A beginner’s guide to homemade cheese ravioli

Spoon cheese ravioli onto the dough. (Sebastian Foltz/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Top cheese ravioli with sauce. (Sebastian Foltz/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Making Italy’s favorite dumpling from scratch can give even practiced home cooks reason to pause.

Homemade ravioli requires mixing and rolling a mixture of egg and flour into delicate, almost translucent dough sheets, which can prove an exercise in frustration if you don’t have a nonna lending an experienced hand.


But as TikTok phenom and pasta chef Ryan Peters sees it, the key to nailing the process usually boils down to two things: using quality ingredients and being willing to practice — sometimes again and again — until you get good at it.

“At its core, it’s two simple ingredients,” he says. “If my 3-year-old can do it, so can you! And if you mess it up, I’m sure it will still be an edible mistake.”

He’s got evidence of both in the hundreds of photos and how-to videos he started posting on social media a couple of years after graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Academy of Culinary Arts in 2012, and in the years since has racked up millions (and millions) of views. In his words, “mind blowing!”

From the start of his career, which has included stints at now-closed Salt of the Earth in Garfield and Brunoise in Smallman Galley, along with club jobs in Florida, the Reading, Pennsylvania, native has always been good about documenting his journey as a chef through journals and iPhone photos. But his occasional posts to Instagram and Facebook never got much traction, he recalls.

It wasn’t until he finally created a TikTok account in July 2019, when he was helping to build out the pasta program at Iron Born Pizza in the Strip District, that his career as a pasta chef really took off.

He’d started honing his pasta game in earnest the year before, after making it one night after work for his wife, Caroline. Though he’d made the dish a million times before as a chef, fresh pasta was never his thing. But that night, it wasn’t just great — it was so fantastic that he made another pound of pasta the next day, and then again for the next 63 days in a row.

“I’d come home, make dough, roll it out and make different shapes to understand it,” he says. “And that’s when I decided to become a pasta chef.”

Part of the appeal was the simplicity of the dish — how just a handful of everyday ingredients can turn into something very delicious. “And I just love that everyone in the world relates to pasta,” Peters says. “Everyone eats noodles at some point in their life. It’s a very universal thing.”

As far as his TikTok launch: “I was hearing about it from everybody and especially my younger brother, Matthew,” he recalls with a chuckle. “And I was like, ‘What is this? It’s ridiculous. I’m not getting it.’”

Matthew, though, was persistent and soon after Peters joined the platform, he posted a five-second video of him rolling cavatelli to the Trey Songz tune “Slow Motion.” To everyone’s surprise, it went viral, chalking up a half-million viewers in just 24 hours. “And I thought, ‘This is insane!’”

Before too long, the chef was posting several times a day and had earned 300,000 followers on the platform. “I got to the point where I was almost juggling two full-time jobs,” he says. “I’d do my thing at Iron Born then be up to 2 or 3 a.m. creating content,” in his home studio.

Still, it wasn’t until he took a month off from his restaurant job in November 2020 after the birth of his son, Gavin, that he realized his TikTok work wasn’t just a hobby — it was a business with potential to make money and be sustainable if he put work into it.

Five months later, he left Iron Born to become a full-time TikTok creator under the handle @peterspasta. Today, the 30-year-old counts more than 5 million followers and more than 1 billion views on the platform, with 8 1/2 million followers across all of his social platforms. On YouTube alone, he has more than 1.4 billion views.

Peters credits his success to the fact he got “lucky.” He hit his stride in 2021 right as the COVID-19 pandemic was ending and things were opening up again. Or as he puts it, “I had a pretty decent following when the nworld shut down and I thought, ‘What can I do to take advantage of this?’”

He started by reaching out to the Steelers to see if he could make pasta at Heinz Field, and from there, “it just snowballed,” he says.

In the years since, Peters has traveled across the U.S. to make thousands of pounds of fresh pasta using thousands of eggs in a multitude of locations with sponsorships from various brands — at other major sports stadiums, aboard cruise ships, on the top of the Empire State Building in New York City and even in the middle of an aisle at Walmart. Celebrity helpers include everyone from the Pirate Parrot to Mr. Peanut.

Last year’s “Double Batch” series, in which he doubled the number of eggs in a batch each day for two weeks, was his largest pasta project to date. It ended on Day 14 with Peters and YouTuber MrBeast (and a crew of other helpers) cracking 10,000 eggs into 600 pounds of flour in a warehouse in North Carolina to make “a lot of pasta dough.” Some of it was handed out for free afterward by a food truck to local residents, and the rest went to a neighborhood food bank.

Most of Peters’ big batches, in fact, are donated. One favorite charity is Outreached Arms, which works to get food to the homeless community. Bread of Life and the Community Free Fridge in Etna have also been beneficiaries.

While he started just wanting to entertain his online audience, Peters says one of main goals today is to try to get more people in the kitchen making homemade pasta. To that end, he’s getting ready to launch a summer cooking podcast wherein he’ll cook a dish or meal for a celebrity guest as they sit at a kitchen counter. “And we’ll have a conversation that will show them in a different light,” he says.

He also hopes to start dried pasta and pasta sauce lines, though both projects are on the back burner for the moment because he’s so busy.

In the meantime, Peters — who has never wanted to do anything but cook since he was in the second grade — will keep creating content for his food-obsessed audience.

For those who want to try to make homemade pasta themselves, and turn it into ravioli, he offers these tips:

—Because pasta is so simple — ingredients include just eggs and flour and maybe water — use the best you can because “there’s nothing to hide behind.” In his opinion, that includes super-fine white “00” flour. He also recommends free-range eggs, which tend to have a deep yellow-orange yolk.

—He only uses egg yolks for a richer dough, but it’s perfectly fine to use the entire egg if you don’t have a use for the whites.

—Making pasta the old-fashioned way like he does on camera — adding yolks to a well of flour and mixing it together with a fork and bench scraper — is fun, but it’s also challenging. There’s no shame in using a food processor to mix and knead the dough. “Whether you’re forming it by hand or in a mixer, you’re doing the same thing — incorporating air into the dough to create texture.”

—To recreate his recipe, mix 100 grams (a little more than 3/4 cup) of flour for every 1 egg yolk and plan on 1 egg per person.

—Let the dough rest for 35-45 minutes before rolling. You’ll know it’s ready to go when it’s smooth, and the dough bounces back when you press it with a finger or thumb.

—In a rush? If you place the dough in a vacuum sealer, Peters says, you can roll it out right away because it will immediately hydrate the dough.

—If you pre-roll or stretch a piece of dough into a perfect rectangle before running it through the pasta machine, you usually will get a perfectly straight sheet.

—When rolling, don’t be afraid to go pretty thin; you should almost be able to see through it on a wooden board. Because the filling will be sandwiched between two pieces, “You want nice and delicate,” says Peters.

—Experiment with different fillings and seasonings. Peters loves to add a little lemon zest along with herbs to his ricotta cheese filling for a bright, citrusy touch.

Three Cheese Ravioli

For dough

Pasta recipes vary depending on the cookbook. Some include only egg yolks, others use whole eggs and still others add water or olive oil. After trying many, my go-to recipe comes from Linda Miller Nicholson’s “Pasta, Pretty Please: A Vibrant Approach to Handmade Noodles” cookbook. It works every time!

I used a hand-cranked pasta rolling machine to roll out the dough, but in a pinch you could also use a rolling pin. Kneading the dough before it rests is essential to create pasta dough that is smooth and elastic, so put some muscle into it. Always let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes after you make it to allow the gluten strands to relax.

Fresh pasta will keep up to three days in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic. Oxidation may cause it to turn gray, but the taste won’t be affected. It also freezes beautifully and will last up to a month in the freezer.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

For filling

8 ounces fresh ricotta cheese, drained

8 ounces shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg, beaten

Pinch red pepper flakes

Pinch grated nutmeg

Chopped parsley, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

To serve

Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce (recipe follows)

Grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare pasta dough: Combine flour and eggs in bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and mix on low speed until a ball of dough forms. Continue to knead for 3 minutes, either by hand or in the mixer, so that the dough develops elasticity and silkiness.

Cover the ball of dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before using. Alternatively, you can let the dough rest for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

While dough is resting, make filling: In large bowl, stir together ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, beaten egg, red pepper flakes, grated nutmeg and chopped parsley until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roll pasta dough: Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into six equal portions. Lightly dust a parchment-covered baking sheet with cornmeal or flour and set it aside. (This is where you will place pasta after it’s rolled.) Lightly dust your work area with flour.

Pat dough into a small rectangle and dust with flour. Set pasta maker to widest setting and pass dough through the machine.

Place dough on a lightly floured work surface. Fold both ends in so that they meet at the center of the dough, and then fold the dough in half where the end points meet, trying not to incorporate too much air into the folds. Pass through the rollers 3 additional times.

Narrow the setting by 1 notch and repeat putting pasta through the rollers 2 or 3 more times. Continue working your way down the settings until pasta reaches the desired thickness. It should now be very delicate, elastic to the touch and slightly translucent. (Trimming the ends into a straight line will make it easier to feed through the roller.)

Place rolled pasta sheet on floured work area. Dollop the cheese filling (in rounded teaspoons) down the center of half the sheet, spaced 2 inches or so apart. Fold the empty half over the top of cheese dollops and, with your fingers, smooth gently around the filing to get the air bubbles out. Press to seal the edges then, using a 2 1/2 -inch ravioli stamp cutter, cut out ravioli. (It will automatically seal at the same time.)

Alternatively, lay a matching piece of dough on top of the sheet with ricotta, then press down all around the edges to seal the shape and cut out ravioli with stamp cutter. Or, cut into small squares with a knife and press down around the edges again with your fingertips to seal.

Place finished ravioli on a baking tray and continue forming remaining ravioli.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add half the ravioli and cook until the ravioli float, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes. Drain into a large bowl and cook the remaining ravioli.

Serve ravioli topped with tomato sauce and a generous amount of grated Parmesan.

Serves 6.

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

2 cups tomatoes, in addition to their juices

5 tablespoons butter

1 onion, peeled and cut in half


Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.

Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

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