Years ago we had an incredible cheese course at Per Se. One component of the dish were what appeared to be spheres of pasta which when bitten were filled with ricotta. They had created seamless ravioli. I have spent years looking for a recipe to recreate them and continued to come up empty. We had explored traditional gnudi rolled in durum flour to enclose the ricotta base. But somehow that did not translate to these ravioli without seams. I was missing something. What I was missing was right in front of me.
When I was in San Francisco I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time chatting food with James Ormsby. He shared the story of a brilliant dish he had recently at SPQR. The dish combined small meatballs and seamless ravioli filled with ricotta. I was slack jawed. The chef at SPQR is Matt Accarino. I started connecting the dots. I knew Matt from years ago when he was the Banquet Chef at Olives NYC. Matt went on to work at Per Se. He could have been at Per Se when I ate these ravioli years ago. I am not sure if it is his recipe or someone else's. I was able to link the two and realize they were one and the same. Matt was kind enough to share the technique with James who openly shared it with me. A ricotta filling is shaped into balls and packed in durum flour. It is then covered in durum and refrigerated for several days. The balls of ricotta are then removed from the durum and cooked.
The technique for this is similar to the idea behind our one minute pasta, three minute rigatoni and 6 minute risotto. The separation of hydration and gelatinization. In the case of the seamless ravioli the ricotta moistens the durum and hydrates it around the ball. Then we cook the pasta and the starch gelatinize, forming the ravioli skin. The principles are simple and were in front of me the entire time.
I am not patient and we did not have any durum in our kitchen. With the idea in hand we tried the process with semolina flour. The seamless ravioli were incredible. The semolina creates a slightly coarser exterior than the durum. Both flours have their place with this application. And taking the idea further we begin to ask what can be flour and what can be ricotta? We are now just scratching the surface.