Recipe: Homemade pigs' cheek ravioli with spicy tomato sauce

BELIEVE IT OR not, I'm not actually a huge lover of pasta. It's the type of food that I just have to be in the mood for, no matter what variety happens to be on offer.  I had some pigs' cheeks left over in the fridge, I say leftover, I had just cooked them because they needed to be used up, and I had really wanted to do something different with them.

I'll never forget buying pigs' cheeks in Waitrose and the 'butcher' recommending not to pan fry them! Why the bloody hell would you pan fry such a cut!? For this one, I made more of an aromatic tomato sauce, using garam masala rather than a spicier arrabiata-type, choosing to keep the slow cooked onions in there to add a little texture.  I can't stand fusion cooking, so I suppose this is as close to it as I ever hope to get!

Pasta is so easy to buy in dried form -  and there are some good ones out there -  but it's just so satisfying to make from scratch.  When you think of all those cookery programmes by the likes of Floyd, Rick Stein and even Jamie Oliver, filming Italian grandmothers making it with their rolling pins in the streets of whatever Italian city they happen to visit. It just adds to the romance of it and shows that you don't need a pasta machine when the old-fashioned ways still do a job! I doubt there are many more ubiquitous dishes than pasta, especially not ones that require only two ingredients.

Ingredients (serves 2)

4x pigs' cheeks
1x medium onion, sliced
2x cloves, garlic
1x tin of good quality chopped tomatoes
1tsbp garam masala powder
1 tbsp tomato puree
Good dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Dark soy sauce
Three spring onions, thinly chopped
Chicken stock
Rapeseed oil
Chives, chopped to serve
50g Parmesan

For the pasta
150g '00' pasta flour or plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
2x eggs


1) You can cook the pigs' cheeks a couple of days in advance if need be.  Place your slow cooker base or a heavy-based pan on a low heat.  Add a splash of oil and sweat the onions for 6-7 mins.  Add the garlic for a further minute.

2) Next, add the garam masala (you could add a little chilli as well if you want more heat) and stir for 30 seconds.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and tomatoes, giving a quick mix before adding the pigs' cheeks to the sauce.  Bring to the boil then place in the slow cooker on its lowest setting for around 4 hours. Set aside in the fridge for when needed*

When the time does come, take the cheeks in your hand and shred with your fingers.  The meat will be so tender that it will just flake away.  Return it to the sauce.

3) To make the pasta, place the ingredients into a food processor and gently pulse until it forms a loose ball.  Tip out to a lightly floured surface and gently knead for about a minute until a smooth ball is formed. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 45 mins.

4) Place your pasta machine in its highest setting.  On a floured surface, roll out to around the thickness of a pound coin.  Cut the dough in two and place one half aside. Lightly flour and fold the first half in half.  Pass it through the machine two or three times, repeating this process for each setting.  When done, you should be able to see a silhouette of your fingers clearly through the dough when placed up to a window.

*TOP TIP* place a damp tea towel over the dough whilst you roll the second batch to prevent it drying out.

5) At this point, have a pot of rolling boiling water ready and add a generous pinch of salt. Lay out one sheet of the pasta and cut in half. Next, using your cutter as a guide, cut the individual squares for the ravioli; you should leave roughly an inch gap on each side from where the cutter sits.

6) Take the shredded pork mix from the fridge.  Spoon a generous dollop into the centre of the pasta sheets (you should get around six sheets per half of that mix,  enough to make three ravioli), add a few spring onions for texture. Again, use the cutter as a guide if need be - you need to leave space between the filling and the cutter in order to seal the ravioli.  Brush water or egg wash around the pasta and place the spare sheets on top, pressing the pasta down to encase the filling and seal it.

7) When this is done, cut your ravioli with the cutter, take each one in your hand and gently press around it to ensure it's properly sealed.  If it's not, you risk the filling bursting out!

8) Blanch in the boiling water for a good minute and refresh in ice cold water.  These will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.

9) When serving, reheat the sauce (it should still be fairly thick, so reducing it is not necessary).  Place the ravioli in the sauce for 2-3 mins to finish the cooking.  Serve in a bowl with more of the sauce, some shavings of parmesan and a sprinkle of chives.

*I recommend leaving it in the fridge overnight, as it really enhances the flavours from the sauce.