be clear though, I didn’t take the concept for shao long bao too literally. These aren’t “soup ravioli” so don’t expect a tidal wave of beef cheek gravy to gush forth when you cut one open. Rather the intent was to encase the sauce within the ravioli.
Cheek is an underutilized cut of meat in American cookery. It is rich and unctuous when cooked properly. Mexicans slow roast it to make barbacoa and Italian guanciale is made from cured pig cheek. If you can’t find it at your local market, then any cut of beef that lends itself to braising can be easily substituted. If you’re unfamiliar with butchering cheek meat, there is a significant amount of connective tissue and fat. Consider having a butcher trim the meat for you, or be sure to buy at least double the recommended amount.
Gremolata is a simple herb salad that is classically paired with Osso Buco. I used celery leaves I had on hand in place of parsley. The ravioli are quite rich, and the gremolata adds some necessary freshness and texture.
Now I know making pasta at home can be labor intensive and not everyone has a pasta machine. But if you love pasta, there is no substitute for making it fresh. I encourage you to make the investment and buy a pasta machine. The reward is worth it.
BEEF CHEEK RAVIOLI WITH CELERY LEAF GREMOLATA
- 2 pounds beef bones (optional)
- oil for cooking
- 1 pound beef cheek trimmed cut into 2 inch cubes
- 1 cup onion chopped
- ½ cup carrot chopped
- ⅓ cup celery chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 14.5 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 2½ cups chicken broth
- ½ cup red wine
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 envelope powdered gelatin
- 3 eggs plus one yolk
- 3 cups flour
- ⅓ cup celery leaves chopped
- zest of 2 lemons
- ¼ cup pine nuts toasted
- extra virgin olive oil
- parmesan cheese freshly grated
- Heat the oven to 475 degrees. Roast the beef bones until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes, and set aside.
- Liberally salt and pepper the beef cheek. Add one tablespoon of oil to a dutch oven. Over high heat, brown the meat on all sides and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, carrots and celery. Sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and continue cooking another 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Deglaze with the red wine and reduce until the wine is almost evaporated.
- Return the meat to the dutch oven as well as the beef bones, broth, tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves.
- Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 3 hours or until the meat is tender.
- Turn off the heat. Add the gelatin to the pot and mix well.
- Remove the beef cheeks from the pot and transfer to a food processor. Pulse until the consistency of a course chop is achieved. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl.
- Remove the bones and discard. Using a mesh strainer, strain the stock and discard the vegetables. Use a fat separator or spoon to remove any liquified fat. Measure 1⅓ cups of the cooking liquid and add to the bowl with the beef cheeks. Taste the mixture for seasoning and add any additional salt or pepper at this time. Cool overnight in the refrigerator to set.
- Combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a ball forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and kneed for 5 minutes. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to use.
- Combine the celery leaf, lemon zest and pine nuts in a bowl and mix.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Roll out the dough to the desired thickness using a pasta machine and lay the dough onto a lightly floured surface. For my Kitchen Aid pasta attachment my final setting is #5 for these ravioli.
- Remove the meat and gelatin mixture from the refrigerator. Skim off any solidified fats solids and then mix the meat and gelatin until well combined.
- If using a ravioli maker, follow the instructions on the box. Use 1 tablespoon of meat mixture for each ravioli.
- Alternatively, if you do not have a ravioli maker you will need to assemble the ravioli by hand. Cut one of the pasta dough sheets in half lengthwise. Place a tablespoon of filling 2.5 inches apart to make a row of 8 ravioli. Slightly moisten the dough edges with water using a brush or your finger. Layer the other half of dough on top, and press down, taking care to remove any air before sealing. Cut into individual square ravioli. Repeat with additional sheets of pasta dough.
- Add 6-8 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a large pot. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat. Cook the ravioli in 4 separate batches, cooking for 4 minutes each.
- Add 8 ravioli to a plate. Drizzle a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil onto each plate of ravioli. Sprinkle with the gremolata mixture. Finish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.