Ravioli made at home does not have to come out of a can or the frozen-food case. It can be made more healthful when concocted from whole-wheat (preferably durum) flour and is perfect for healthy appetites.

Here is a basic ravioli recipe with a couple of my favorite fillings, but you should feel free to improvise fillings of your own.

SPINACH RAVIOLI (4 servings)

2 cups whole-wheat flour (preferably durum)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, well-beaten (may omit 1 yolk)

2 or more tablespoons water

2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce or pesto

2 to 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese


1/4 cup minced onion

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

2 teaspoons oil

3/4 cup lowfat cottage cheese or ricotta

1/2 cup packed cooked spinach, drained and chopped fine

1/2 cup grated parmesan or other hard cheese

1/4 cup toasted almonds, ground into meal

1 egg, well beaten

Dash nutmeg

Sift the flour before measuring and toss any remaining bran back into the flour bin.

Mix the salt and flour in a large bowl or on a table top and make a well in the mixture. Pour 2 eggs into the well with one hand and mix egg and flour together quickly with the other hand. When mixture is like dry bread crumbs, add water gradually until it holds together. The dough should be quite stiff, but pliable. Knead it for 5 minutes, then set it aside to rest while you make the filling (the dough relaxes, and gets easier to work with).

To make the filling: Saute' the onion and garlic in the oil until tender and mix thoroughly with cottage cheese, spinach, parmesan cheese, almonds, egg and nutmeg.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is at least 20 inches square. "Tease" it out by stretching, turning, and flipping it over as you work. The thinner it is, the more delicate your pasta will be. Keep your rolling pin and both sides of the dough well floured.

Cut the dough in half and mark one half lightly in squares just a little under 2 inches across. Place a teaspoonful of filling on each square. Now brush that third well-beaten egg along the margins of each ravioli to help seal them.

Carefully lift the unmarked sheet of dough -- give it one more gentle stretch -- and place it on top of the filled sheet. Press gently around each one with your fingertips, trying not to form air pockets. A shot glass helps to "round" each one. Cut squares apart with a knife or, ideally, a serrated pastry wheel.

Set the ravioli aside on a floured surface, covered with a floured cloth, for at least 30 minutes.

Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot with a tablespoon of oil. Keep it boiling while you cook the ravioli for a good 10 minutes. Remove ravioli from pan with a slotted spoon and drain them thoroughly. Place in serving dish with tomato sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately.

Variation: Mushroom filling: Omit spinach, almonds and nutmeg. Increase oil to 1 tablespoon. Once onion is saute'ed, stir in 2 cups finely chopped mushrooms and a teaspoonful of dried marjoram, and cook over low heat until tender. Increase heat to cook off liquid and combine with the cheese and egg.