How to cook ravioli (in 23 easy steps)

Tonight’s dinner is coming straight from the freezer and the pantry. Except for the freshly-grated parmesan cheese (because there are no green cans of cheez allowed in my fridge), it’s all coming from jars, cans, or plastic bags. I enjoy cooking, but this isn’t really cooking. It’s more like heating up.

The jars and bags I’m using contain chopped prosciutto, pesto sauce, and pine nuts, and I’m going to sauté all of that with some olive oil for a quick and tasty sauce. For the grown-ups, that is; the boys prefer plain old butter and cheese. So maybe the “cooking” part is when you can say, what can I throw together for dinner tonight from what’s already in my pantry, and come up with something other than popping open a jar of Ragu. Not that there’s anything wrong with Ragu.

As I placed the frozen ravioli into the pot of water, I checked the package instructions to see how long it says to boil ‘em. Because to my way of thinking, there really isn’t a whole lot to cooking up some frozen ravioli. You boil some water, you drop in the ravioli, and you cook ‘em till they’re done. Then you drain ‘em. It’s not difficult.

Well, apparently the good folks who make frozen ravioli are concerned that the potential for critical error exists at every turn. That’s why they helpfully included cooking instructions that have seven whole steps! I have parsed these instructions, and despite their good intentions, it seems that the manufacturer left a little room for interpretation. It is possible that seven steps may not be enough to prevent ravioli tragedies from occurring. That’s why, as a public service to my readers,  I am providing you with some additional explanation. I urge you to print this page and keep it handy near your stove so that next time you bust out a bag of ravioli, you will know exactly what to do.


1. DO NOT DEFROST. If Ravioli are stuck together, please do not try to separate. They will usually separate while cooking.

OK, so with the very first instruction they ARE YELLING AT YOU! Untold bad things may happen when you defrost. Immediately, they seem to regret having yelled at their consumer, for they throw in a polite “please” in the next sentence. Then they suggest that the Ravioli will “usually” separate while cooking, and are you with me when this makes me wonder, but what if they don’t? What if they all stick together? DO NOT ASK! JUST DO AS WE SAY!

2. Bring 3-4 quarts of water to a boil for every two servings (approximately 8 ) of Ravioli (salt optional).

Call me crazy, but I threw caution to the wind and eyeballed the water I put into my largest stock pot, and also? I failed to count the Ravioli to determine how many servings I was cooking. It was like, about half a bag-ish. Fortunately, this did not seem to matter, and every one of my approximately 16 Ravioli came out fine.

3. Place Ravioli into boiling water.

Is it just me, or should that have been Step 1?

4. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the Ravioli rise to the surface.

When I read that, naturally my first reaction was, who are you to tell me which spoon I should use? In full rebellion against Step 4, I grabbed the closest metal spoon. Because first of all, I couldn’t reach the wooden spoons from where I was standing, and second of all, what difference does it make whether it’s wooden or metal? I’m stirring pasta in hot water. They might have done better to omit the “spoon” part of the instruction, because seriously? Are you going to plunge your arm into that hot water and stir?

5. Allow to simmer at a very slow boil for 5-7 minutes or until desired tenderness.

Here I was at Step 5, feeling like it should have been Step 2, yet still I had questions. Say I wasn’t an Experienced Cook. How would I know what a “very slow boil” is? At what temperature should I set my burner to achieve just the right rate of boil? And also, how in the heck do I know what “desired tenderness” is? Seems to me this is a good quality in a mate, for example, but as it applies to Ravioli, I’m at a bit of a loss.

6. Drain carefully.

Ah, the two-word sentence packs such a literary punch. Yet, after having been carefully guided around potential missteps in Steps 1 through 5, now I was faced with a decision: Do I fish the Ravioli out of the water with my spoon, or do I dump the whole thing into a colander? And if I do use a colander, can I use my metal colander, or would plastic be preferred? What dire consequences might befall the poor cook who chose to drain recklessly?

7. Serve with your favorite sauce.

After all of that, after painstakingly following the Steps 1 through 6, the bastards totally leave you hanging! What is your favorite sauce? What if it’s Ragu? Is the sauce ready, or do you have to heat it up? Should you have made your own sauce? What if the only ingredients you have are for your second favorite sauce? And what if you prefer to eat your Ravioli with no sauce at all? I feel like I just watched a Very Special Episode of a sitcom, only to be left hanging for a whole week to find out how it ends.

To me, it’s kind of like the shampoo instructions: Lather, Rinse, Repeat. BOIL. COOK. DRAIN. It’s not hard, people. It doesn’t warrant a seven-step process.

Because I needed a photo, here’s one from Food Network, complete with an actual recipe.

Ravioli with Spring Onions – photo and recipe from Food Network.

18 thoughts on “How to cook ravioli (in 23 easy steps)

  1. I wonder what happens if you call and complain because they didn’t turn out right. “Did you use a WOODEN spoon??”

    I made rice-crispie treats last night (another example of non-cooking). The bag of mini marshmallows had this warning on it: “Eat one at a time.”

    Why is it your frozen ravioli had seven written instructions but you can buy a 6-foot bookshelf in a million pieces that has to be assembled and they only give you a picture?

  2. If you don’t know how to do the first few steps without instructions, how come they assume that you know what tenderness you desire? Doesn’t that imply some familiarity with preparation of frozen ravioli? Also, I have never made ravioli without doing at least some separating because otherwise it can be kind of an awkward fit in the pot until that natural separation occurs.

  3. Here I was, just looking around trying to find out how long to boil some frozen ravioli we have, and I came across this. Not only did it answer my question, but it was a joy to read. Really good. Thanks!

  4. I have to say – I was having a pretty bad day when I came upon this gem and I not only laughed out loud, I read a few “steps” to my husband and he did as well. It is a great day when you come across someone who thinks like you. Thanks for laugh!

    1. Traci, I am so glad you (and your husband) liked it! I’ve been blogging for about 18 months and that post is in my top 3 or 4 all-time in terms of hits. Thank you for taking time to leave a comment… and come back again soon!

  5. Thank you for the instructions
    My bag doesn’t have any on them. I bought it through a company that you order frozen food from and most of the food didn’t come with directions.
    And you made it as easy as 1-2-3. I love you♥

  6. Just want to say thanks, I’m one of those newbies, never cooked them before & no instructions on the bag. You went through my thought processes exactly, very entertainingly. Just to show how lame my brain really is, I also thought so what if I use my skillet since it’s too much trouble to get out my big pot? Will they all jump out of the pan? snicker… we’ll see won’t we.

  7. Ravioli when boiled cooks on the top of the water with some of it outside the water. I find the ravioli is not cooked consistently. Overcooking ravioli as with pasta is not appetizing. Should one use a pot that keeps the ravioli entirel in the water? If so, where do I find such a pot?

    Also, how does one cook the ravioli ends (which are double pasta layers) the same consistentcy as the rest of the ravioli?

    Thanks for any feedback,

  8. This was hilarious! I loved all the great humor. I looked this up cause my ravioli came in a maner that lacked instructions. This made me laugh and I had to share it with my mom and sister. We all laughed. The end result is correct, boil, cook, drain. But thanks for the great article!

  9. I cook pasta all the time without reading the directions. Just like you, I throw it in boiling water and wait until it looks or feels done. Well, okay, so I only cook dry pasta that way. I just bought a package of frozen pasta and the thought suddenly struck me, “OMG, what if it doesn’t cook like regular pasta???” So, of course, I became instantly paranoid about cooking frozen stuffed pasta in the same way any of us way-to-busy, probably-undiagnosed-OCD, people do. I must say thank you for bringing me back down to earth. Clearly, from your take on the instructions, they cook EXACTLY the same as dry pasta. Too funny!!

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