Roast Duck Ravioli

Ravioli dell’Anatra di Arrosto

Duck Ravioli 2She came. She saw. She conquered.

The Visitation ended, far too quickly, and Zia is back in Michigan. While here, we met with family and friends, both near and far, new and old. We toured my favorite Italian and farmers markets and we dined out a couple of times, including our customary Friday night fish fry. This being Chicago, however, this fish fry took place at a sushi restaurant. Of course, I did cook and some of the recipes will make their way to this blog. All the while, incredibly, we were graced with some of the year’s best weather. All in all, it was a wonderful visit and I hope to import her again next year. Fingers crossed.

*     *     *

The making of ravioli has roots that go as far back as the 14th century in the North of the Italian peninsula and perhaps even earlier in Sicily. (Source: Wikipedia). Their creation involves a couple of axioms I’ve said many times before: nothing is wasted in a traditional Italian kitchen, and, meat was a dish reserved for holidays and special occasions. Well, when meat was served — and with no means of refrigeration — leftovers were a problem. Let’s face it: re-heating a piece of roast over a hearth isn’t necessarily the most appetizing means of dealing with leftovers. On the other hand, finely chopping the meat before adding it to, perhaps, a little cheese and some greens, and using the mixture to fill pasta “pockets” would make quite a tasty alternative. Not only that but a little bit of leftover meat would go a long way, far enough to feed the entire family.

This was certainly the case when Zia and I were left with some roasted duck after our meal. We discussed how to use the leftovers and decided that making ravioli was the best way to go. I think we were pretty successful, as does my Zia. In fact, when we roasted a goat shoulder during my next visit, Zia set about making ravioli filling with the leftovers, as well. Frozen, it awaits my return so that we can make “goat” ravioli. The recipes for both the roast goat and the subsequent ravioli filling will be published soon.

There is nothing complicated about our duck ravioli recipe, though the use of broccoli raab, rapini, requires a bit of blanching. How long depends upon your taste and whether you are fond of bitter greens. Blanching will remove some of the bitterness, as well as soften the vegetable’s “woody” stalks. Since we both do not mind rapini’s bitterness, we kept the blanching to a minimum. You, on the other hand, may wish to blanch the vegetable for a few minutes more and, therefore, boil away more of its bitter flavor.

*     *     *

Duck Ravioli Filling*     *     *

Roast Duck Ravioli Filling Recipe

Ingredients

  • 9 oz (250 g) skinless roast duck, shredded (See Notes)
  • 10 oz (280 g) rapini (broccoli raab)
  • 2 large red onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Marsala wine
  • 1 cup ricotta, drained
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large fry pan over medium heat. Add onions and stir to coat with the butter.
  2. Sauté for about 10 minutes, season lightly with salt and pepper, lower to med-low heat, and continue to cook, stirring frequently.  You want the onions to brown but not burn. It may take from 30 minutes to an hour to be fully caramelized. Add a little bit of olive oil if the onions are too dry.
  3. Just before the onions are ready, deglaze the pan with a couple ounces of Marsala wine. The onions will be ready when the wine has evaporated.
  4. Once the onions have cooled, drain any excess liquids before placing them in a clean kitchen towel, wringing out as much moisture as possible.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil.
  6. Add the rapini and, once the boil returns, blanch the rapini for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the rapini from the boiling water and immediately place the vegetable into an ice water bath.
  8. Once fully cooled, drain the rapini of as much liquid as possible before wringing in a clean kitchen towel.
  9. Use a meat grinder — or food processor — to grind the duck, caramelized onions, and blanched rapini.
  10. Add the Pecorino Romano and ricotta cheeses to the mince and stir well.
  11. Taste to check for seasoning before adding the egg. Stir till well-combined, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  12. The filing is now ready to be used to make ravioli.

*     *     *

Duck Ravioli 1*     *     *

Notes

For step-by-step instructions for making ravioli using dies/molds, please check out my previous post for Ravioli dei Bartolini.

Here’s Mom’s Pasta Dough recipe, for those who need one. In this case, I substituted 3 duck eggs for the 4 large chicken eggs.

*     *     *

Serving suggestion

Dress ravioli with brown butter-sage sauce to which grated Pecorino Romano cheese has been added. Garnish with sage leaves that have been shallow-fried until crisp in olive oil. (See opening photo.)

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Ravioli Day

With today’s post dealing with a new edition to the Bartolini ravioli recipe collection, I thought a look back to the granddaddy of them all, the original Bartolini ravioli filling recipe, was in order. It’s still our favorite and the mere mention of it will cause any Bartolini clan member’s mouth to water, as his/her mind fills with memories of holidays past. You can learn all about it simply by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Roast Duck Risotto PreviewBlack Rice Risotto with Roast Duck and Porcini Mushrooms

*     *     *

Spaghetti alla Chitarra all’Amatriciana and My (Not So) Authentic Souvenir from Rome

Pasta alla Chitarra 1Now that’s a mouthful, isn’t it? I was talking about the title but the same applies to the dish. It’s one that I was served in Rome and I couldn’t wait to make it at home — but there was a problem. Although I’ve dressed pasta in this way, I didn’t own a chitarra, (guitar). No, I’ve not taken up an instrument during my time off.

A chitarra is a piece of pasta making equipment that pre-dates the pasta machines common today. Abruzzo claims to be the instrument’s point of origin, believing it was developed there in the early 1800′s. A little larger than a shoe box, this chitarra has a number of strings evenly spaced on either side of a (removable) board. Each of the two sides creates a different pasta. Mine, for example, produces spaghetti and linguine. You place a dough strip on top of the strings and use a rolling-pin to score and form the pasta noodles. If they remain attached, a strum or two on the strings will cause them to fall to the board. Neat, huh? Unless, like me, you don’t own one.

When I went to Italy, I had a couple of things in mind to bring back home, one of which was a chitarra. Although I did see a couple in the first days of my trip, they didn’t make the type of pasta I wanted nor did they seem very durable, particularly considering that my “souvenir” would be stuffed into a suitcase. Remember the American Tourister adverts? These chitarre would never have survived the trip home, even though my bag was, coincidentally, an American Tourister. Unfortunately, I never saw a chitarra again — and it’s not for lack of looking. In fact, my last morning in Rome was spent going to housewares shops looking for the pasta maker. I finally gave up and, being near the Trevi Fountain, tossed in a few coins before treating myself to a peach gelato. Shopping is hard work, no matter the locale.

*     *     *

4 Coins for the Fountain

Didn’t find a chitarra but the morning wasn’t a complete loss. The Trevi Fountain was fed.

*     *     *

I probably would have let things end there but, as luck would have it, I was served today’s dish in Rome the night before and couldn’t get it out of my mind. The pasta was fantastic and I wanted a chitarra even more. So, when I returned home from Michigan, I went to my favorite online site for pasta equipment and bought myself a chitarra. Made on this side of the Atlantic, it’s a sturdy piece of equipment and, unlike those abroad, it can be sent back to be restrung when needed — for a price, of course. The chitarra was delivered within days and today’s dish is the result of our first duet. (By the way, if anyone asks, I bought my chitarra at a quaint little shop not far from our flat in Rome. Mum’s the word.)

*     *     *

Click to enlarge

*     *     *

Though originating in Amatrice in the 18th century, this sugo is based upon one that pre-dates the arrival of tomatoes from America to the Italian peninsula. (That dish, Spaghetti alla Gricia, is another I enjoyed while in Rome and will be sharing the recipe in the weeks to come.) It wasn’t long before the dish traveled to Rome, where it was quickly adopted and has become one of the Eternal City’s “classic” dishes. Today, Amatriciana is often used to dress bucatini, though not exclusively, as proven by my dinner that night. As you’ll soon see, it is one of the easiest tomato-based pasta sauces to prepare.

Sugo all’Amatriciana, in its purest form, consists of 3 ingredients: guanciale, tomatoes, and Pecorino Romano cheese. Depending upon the amount of fat rendered from the guanciale, a little extra virgin olive oil may be required. Add a little salt and pepper and your sugo is ready to go. As you might imagine, there are variations. The pasta I was served contained a hint of garlic and a little heat from red pepper flakes. Onions were not used and, according to my waiter, they rarely, if ever, are. So there you have it. If you’re using homemade pasta, this dinner can be on the table in well under 30 minutes. In fact, it will take longer for the pasta water to boil than for any other part of the dish to be prepared.

*     *     *

Pasta alla Chitarra 1

This is what I served

*     *     *

Spaghetti alla Chitarra all’Amatriciana Recipe

Ingredients

  • spaghetti alla chitarra, not quite fully cooked — bucatini may be substituted
  • 1 to 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 4 oz (28 to 112 g) guanciale, cut in lardons — pancetta may be substituted (See Notes)
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
  • cherry tomatoes, halved – quantity depends upon preference and servings prepared (See Notes)
  • Pecorino Romano cheese
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water. (See Notes)
  2. Meanwhile, heat guanciale in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  3. When all the guanciale’s fat is just about rendered, add red pepper flakes and a crushed clove of garlic, if using. Add a little olive oil if the pan is too dry.
  4. When the garlic is golden brown, remove and discard it. By this point, the guanciale should be cooked but not “to a crisp”.
  5. The pasta should be nearing completion. Add the tomatoes to the frying pan. Raise the heat to med-high.
  6. Reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta.
  7. Add the pasta to the frying pan, stir and cook all the ingredients together until the pasta is cooked al dente. If too dry, add some of the pasta water to compensate.
  8. Turn off the heat, add a handful of grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and mix to combine. Add more pasta water if too dry.
  9. Serve immediately, garnished with more Pecorino Romano cheese and freshly cracked pepper.

*     *     *

Spaghetti alla Chitarra all'Amatriciana

This is what I was served

*     *     *

Notes

The most important issue when preparing pasta alla Amatriciana has to do with timing. If using freshly made pasta, as I did, the sugo will need to be almost fully cooked when the pasta is added to the water since the pasta will be ready in 2 to 3 minutes. If using store-bought or dried pasta, follow the package directions and drain the pasta when it is about 2 minutes shy of al dente.

Although guanciale is preferred, not everyone can find this Italian pork product. Pancetta may be substituted, as can non-smoked bacon. As much as I love smoked bacon, its smoky flavor would overpower the rest of this simple dish.

The dish I was served used halved cherry tomatoes. You could easily substitute one or two chopped fresh tomatoes, depending on the portions to be served.

*     *     *

Bella Firenze

(Click to enlarge any/all photos)

Florence view

The City of Florence, West of the Arno River, as seen from the Piazzale di Michelangelo. On the left is the covered bridge, the Ponte Vecchio; in the center is the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio; further right are 2 domes, the smaller of which is the Basilica di San Lorenzo; and the remaining tower and dome belong to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, though known the World-over as Il Duomo.

*     *     *

My favorite city in the World, Florence was the birthplace and heart of the Italian Renaissance, while the city itself is a masterpiece. The basilicas that dot the landscape were each designed by the finest architects of the time. The art collections of the Uffizi Gallery — once the offices of the Medici family — are among the World’s finest, while the Piazza della Signoria is like no other. Walking its streets, you can feel the history and easily imagine you’re in the 15th century, hurrying to meet friends in front of the Baptistery of St. John. You don’t see Florence, you experience it.

I was the first to arrive at our flat, my friends were in transit from Sicily. This flat, too, had a terrace. To the South, we saw Il Duomo; to the North, San Lorenzo. Our days began and ended on that terrace.

Florence Terrace ViewsThat there are so many large cathedrals in the Florence speaks volumes of its stature in Italy and all of Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. Each, a thing of beauty in its own right, contains priceless works of art, not to mention the tombs of some very famous people. Above them all sits the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Il Duomo. Its external walls are made of 3 kinds of marble, each a different color — red, green, and white — and positioned in patterns composed of vertical and horizontal lines The cathedral’s magnificent dome was designed by famed architect, Brunelleschi. Just beyond its main entrance lies the Baptistery of St. John, the bronze doors of which, “The Gates of Paradise“, were designed by Ghiberti, The Basilica di San Lorenzo, also, features a dome designedPeek-a-Boo Duomo, at night by Brunelleschi though he died before its completion. This cathedral contains the tombs of members of the powerful Medici family. If it’s tombs you like, then you must visit the Basilica di Santa Croce. Within this beautiful cathedral’s walls you’ll find the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli, to name a few. There are, also, funerary monuments for other famous Florentines, like Fermi and Dante.

Too dark for you? Is “high art” more your style? Then head to the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. Located atop one of the highest points in Florence, it is perhaps the best example of Romanesque architecture in all of Tuscany. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Piazzale di Michelangelo which offers one of the most beautiful views of the city of Florence. (See photos above and below.)

Don’t feel much like climbing a hill? Then stroll over to the Church of San Marco where you’ll find frescoes by the Renaissance artist, Fra Angelico. The Church, though, is only the starter. For the main course, head next door to the monastery, where Fra Angelico, himself a monk, and his students decorated each monk’s cell with a beautiful fresco upon which he could reflect and meditate. It is an incredible collection of early Renaissance works by a true Master. All that’s left, then, is the dessert. For that, head down the street to the Galerie de l’Académie, where you’ll find Michelangelo’s massive statue, “David”. A more satisfying meal cannot be served and there is still so much more of Florence to savor. Get ready for your first taste.

*     *     *

Since I’ve spent so much time writing about cathedrals, I thought I’d share some photos of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, named “Novella”, New, because it was built upon the site of an earlier Church, Santa Maria delle Vigne. Completed in 1470, it is the first of the city’s great cathedrals to be built. In the center of the Cathedral hangs Giotto’s “Crucifix”, while its walls and side chapels, capelle, are decorated with frescoes created by some of the Renaissance’s most gifted artists. The sanctuary behind the awe-inspiring altar is called the Cappella Tornabuoni. The remarkably well-preserved frescoes decorating its walls were created by Ghirlandaio and his assistants, the most famous of which was a young Michelangelo.

(Though all photos are mine — like you couldn’t tell? –Wikipedia supplied some details and historical data.)

*     *     *

*     *     *

 In and around Florence

*     *     *

*     *     *

Florence, East of the Arno River

The City of Florence, East of the Arno River, as seen from the Piazzale di Michelangelo. To the left are remnants of the City’s walls with Galileo’s home just beyond the crest. If you look closely, you can see the dome of the Basilica of Santo Spirito, in the distance just to the left of the Arno River, beyond the Ponte Vecchio.

*     *     *

There’s more Florence yet to come.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Salmon with Dill en PapilloteNever mind our cool weather. It’s grilling season and here’s a way to cook fish on your barbecue without fear of the fillets sticking to the grates. Seasoned and enclosed in aluminum foil, you’d be hard-pressed to find an easier way to prepare fish.  Oh! Did I mention how flavorful it is? Well, you can see three recipes for preparing fish in this way just by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Pistachio Gelato Pistachio Gelato

*     *     *

Maltagliati Pasta with Pistachio Pesto

Maltagliati con Pesto al Pistacchio

Maltagliati

Today’s post is one of odds and ends, literally. Sure, there are two “recipes” to be shared but neither is deserving of its own post, both being incredibly easy to prepare. One, in fact, is traditionally nothing more than scraps, giving more proof to the adage that nothing is wasted in an Italian kitchen.

Maltagliati is a pasta of irregular shapes, the name of which is derived from the Italian words for badly cut, male taglio. (Thanks, Francesca, of Almost Italian). It is the end pieces and leftover bits of pasta that result from a day of pasta making. Like snowflakes, no two pieces are alike, each being randomly cut. The fact that there would be enough scraps to prepare a dinner is an indication of the difference between our two countries’ eating habits.

By one estimate, the average per capita consumption of pasta in Italy is 59 pounds per year, while in the US it’s only 19 pounds apiece annually. Yet we have an obesity epidemic. The reality is that a one pound package of pasta will yield 8 servings in most Italian kitchens. They will serve one such serving with most evening meals, the primo piatto. Here, we’ll get 5, 4, or even 3 mega-servings from a single pound. That serving is often the main course, with the addition of a salad, bread, and possibly a dessert.

Most of our pasta is manufactured and store-bought. Up until recent times, the vast majority of pasta served in Italian homes was made by hand. If you make enough pasta so that everyone in your household is going to eat 59 pounds of pasta per year, you are bound to have a lot of scraps to deal with. Those scraps can become maltagliati and will be served in any number of ways, usually determined by the amount at hand.

Very often, they’re served with beans, taking the place of the ditalini used in last week’s Pasta e Fagioli recipe. If you’ve plenty, they can be served with a hearty meat sauce, as was served to Zia and me one evening in Rome, where I first heard of this pasta. Here, I’ve chosen to serve them with a new version of pesto, simply because I needed a pasta narrative to accompany the recipe for today’s pesto. It would have been an incredibly short post, otherwise.

*     *     *

Yes, that’s the first, lonely crocus to bloom in my front garden. Spring is finally taking hold and 1st Bloomwith the new season comes an offer from my blogging friend, Mary, of Love – The Secret Ingredient. She is creating surprise boxes that will contain various gourmet items, small kitchen products, and recipes which will use the enclosed items. A box will be delivered every season and you can purchase them separately or all four at once. The part that caught my attention is that Mary will donate 10% of the annual profits to Feed The Children, an organization dedicated to providing hope and eliminating hunger. You can learn all about Mary’s Secret Ingredients by clicking HERE.

Note: Although I’ve ordered and paid for a surprise box, I have not received any form of compensation for mentioning Mary’s offer. I saw this as an opportunity to help a fellow blogger and worthwhile charity at the same time.

.*     *     *

Freshly Made Maltagliati*     *     *

How to Make Maltagliati Pasta

  • If you make a full recipe of Mom’s Pasta Dough, you will have about 1.5 pound (680 g) of pasta dough. That will make quite a bit of pasta, so, you may wish to halve the recipe or cut it into 3rds or 4ths. For this post, I cut the pasta recipe in half.
  • Take a portion of the dough and run it through the pasta machine rollers until it is as thin as you like. My rollers start at 1, the thickest setting, and I continue to roll the dough, up to and including the 6 setting. You may like your pasta thinner. If so, continue to advance the setting as you roll the dough.
  • Lay the dough strip out flat on your work surface, dust lightly with flour, and allow to rest for a few minutes.
  • Pastry WheelsUse a straight-edged pastry cutter to divide the strip into 3 equal strips. No need to worry about it being a perfect straight line. Just do the best you can. Do not separate them but leave them as-is.
  • Now, take your pastry cutter and beginning in the upper left corner, make a series of diagonal cuts, approximately parallel to each other. Once done, starting in the upper right corner, make diagonal cuts going the other way, repeatedly,  You will end up with a collection of triangles and trapezoids, no two exactly alike — not to mention a better appreciation of your Geometry teacher who predicted that “one day this ‘stuff’ will be useful.”
  • Place them in a single layer on a wax paper covered baking sheet that’s been lightly dusted with flour or corn meal.
  • Repeat until all the dough strips have been cut. If you like, use a fluted-edged pastry wheel to cut the pasta, as well as the straight-edged. This will further the illusion of this being a pasta dinner made from scraps. (see Notes)
  • To cook, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil, add the maltagliati, stir, and allow to cook for a few minutes. Being freshly made, they should be fully cooked within minutes. Taste one when all have risen to the top of the pot of boiling water.
  • Drain and dress with pesto, recipe to follow. (See Notes)

*     *     *

Maltagliati 2*     *     *

Notes

Not everyone has time to make pasta, even when the process is as easy as this. Should that be the case, take some store-bought lasagna noodles and snap them. Just don’t get carried away, for it is easier to dine on larger pieces than tiny ones.

Being flat, maltagliati have a tendency to stick together once drained, so, you must work fast. Once the pasta has been drained, quickly give it a light coating of olive oil before dressing it with the pesto. If using a red sauce, there’s no need for the olive oil but you still must quickly add it to the drained noodles.

*     *     *

So, now that you’ve got a scrappy little pasta at your disposal, it’s time to dress it.

I certainly won’t pretend to speak for everyone but I will say that by this time of year, I’m desperate for any kind of Summer dish. Pesto for me is one such dish. In Summer, I can get a wedding-sized bouquet of basil for a couple of dollars at the farmers market. This time of year, I’m lucky to get a few stems for the same price. Today’s pesto recipe gives me my Summer fix without breaking the bank, for not only does it use half the basil, it substitutes pistachio nuts for the über expensive pine nuts, pignoli. (Just last month, I saw a 4 oz package (113 g) of imported organic Italian pine nuts with a price of $12.99. That’s $52.00 a pound!!!)

Whether you’ve made pesto before, you shouldn’t have any problems preparing this recipe.

 *     *     *

Pistachio Pesto*     *     *

Pistachio Pesto Recipe

Ingredients

yield: 1 cup pesto

  • 1.4 oz (40 g) fresh basil leaves (See Notes)
  • 1.1 oz (30 g) fresh, flat leaf parsley leaves
  • .5 oz (15 g) roasted, unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano may be substituted
  • 3 oz (79 ml) extra virgin olive oil – more or less to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place everything but the olive oil, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Let it process until a thick paste is formed.
  3. While the processor is still running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the pesto reaches the consistency you prefer.
  4. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as required. Pulse the processor to blend the seasonings with the pesto.
  5. Your pesto is ready for use.

*     *     *

Notes

The reason for the odd amounts of basil and parsley is because of how both were purchased. I bought a 2 oz package of basil that, once the stems were removed, actually weighed 1.4 oz. Similarly, I bought a bunch of parsley that, once cleaned, weighed 1.1 oz.

Traditionally, pesto is made using a mortar and pestle rather than a food processor. I do not own a mortar large enough to do this, so, I use a food processor. The fact that it is so much easier this way has nothing to do with it.

I used my pesto recipe as the basis for today’s version. You can use your own pesto recipe, just be sure to replace 25 to 50% of the basil with parsley and, of course, use pistachio nuts instead of pine nuts.

Refrigerate unused pesto in an airtight container, after topping with a thin coat of olive oil. Use it or freeze it within a few days.

If I’m going to freeze this or any pesto, I do not add cheese to it while it’s being made. I’ve found that the cheese doesn’t thaw well and the pesto’s consistency suffers. Instead, I’ll add the cheese to the pasta when the pesto is added.

If you have frozen pesto containing cheese, mix it with a bit of hot pasta water before using it to dress the pasta. The hot water will help make the pesto more smooth and easier to evenly coat the pasta.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Insalata With lawns going green and last Fall’s bulbs breaking the ground’s surface, it can only mean one thing. It’s dandelion picking season! What you may consider a blight on your lawn, a Bartolini sees as a crisp salad. Click HERE to see the lengths traveled by my Dad to enlist our help picking the greens for our Sunday night dinner.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Lamb Shank PreviewLamb Shanks

*     *     *

Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms

Ravioli della Cipolle Selvatiche con i Funghi della Spugnola Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms

You may recall that I visited my Zia last May and returned to Chicago with a number of recipes to share. Though it may have taken a while, today’s post is the last of those recipes, even if not quite what I had planned.

I had a devil of a time finding ramps this past Spring. My normal vendor didn’t harvest any and I was always just a bit late with my other sources. (Evidently ramps, like porcini mushrooms, are in big demand by the area’s restaurants.) Surprisingly, at the very end of the season, my fishmonger had some for sale. I bought up what he had, hoping that they would “keep” the 4 days before I left for Michigan and they did — kinda. Upon my arrival at Zia’s, I unwrapped the ramps, only to find the leaves to be a wilted, soggy mess. I quickly discarded them and kept the bulbs. This meant I would need something green for my ravioli and Zia and I decided fresh spinach would make a nice substitute. My attention now focused on the morels.

Known to but a few, there is a place near Zia’s home where morel mushrooms grow. Living 400 miles away, it is purely a matter of luck for me to be present when the pock Old Morelmarked fungi appear. Nonetheless, everyday I trotted out to the morel patch to see if anything had sprouted and everyday I returned home empty-handed. On the 4th day I gave up. Having had an inkling that this might happen, I had brought a package of dried morels with me to Michigan and used them in today’s dish. By the way, I continued to check the patch everyday until I left and none ever appeared. I did find one morel, however, far past its “use by” date, growing right next to Zia’s porch. I left it alone so that its spores could work their magic. I’ll be back next Spring.

Now, I know that it’s a little late in the year to be posting this recipe, both ramps and morels being out of season, but I did promise to post it. If you wish to prepare this now, you can follow my lead and use dried morels — a far cheaper substitute — and you can use shallots instead of the ramps. No, shallots and ramps are not the same thing but the shallots are readily available year-round and you won’t be at all disappointed with the ravioli.

*     *     *

Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms 2

*     *     *

Ramps Ravioli and Morel Mushroom Sauce Recipes

Ingredients

For the Ravioli Filling

  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups packed, chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup ramps diced
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp sea/kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/8 tsp pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 8 oz (226 g) ricotta cheese, well-drained

For the Sauce

  • 1/2 oz (14 g) dried morels, re-hydrated, liquid strained and reserved
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • t tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 new garlic bulb, diced
  • 1 to 3 oz of dry white wine
  • 1 cup mushroom soaking liquid
  • 3 thyme stems
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper

*     *     *

Ramps Ravioli

*     *     *

Directions

For the Ravioli Filling

  1. In a frying pan, heat the butter and olive oil over med-high heat. Add the spinach and sauté until cooked through.
  2. Use a slotted spoon to remove the spinach to cool.
  3. Using the same pan, sauté the diced ramps until translucent, remove from heat, and allow to cool.
  4. Once cooled, place the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and wring out as much liquid as possible.
  5. In a mixing bowl, add the spinach, ramps, nutmeg, ricotta cheese, Pecorino Romano, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld and the cheese to firm, making it easier to work with later on.

To make ravioli using ravioli dies/molds, please click HERE to see an expert at work. There you’ll, also, find directions for cooking the pasta pillows.

*     *     *

Three morels

*     *     *

For the Morels “Sauce”

  1. In a frying pan, add the butter and olive oil over med-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 90 seconds.
  2. Add the morels and sauté for a few minutes, just long enough to give them a little color.
  3. Add the wine and sauté until all but gone.
  4. Add the mushroom soaking liquid and thyme and reduce until the consistency you like for the ravioli.
  5. Add the remaining butter and season with salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Use to lightly dress the ravioli prepared above.
  7. Serve immediately garnished with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

*     *     *

Ramps Ravioli with Morel Mushrooms 3

*     *     *

Notes

Be aware that there are 2 types of mushrooms, known as false morels, that resemble morels but that are inedible. Do not go foraging for morels unless you know exactly what you are looking for. As is the case with all mushrooms, if in doubt, throw it out.

Morels should not be eaten raw. Stomach distress may result if they are not fully cooked before being eaten. Soaking them is not cooking them.

To re-hydrate morels, soak them in lukewarm water for 30 to 60 minutes before needed. Unlike most mushrooms, it wouldn’t hurt to first briefly hold them under running water to clear any grit that may be in the dimples.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Tomato and Bread Soup

Tomato and Bread Soup

This is the time of year when gardens in this area are producing tomatoes of all shapes, sizes, and colors. If you don’t stay on top of the situation, you’ll soon be swamped with ripe tomatoes — and that’s true even if you’ve an Evil Squirrel to battle. Today’s blast from the past is a delicious way to utilize the excess. In fact, the more ripe the tomatoes, the better the dish. Pappa al Pomodoro, is a delicious soup that could not be easier to prepare. Just click HERE to learn all about it.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Tart Cherry Frozen Yogurt

Tart Cherry Frozen Yogurt

*     *     *

Asparagus, Crimini Mushroom, and Ricotta Ravioli Filling

Yes, it’s another ravioli filling recipe, though not the one I had originally intended to post. Today’s filling recipe was to include ramps, a dish Zia and I developed during my last visit home. Well, ramp season has passed and I doubt that any of the wild onions are to be found anywhere. Asparagus, on the other hand, is still around, though it’s numbers have greatly decreased over the last 2 weekends. (The ramps post is written and will be published soon.) Seeing that asparagus season is also fleeting, I thought it best to post a recipe using the spears now, while you can still get some that are locally grown. In fact, all 3 recipes presented in today’s post will take advantage of the current harvest. The “Déjà vu” recipe will feature strawberries, while “Coming soon” is a pasta recipe that includes a number of fresh ingredients. 

Today’s post will only detail how to make asparagus ravioli filling. If you’re interested in seeing how to use ravioli molds/dies to create the stuffed pasta pillows, you can see step-by-step instructions by clicking HERE. For serving suggestions, see Notes below.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Asparagus, Crimini Mushroom, & Ricotta Ravioli Filling Recipe

Yield: See Notes below. 

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 8 oz (228 g) fresh asparagus, chopped
  • 8 oz (228 g) fresh crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 oz (86 g) Spring onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 3/4 cup (12 oz, 340 g) ricotta, well-drained
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Roman cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Clean and roughly chop the asparagus (see Notes), mushrooms, onion, & garlic
  2. Heat olive oil and butter over med-high heat. Add asparagus, mushroom, and onion, lower heat to medium, and sauté until mixture just begins to change color — about 6 or 7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, salt, and pepper, and continue to sauté until liquids are gone. Do not allow to burn.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool fully before proceeding.
  5. If using a food processor:
    1. Place the asparagus mixture into the processor, add the ricotta and Romano cheeses, and process until uniformly smooth.
  6. If not using a food processor:
    1. Chop the asparagus mixture as finely as possible.
    2. Add the cheeses and stir to thoroughly combine.
  7. Filling may now be used with your favorite stuffed pasta recipe.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Notes

Using this recipe and my large, 2 inch (5 cm), ravioli die/mold , I made 90 ravioli. You might make more or less, depending upon the size of the die or stamp used.

Whether you use homemade or store-bought ricotta, place the cheese in a clean coffee filter, where it can drain for at least a few hours to remove the excess liquid.  The drier the better. 

You can serve your asparagus ravioli in a number of ways. I’ve found that a brown butter and sage sauce works very well, as do cream and “light” tomato sauces. For those who really enjoy asparagus, simply sauté a few chopped asparagus spears in butter and use that to dress freshly cooked ravioli. A bit of lemon zest on top works very well. In all the examples given, grated cheese should be sprinkled atop the dressed ravioli.

*     *     *

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

I’ve made this and a couple other ravioli fillings over the course of the past couple of  months and it gave me an opportunity to experiment with a few things.

  1. All Purpose V Double 0 Flour. Last Fall I, finally, located a source for “00″ flour, doppio 0. This is the finely ground durum flour used to make pasta and pizza dough in Italy. Although it’s roughly twice as expensive as AP flour, both Zia and I agree that using it creates pasta dough with a great feel. When cooked al dente, the pasta has a good bite, just as it should, and I’ll continue to buy and use it. Decisions have consequences, however, and I now have yet another container of flour in my kitchen. For those keeping track, that makes  6 — AP, bread, wheat, spelt, semolina, and now 00.  
  2. Attachment V Ravioli Die/Mold. I decided to pull out the KitchenAid ravioli maker and give it another shot. In the past I’ve found it less than perfect and, frankly, more trouble than it’s worth. All along, I thought that the fault may lie with the fillings I used, that the attachment would work best if a softer filling was in the hopper. Today’s asparagus ravioli filling was used to test my theory. I must admit that the ravioli maker worked better than it ever has and waste — which was a big problem with earlier trials — was minimal. Even if a bit cumbersome to operate, probably due to my inexperience, it did produce row after row of perfect ravioli. All’s not well, though. In order to get perfect ravioli, the dough sheets must be thick, more than double the thickness that we normally would use. That means you need to make at least twice the amount of pasta dough than would normally be required when using ravioli molds/dies. It, also, means the ratio of filling to pasta is different from the ravioli to which I’m accustomed. (Yes, my generation of Bartolini are a spoiled lot.)  In short, the ravioli attachment is back on the shelf, waiting for me to give it another go, probably in 2015 sometime.
  3. Chicken V Duck Eggs. Recently, while waiting to buy eggs at the farmers market, the customer before me bought a half-dozen duck eggs. Prior to this, I thought they were only sold by the dozen. So, I 86′ed the chicken and went duck. A couple of days later, I used them to make the pasta dough used in the ravioli pictured throughout this post. For those unfamiliar, Mom’s pasta dough recipe calls for 4 eggs and enough water to make a cup of liquid. Because they’re larger, only 3 duck eggs plus less than a tbsp of water will yield the required cup of liquid. Once made, the dough was much more yellow than normal but, to be fair, that may be due to the eggs’ freshness more than anything else. As for taste, I really could not detect a difference but, then again, without side-by-side taste tests, I should really say that I don’t “remember” a difference. Given that duck eggs are twice the price of chicken eggs, I’m not sure that I’ll be a regular customer for them anytime soon.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

As was mentioned, we’re just about at the end of asparagus season here in the Chicago area. The tables upon tables of the tasty spears have been replaced — by strawberries! Pictured on the right is just one vendor’s berries at the Evanston farmers market. Believe me, there are many more and I defy anyone, save those with allergies, to walk around that market without buying at least one quart. So, what will you do with these sweet & juicy red gems? Why, make strawberry jam, of course! You can see Mom’s recipe by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Farmers Market Pasta

*     *     *

Homemade Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Sauce

Gnocchi in Salsa di Gorgonzola

“The future ain’t what it used to be” and today’s post is the proof. You may have noticed last week’s “Coming Soon …” photograph depicted a recipe called “Jack BRICKhouse CHICKEN” and, as a result, you may have deduced that was to be today’s recipe. Well, guess again. That recipe is scheduled for next week — has been all along — and cannot be rescheduled for reasons that will become apparent in the post. I must admit that it came as a surprise for me to learn that I cannot read a calendar and my newly found malady did leave me in a bit of a lurch for this week’s post. All’s not lost, though, since I’ve a bagful of recipes from my recent visit with Zia from which to choose. Because so many of you were interested in my family’s risotto, I set to work writing that recipe and blog entry. All was going swimmingly until Saturday morning when I noticed that Stefan, of Stefan’s Gourmet Blog, posted his recipe for Risotto with Peas & Mint. The very next day, Nick, of Frugal Feeding, posted his recipe for Tomato and Basil Risotto. That’s when I began to rethink my post. The third and final blow was struck when Paul, of That Other Cooking Blog, posted his recipe for Risotto al Nero di Seppie (squid ink risotto). Deciding that my post could be postponed a bit, I went back to the bag of recipes from my visit home and pulled out today’s gnocchi recipe. Even so, if all of this talk of risotto has you yearning for the creamy rice dish, be sure to check out those 3 recipes and, while you’re at it, spend a little time looking around each blog. You will not be disappointed.

One of the first things we kids were allowed to help make in the kitchen were gnocchi. Mom and Zia would make the dough and then hand us a piece to roll into a log, though we called them snakes. With a butter knife we were taught how to cut the snake and, depending upon the gnocchi’s use, we might even have been allowed to try to roll them across a fork’s tines to make the grooves. By “use” I mean whether dinner guests or family were to dine on the fruit of our labor. Mom always put her best gnocchi forward for company and she took charge of the groove-making, reshaping any malformed gnocchi along the way. Unlike today’s recipe, however, Mom’s gnocchi were always served with her meat sauce.

Although I’ve enjoyed gnocchi with gorgonzola at restaurants, I never thought about replicating the recipe at home until several years ago. My Entertainer Friend mentioned how much he enjoyed gnocchi with bleu cheese and I thought I’d come up with a recipe and treat him. Over the years, I’ve tried a number of variations, using several spices and herbs, and eventually switched from bleu cheese to gorgonzola, but I always came back to the simple recipe I’ll share today. It’s yet another example of “Less is More.” As for my Entertainer Friend, now that I’ve reminded him, I’d better start planning that gnocchi dinner.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Sauce Recipe

yield: roughly 1.5 lbs (680 g)

Ingredients

  • 2 large russet potatoes, once cooked, peeled, & riced = 18 oz (510 g) (See Notes.)
  • 2 cups (10.2 oz; 290 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • corn meal or additional flour for dusting surfaces
  • 5 oz (142 g) gorgonzola, crumbled, more or less to taste (See Notes)
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream, more or less to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • grated or flaked Pecorino Romano cheese for garnish — Parmigiano Reggiano may be substituted

Directions

To make the gnocchi

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400˚ F (204˚ C). Use a fork to pierce the potatoes numerous times.
  2. Place potatoes on center rack and bake until cooked, from 50 to 60 minutes, depending upon potato size.
  3. Meanwhile gather the other ingredients. Allow the egg to come to room temperature.
  4. Once cooked, remove potatoes and set aside until they can be safely handled.
  5. Slice each potato in half, lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out all of potato, reserving the skin for some other purpose.
  6. Run cooked potatoes through a ricer or food mill. (See Notes.)
  7. Use the riced potatoes to create a mound on a floured work surface. Make a well in the center of the mound, as you would when making pasta dough.
  8. Sprinkle the top of the well’s walls with 3/4 cup of flour. Place the egg in the center well after the potato has cooled enough so that the egg won’t cook.
  9. Using a fork, slowly combine the potato & flour with the egg. Once the dough renders the fork useless, continue mixing the dough with your hands.
  10. The dough should come together within 4 to 5 minutes. It will be ready when it is firm and a little moist-to-the-touch without being tacky. Add more flour as needed but remember: the less flour used, the better.
  11. Form a ball with the dough and divide it into fourths.
  12. Take one-quarter and divide it in half. Roll one of the sections into a log with a width of your preference. We normally roll them about an inch (2.5 cm) thick — the width of an index finger.
  13. Use a sharp knife or board scraper to cut the log into segments, each 1/2 (1.3 cm) to an inch (2.5 cm) long.
  14. If grooves are desiredFlour the back of a dinner fork, place a segment at the top of the tines, use your finger to roll it over the tines, creating gnocchi with grooves on one side and a dimple where your finger rolled it.
  15. If grooves aren’t wanted: Use a finger to push and roll each segment across the work surface, creating smooth surfaced gnocchi with dimples where you’d placed your fingers.
  16. Place the gnocchi on a lined baking sheet that’s been dusted with flour or corn meal.
  17. If not going to be cooked within a few hours, place the gnocchi-covered baking sheet in a freezer and once the gnocchi are frozen solid, place them in containers/bags suitable for freezer storage.

*     *     *

*     *     *

To cook the gnocchi

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over high heat.
  2. Once the water boils, add the gnocchi and stir gently.
  3. When the water resumes boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and notice when the gnocchi begin to float. This should only take a couple of minutes when fresh and a few more when the gnocchi are frozen. Gnocchi will be ready about 1 minute after the last start floating. If in doubt, taste one.

*     *     *

To prepare the gorgonzola sauce

  1. While waiting for the water to boil, heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Once the cream is hot, add the gorgonzola and stir until melted. Taste and adjust, adding more cream or gorgonzola to suit your own taste. If you prefer, you can add a bit of the water used to cook the gnocchi to thin the sauce without adding more cream.
  3. Don’t forget to taste and season with salt & pepper, if required.

*     *     *

To assemble and serve

  1. Use a hand strainer — “Spider” strainer — to remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and place in the serving bowl. Add the gorgonzola sauce and mix gently until all are coated.
  2. Serve immediately, garnished with grated/flaked Pecorino Romano cheese.

*     *     *

Variations

Like most Italian dishes, there are many recipes around for making gnocchi. No matter which recipe you choose to follow, 2 rules will apply. 1) The fluffier the smashed/riced potato the better, and, 2) the less flour the better. Keep those 2 rules in mind and you’ll be well-rewarded with a most palatable platter of puffy potato pillows rather than the much less than spectacular spud scuds.

One popular variation for preparing gnocchi is to bake them before serving. Follow the directions above for making and cooking the gnocchi, as well as making the gorgonzola sauce. Use all the sauce to dress the gnocchi and place in a baking dish. Top with grated cheese or bread crumbs that have been moistened by olive oil or butter. Bake in a 375˚ F (190˚ C) pre-heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until hot & bubbly with a golden brown topping.

Even after being reduced, some may want a thicker sauce. (Bear in mind it will thicken once taken off the heat and begins to cool.) If you want a very thick sauce, you can start by making a roux. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a small sauce pan. Add an equal amount of AP flour and whisk until fully blended. Allow to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let the roux darken or it will color your cheese sauce. Add the half the cream and whisk till incorporated. Add the remaining cream and keep whisking as it heats and begins to thicken. Once thickened, about 5 minutes, add the gorgonzola and keep whisking until melted. If too thick, you can adjust by adding more cream or some of the water used to cook the gnocchi.

*     *     *

If they’re all identical, no one will believe you made them.

*     *     *

Notes

Much like making pasta, making gnocchi is not an exact science. The moisture in the potatoes, the size of the egg, the humidity, and even the brand of flour can all affect the amount of flour required. As was mentioned, use as little flour as possible to create a firm, slightly moist-to-the-touch dough that isn’t at all tacky.

I used 2 large russet potatoes that weighed 26.8 oz (760 g). Once baked, peeled and riced, they weighed a total of 18 oz (510 g). For accuracy I weighed the flour, starting with 2 cups or 10.2 oz (290 g). When I was finished, the remaining flour weighed 4 oz (114 g), meaning I used a little over 1 cup of flour for a little over a pound of riced potatoes. Lastly, to determine the yield, I weighed the frozen gnocchi before bagging. Your yield may vary due to the above-mentioned factors.

Not everyone has a potato ricer or food mill and I seriously doubt that my Nonnas had either one. They used a large fork to smash the potatoes and there’s no reason you can’t do the same. You can, also, use a potato masher or a box grater, if need be. Just be sure to use a fork to fluff the smashed potatoes as much as possible before proceeding.

It had been some time since I last made this dish when I prepared it for Zia. As a result, I misjudged and used a full cup (236 ml) of heavy cream with 5 oz (142 g) gorgonzola. That resulted in a very runny sauce. Thankfully, gnocchi was to be our primo piatto so I was able to reduce the sauce to the consistency I wanted without affecting the rest of the dinner. Today’s recipe uses half the amount of cream I used for that dinner.

It’s not a bad idea to have extra gorgonzola and cream on-hand the first time you make this sauce, just in case your idea of the perfect gorgonzola sauce differs from mine. You can add more cheese or cream, as required.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again … 

Blueberry

I don’t care what the weatherman says. The calendar says it’s June and that means it’s ice cream season. Time to dust off the ice cream machines and get those canisters into the freezer. Now I’ve shared several ice cream recipes but this one, blueberry swirl cheesecake, is Number One among family, friends, friends of family, and families of friends — but don’t take our word for it. Try it for yourself. You can find the recipe by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you … 

Jack BRICKhouse CHICKEN

*     *     *

Porcini Mushroom, Leek, and Goat Cheese Ravioli Filling

Last week I demonstrated how easy it is to make ravioli, tortelloni, and manicotti using wonton wrappers. Now that you know what to do with the wrappers, today I’ll show you how to make a filling.

Given the stated purpose of these two posts, it wouldn’t make much sense to use a filling that was overly complicated to prepare or that required a dozen ingredients. Using only dried porcini mushrooms, leeks, garlic, and goat cheese, this filling could not be easier to make and yet packs a great deal of flavor into each pasta. With the longest step in the process being the wait for the mushroom-leek mixture to cool after being sautéed, you can easily make enough wonton wrapper ravioli in an afternoon for that evening’s dinner. Yes, you can do this.

Thursday I’ll be leaving for Michigan, where the Dial-Up Modem is King. As a result, the Kitchens must close temporarily and there can be no post next Wednesday. My next entry is scheduled for Wednesday, June 5th.

*     *     *

Porcini Mushroom, Leek, & Goat Cheese Ravioli Filling Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • .7 oz (20 g) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 oz (85 g) leeks, chopped fine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
  • 10.5 oz (298 g) goat cheese
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper

*     *     *

*     *     *

Directions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to boil, remove from heat, and add mushrooms. Allow mushrooms to soak for at least 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms to paper towels, being careful not to disturb sediments in liquid. (Reserve mushroom liquid. See Notes.) Use another paper towel to blot the mushrooms dry before chopping them to a small dice. Put aside.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter over med-high heat. Add leeks and mushrooms, lower heat to medium, and sauté until mixture just begins to change color — about 6 or 7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, salt, and pepper, and continue to sauté until liquids are gone. Do not allow to burn.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool fully before proceeding.
  5. Once cooled, combine mushroom-leek mixture with goat cheese and stir to thoroughly combine.
  6. Filling may now be used to fill you favorite pasta.

*     *     *

Variations

This recipe is not set in stone. Don’t have any leeks? Use half the amount listed in sweet onions. Don’t like goat cheese? Use ricotta. No porcini? Use 3 to 4 oz (85 to 113 g) fresh crimini mushrooms. Don’t like this filling at all? Don’t worry. You may prefer to use either of these 2 fillings: the traditional Bartolini ravioli filling or the Bartolini sausage ravioli filling. Still not quite what you’re looking for? In a few weeks I’ll be posting an asparagus-based filling recipe.

*     *     *

Notes

There’s really no way of determining how much pasta you’ll be able to fill with today’s recipe. That will depend upon the type and size of the pasta you wish to make. Because of this, I wouldn’t invite 10 guests to dinner the first time you make a homemade stuffed pasta, whether or not you use wonton wrappers. Better to wait until your 2nd attempt or at least wait to make your guest list until after the pasta is made.

When making this filling, I allowed the goat cheese to warm a bit so that it would be easier to combine with the other ingredients. Depending upon the pasta to be filled, you may find it easier to chill it again before using it to stuff your pasta.

Do not discard the liquid used to rehydrate the porcini mushrooms. Once the sediments have settled, pour off the liquid, leaving those sediments behind. The liquid can then be stored/frozen for later use in soups, sauces, risotto, or pasta dishes, to name a few.

Although you can use any sauce yo wish to dress pasta using this filling, I chose to, again, keep it simple. Once it was cooked and drained, I gently tossed the raviolo in some melted butter and garnished it with flaked Parmesan cheese, as seen in this post’s opening photo.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

BBQ Shrimp

Gamberetti alla Griglia

This weekend is a 3-day weekend and start of the grilling season. I thought it only fitting to feature Grandpa’s Barbecued Shrimp as this week’s blast from the past. Easy to prepare, whether you serve them as a snack, appetizer, or main course, you and your guests will love them. You can learn how Grandpa did it by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Baked Haddock

*     *     *

Where East Meets West: Wonton Wrapper Pastas

Today’s entry is the fulfillment of a promise that I made to Norma in the Comments section of the Bartolini Cannelloni recipe post of last March. (Norma, by the way, is a cookbook author whose wonderful blog, Garden to Wok, is filled with tasty recipes and gardening tips.) She asked if egg roll skins could be used in place of pasta dough to make cannelloni. Well, Norma, it took 2 months and I used wonton wrappers but here’s the promised post.

Back before I started buying ravioli molds but after I learned I was unable to use Mom’s tiny cappelletti mold, I saw someone on a cooking show use wonton wrappers to make ravioli. That’s all I needed to see. Before long I was making ravioli and tortelloni using the wrappers without any problems. In fact, I’d probably still be using wrappers if I hadn’t seen another TV cook use a large ravioli mold one day. Soon I was making ravioli and cappelletti of all sizes and I never bought another wonton wrapper.

When I’ve shared our ravioli recipes, some have mentioned that the process seemed difficult and time-consuming. Using wonton wrappers eliminates one of the more difficult elements, that of making and rolling out the pasta dough. With that out-of-the-way, the rest of the process is a snap and this post will show you just how easy it is to use wonton wrappers to make stuffed pasta. Along the way, we’ll make round ravioli, manicotti, square ravioli, and tortelloni, all of which are pictured in the unfortunate photo above. It’s a long post but the method for preparing each pasta will “stand on its own” so that you need only reference the section(s) that interest you.

*     *     *

How to make Jumbo Ravioli (Ravioloni)

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a floured work surface.
  2. Place about a tbsp of filling in the center of the wrapper.
  3. Use your fingers or a brush to moisten the 4 edges on the wrapper.
  4. Place another wrapper on top.
  5. Use your fingers to remove as much air as possible while pressing to seal the edges.
  6. Use a pastry wheel or sharp knife to trim uneven edges.
  7. Use a fork’s tines to press and further seal the 2 wrappers.
  8. Reserve on a lined baking sheet for later cooking or freezing.

*     *     *

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These ravioli are about 3.25 inches (8.9 cm) square, after trimming. Remember that when cooked, they will expand a bit more.

*     *     *

How to make Ravioli

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a floured work surface.
  2. Use a pastry wheel or sharp knife to cut the wrapper in half.
  3. Place about a tsp of filling in the bottom half of each part.
  4. Use your fingers or a brush to moisten the top half of each part.
  5. Fold the top half and cover the bottom half of each.
  6. Use your fingers to remove as much air as possible while pressing to seal the edges.
  7. Use a fork’s tines to press and further seal the 2 ravioli.
  8. Reserve on a lined baking sheet for later cooking or freezing.

*     *     *

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These ravioli are about 1.6 inches (4.0 cm) square.

*     *     *

How to make Large Round Ravioli

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a floured work surface.
  2. Place about 2 tsp of filling in the center of the wrapper.
  3. Use your fingers or a brush to moisten the wrapper area around the filling.
  4. Place another wrapper on top.
  5. Use your fingers to remove as much air as possible while pressing to seal the edges.
  6. Carefully place a large biscuit cutter over the covered filling. Make sure that the cutter surrounds the filling without touching it.
  7. Press down on the biscuit cutter hard enough to sever the wrappers.
  8. Remove excess wrapper from around the cutter.
  9. Remove the raviolo from the cutter and reserve on a lined baking sheet for later cooking or freezing.

*     *     *

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These ravioli have a diameter of 2.5 inches (6.4 cm).

To make Small Round Ravioli use a smaller biscuit cutter. Mine was 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.

*     *     *

How to make Tortelloni

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a floured work surface.
  2. Use your fingers or a brush to moisten 2 adjoining sides of the wrapper.
  3. Place a little more than a tsp in the corner opposite the moistened sides.
  4. Fold the moistened half of the wrapper to cover the other.
  5. Use your fingers to remove as much air as possible while pressing to seal the edges.
  6. Use a fork’s tines to press and further seal the 2 sides.
    1. At this point, you’ve created a triangular-shaped raviolo. You can stop here or continue and make a tortelloni. 
  7. Use you finger to make an indentation in the center of the triangle’s hypotenuse. (And you once thought you’d never use geometry in real life, didn’t you?) 
  8. Bring the two opposing corners together, moisten one, and press together to seal.
  9. Bend backwards the remaining corner.
  10. Reserve on a lined baking sheet for later cooking or freezing.

*     *     *

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Although it’s not possible to give the exact size of your tortelloni, it’s safe to assume that these would be too large to be used in soup. Any stuffed pasta used in soup should be bite-sized so that the diner needn’t cut them before eating.

*     *     *

How to make Manicotti/Cannelloni

  1. Place one wonton wrapper on a floured work surface.
  2. Place about 1.5 tbsp of filling along the bottom edge of the wrapper.
  3. Use your fingers or a brush to moisten the opposite or top edge of the wrapper.
  4. Carefully and tightly roll the wrapper and filling towards the moistened edge.
  5. Place the finished manicotto/cannellono, sealed-side down, on a lined baking sheet for later baking or freezing.

*     *     *

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In my family, cannelloni are meat-filled and manicotti are cheese-filled. These manicotti/cannelloni are about 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) wide, perfect for creating a double row in many baking dishes.

*     *     *

Variations

The size and shape of your pasta is limited only by the size of the wonton wrapper. If you haven’t a biscuit cutter in the size you want, try using a glass or jar to cut your pasta. I’ve never used egg roll wrappers but imagine that the processes would be the same, only much larger. Frankly, I’d never use an entire egg roll wrapper to make a single stuffed pasta. Instead, I’d cut it into halves or quarters before using.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Notes

No matter what size or shape of ravioli that you make, be sure that there is no filling along the edge where the dough is to be sealed. It will only interfere with the seal and the pasta will probably open up during cooking. Equally important is to make sure that the pasta edges being sealed are moistened with water. Mom, Zia, Lidia Bastianich, and Mario Batali all agree: egg or egg wash is never used to seal pasta for it can harden during the cooking process, making the edges of your pasta pillows unpalatable.

As you may have noticed in the photos, I used a cheese-based filling when making each stuffed pasta. The recipe for that filling, porcini mushroom, leek, and goat cheese can be found HERE. If you don’t wish to use that filling, you may prefer to use either of these 2 fillings: the traditional Bartolini ravioli filling or the Bartolini sausage ravioli filling.

At the very beginning of this post I stated that my objective was to show how simple it is to make wonton wrapper pasta. As you’ll see next week, the filling I used here is flavorful yet, also, uncomplicated and easy to prepare. The same holds true for dressing the cooked pasta. Although you can certainly use any sauce you wish to dress your ravioli or tortelloni, you needn’t complicate matters. The large ravioli pictured above were dressed with melted butter and garnished with Parmesan flakes and fresh parsley. You could just as easily use olive oil in place of the butter, and, grated cheese in place of the Parmesan flakes. By keeping it simple I hoped I’ve demonstrated just how easy it is to prepare a homemade stuffed pasta dinner using wonton wrappers. In short, yes, you can do this!

*     *     *

 It’s déjà vu all over again … 

Fazzoletti PastaSince today’s post used square wonton wrappers, I thought I’d stick with the theme and send you back to the post where we made fazzoletti, little handkerchiefs, pasta. Nothing more than pasta squares, these are among the easiest of pastas to make at home. You can see how they’re made simply by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Porcini mushroom, leek, and goat cheese ravioli filling.

*     *     *

Cappelletti in Brodo, The Super Bowl of the Bartolini

When I shared the recipe for Mom’s Brodo several weeks ago, it was with today’s post in mind. While it may be true that her broth was used in a number of recipes, from chicken cacciatore to risotto, for many of us, it was at its best when served with Cappelletti, yet another jewel in the Bartolini Crown of Recipes. Traditionally served at Christmastime, cappelletti are a type of stuffed pasta said to resemble small hats. Search the internet and you’ll see them made much like the making of tortellini. I’ve watched cooking shows touring Bologna and have been mesmerized at the sight of women quickly fashioning cappelletti by hand. As the camera moves back offering a wider shot, it is really quite impressive to see all the freshly made little hats prepared that morning. That is not what you’re going to see here today.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Forming those little hats is a most time-consuming practice unless you’ve enough experience to become proficient. The women I’ve watched will make more cappelletti in one day than a Bartolini would have made all year — and then some. There is just no way Mom or Zia could devote the time to make enough little hats to serve their families later that day. You read that right, later that day.

When I was a boy, few families, if any, owned freezers other than the small compartment atop their refrigerator. As a result, there simply was no place to store freshly made ravioli or cappelletti. This meant that Mom and Zia got to work making pasta at 5:00 AM on every holiday. As such, either ravioli or cappelletti were made on any given holiday and never both. So, in our home, Mom served ravioli for our Christmas Day dinner, while cappelletti was served for lunch on New Year’s Day. There were days, however, when the cappelletti lunch was nixed in favor ravioli that night. It wasn’t until a large freezer was bought and placed in the basement that it became possible for ravioli and cappelletti to be made ahead of the actual holiday — allowing Mom and Zia to get some much-needed rest on those holiday mornings. Not only that, but it, also, became possible to have cappelletti for lunch AND ravioli for dinner on the same holiday. What joy!

Yet, even though they could now prepare their pasta in advance, there was still no way that either Sister could afford the time to make little hats. Initially, they made cappelletti as they did ravioli, rolling out large sheets of dough, covering half will little balls of filling, and then covering them with the “free” half of the dough sheet. Using a spoon handle, the mound in the dough were sealed and then cut using a pastry wheel. Remember that cappelletti are served in soup and shouldn’t need to be cut before being eaten. Each must be small enough to fit comfortably on a soup spoon, making this a time-consuming process in its own right. There was — and is — no need for hats. Speaking of which and just to be clear, although we call our pasta cappelletti, they actually are small ravioli, raviolini.

Everything changed again when Mom started using dies (moulds) to make her ravioli and cappelletti. Her cappelletti became miniaturized, smaller than any she’d made before. I have that die and, unfortunately, I’ve yet to be able to master it. The compartments for the filling are far too small for my hands to fill. I never saw Mom use the die and I must be missing some secret trick to its use. Now, Mom’s die made 40 cappelletti, each ¾ inch (1.9 cm) square, while my die will make 48 cappelletti, each 1 inch (2.5 cm) square. That ¼ inch may not seem like a lot but it’s enough to separate success from failure on my pasta board. Even so, I know that I’m not done trying to learn how to use that die if for no other reason than self-satisfaction.

This post will not be as detailed as previous posts when depicting the use of a ravioli die. You can find more complete instructions in my Ravioli dei Bartolini post. No matter the size of the die or the resulting pasta, the steps required are the same. Cover the die with a sheet of dough; place a small amount of filling in each indentation; lightly moisten another dough sheet before placing it atop the first; use a rolling-pin to seal the 2 sheets; remove the now-joined sheets from the die; and, separate the individual raviolo. Sometimes, a pastry wheel will be required to cut and separate them.

When using any die, the most important thing to remember is not to overstuff each compartment. Look again at the 2 dies in the photo above. One has compartments that are open while the other’s compartments have a back and are closed. When using a die that is open, the dough sheet will stretch a little to compensate if you’ve used too much filling. Even so, use too much filling and the dough sheet will stretch to the point of tearing, a very disheartening sight. If you place too much filling on to a die that is closed, that has a back, the excess filling has nowhere to go other than out that compartment’s sides, possibly affecting the seal of not just that one raviolo but all of its neighbors, as well. All is not lost, though, for some of these poorly sealed ravioli.

Ravioli are first boiled in water before being drained and dressed with your favorite sauce. Poorly sealed ravioli will dump their contents during the boiling or draining stage. Little can be done to save them and their tasty filling. Cappelletti, though, are a different matter altogether. As you’ll soon see, these are cooked in brodo and should any split during cooking, the contents aren’t lost but will serve to flavor the soup. It may not be pretty but it will be one tasty bowl of soup.

The recipe for the cappelletti filling is easy to follow and lacks exotic ingredients, a hallmark of Bartolini recipes. It can be made as much as 2 days in advance so long as it is kept covered and refrigerated. Longer than that, it may be frozen and used within a few weeks. In preparation for this post, I made about 500 cappelletti with one batch of filling — and still had enough filling left over to use in another recipe. That dish will be shared sometime in the weeks ahead.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Filling Recipe for Bartolini Cappelletti

Yield: Enough filling to be used with 8 eggs of pasta dough. Recipe found here.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground pork
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground veal (chicken or turkey may be substituted)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 pkg (10 oz) chopped spinach (cooked and well-drained)
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano — Parmigiano may be substituted
  • 2 or 3 eggs slightly beaten — depending on size
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • zest of 1 lemon, more if you like

Directions

  1. Sauté meat in butter. Season lightly with salt.
  2. Use meat grinder to process the meats. Add all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until well-combined.
  3. Cover the filling and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  4. Once the filling has rested, you can begin making your cappelletti.

*     *     *

Variations

Our cappelletti are served alone in brodo. Adding other ingredients, aside from a garnish of grated cheese, might serve to overpower the hint of nutmeg or touch of lemon zest flavors within the cappelletti.  My blogging buddy, Stefan, serves his tasty Tortellini in Brodo the same way. Ours is not the only way, however.

Recipes abound that feature tortellini served in brodo with a variety of ingredients. Last October, my friend Linda, of Savoring Every Bite, shared her tasty recipe for one such preparation, a hearty Tortellini Soup. And, not to be outdone, my friend Tanya, over at Chica Andaluza, just last week posted her delicious recipe featuring Tortellini with Leeks and Bacon Broth.  You certainly cannot go wrong with any of these recipes.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Notes

As mentioned earlier, cappelletti are cooked in the broth in which they are served. Bring your broth to the boil over med-high heat before adding the cappelletti. Once the boil returns, reduce the heat to a soft simmer. Too hard a boil may damage the cappelletti. Actual cooking times will vary, depending upon the cappelletti’s size and whether they’re freshly made or frozen. Once the cappelletti begin to float in the broth, they are usually just about ready for serving. I’ll wait another 1 or 2 minutes before tasting one for doneness. Serve immediately with plenty of grated cheese at the table.

Not everyone has the time to make homemade brodo and most of us will turn to store-bought stock occasionally.  Whether you use your own broth or buy one at your local market, make sure it is low sodium. The cheeses within the cappelletti both contain salt and, if you’re not careful when preparing/selecting your brodo, your bowl of cappelletti may be too salty to enjoy. You can always add salt, should the soup need it, just prior to serving.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again … 

I shared the recipe for Steak Pizzaiola about 2 years ago and, since that time, it has become one of the most popular recipes on my site. Easy to prepare, this is one dish sure to please all members of your family — well, except for the vegetarians. Not to worry. We’ll be sharing recipes for our non-carnivore friends in the weeks to come. In the meantime, you can check out the recipe for steak pizzaiola by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Grilled Sturgeon with Lemon-Caper Sauce

*     *     *

Bartolini Sausage Ravioli

Ravioli della Salsiccia dei Bartolini

Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, and Thanksgiving all featured one dish, each and every year, and that was a platter of ravioli. Oh, to be sure, there was the obligatory roast of beef, or pork, or lamb, or turkey cooked to perfection on the table, too, along with all the customary fixin’s. None of it made any difference to me, for my eyes were fixated on the platter of pasta pillows. Everything else was a distraction to which “The Others”, my ravioli-eating competition, would, hopefully, fall prey. “Have some more turkey.” “Want some potatoes with that?” “Save room for dessert.” All music to my ears. As they sampled — and re-sampled — each and every one of Mom’s lovingly prepared dishes, only I remained true to the cause. It was ravioli all the way!

Back then we only had two filling recipes for our ravioli. The meat filling recipe I shared HERE and another, not yet shared, that’s used in soup ravioli (cappelletti) which is traditionally served for lunch on Christmas Day, as well as on other special occasions throughout the year. Well, that was until a few years ago. I had finally mastered the family sausage recipe when a friend asked if I’d ever made his favorite, sausage ravioli. I hadn’t and a subsequent phone call to Zia confirmed that no other Bartolini had either. Well, that just wouldn’t do.

*     *     *

*     *     *

It wasn’t long before I had made a half-recipe of ricotta and followed that with a couple of pounds of sausage, setting aside a pound of the seasoned meat. After cooking some chopped spinach and gathering some grated Pecorino Romano cheese, I was ready to go. I didn’t pay too much attention to amounts. This was just a test to see if these flavors would blend successfully — and they did. My next trip home, Zia and I made a batch of the filling, paying close attention to the ingredients’ amounts. The ravioli not only passed her taste tests, we devoted an entire Ravioli Day to the making of the new Bartolini Sausage Ravioli. If that isn’t acceptance, I don’t know what is. Today’s recipe is the result our collaboration.

Please note. When making sausage ravioli, there is but one commandment to follow: Know Thy Sausage. Compared to most store-bought or strongly seasoned homemade sausage, Bartolini sausage is rather mild – no fennel seed, for example — so I use a little less ricotta than specified in the recipe. That allows the sausage’s flavors to be more predominant. Most sausage meat tends to run on the salty side, as does Pecorino Romano cheese. Because of this, no salt is added to the ravioli filling. Before making your filling, be sure to fry a little of the sausage meat for a taste, adjusting the filling’s seasoning and, if necessary, ingredient amounts, accordingly.

*     *     *

Bartolini Sausage Ravioli Filling Recipe

Yield: See Notes below. 

Ingredients

  • pasta dough — recipe found HERE.
  • 1 lb. sausage meat, cooked and well-drained — recipe found HERE.
  • 1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, cooked and well-drained
  • 1 cup ricotta — recipe found HERE.
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten

Directions

  1. Sauté meat over med-high heat until browned.
  2. Use meat grinder to finely process the meat. (See Notes.) Add all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until well-combined.
  3. Cover the filling and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  4. Once the filling has rested, you can begin making your ravioli.

*     *     *

Ravioli Recap

To see a more complete set of instructions for making ravioli with dies, click HERE.

*     *     *

Notes

When I recently made these ravioli, I made 1 batch of this filling and 2 batches (8 eggs) of Mom’s pasta dough. I came away with 22 doz ravioli and 10 oz (284 g) of excess pasta dough, with which I made hand-cut linguine.  Now, I probably could have gotten away with using 6 eggs to make the pasta but that would have cut it close. I’d rather have too much pasta dough than find out I’ve not enough and have to make more. Besides, the linguine were delicious!

You do not need a meat grinder to make sausage; a food processor may be used instead. Place some meat into the bowl and pulse the blades until a coarse grind is achieved. Do not just turn it on and let it process. You’re not making pâté. When using sausage meat for ravioli, after it’s cooked, place it in the bowl and pulse it a few times until a smaller grind is achieved.

*     *     *

Pasta Equipment

I’ve been asked by a few people to talk about the pasta making equipment that I own. Since this is a ravioli post, I’ll start there.

I’ve two ravioli making attachments. One is for my stand mixer and the other attaches to my hand-cranked pasta machine. I’m not all that impressed with either of them. Both have a hopper, situated in the center, for the filling. Dough sheets are fed on either sides of the hopper, passing over a die as the filling drops. The ravioli are formed by the pressure exerted by rollers. My problem with both is that the dough sheets are thicker than what I am accustomed to using. The resultant ravioli have more dough than those of my youth. (Yes, I’m spoilt, but in the best possible way.) You, however, may very well find these ravioli to be acceptable — and that’s just fine. Be forewarned, though, that if the dough sheets are not thick enough, the filling will “run” between the ravioli, making one big mess.

Here is an instructional video to show you how the stand mixer attachment works. The hand-cranked pasta machine attachment works in very much the same way.

*     *     *

*     *     *

Anyone who has seen my ravioli posts will know that I prefer to use ravioli dies to make my filled pastas. Each will result in a ravioli of a unique size. Starting top-left in the photo below, this die will create 12 ravioli that are 2 inches (5 cm) square. (Bear in mind that, no matter the die used, each raviolo will expand a bit when cooked.) It’s interesting to note that this was the original size of the ravioli that Mom and Zia made by hand until we bambini came into the picture. These were too large for us to handle on our own and our parents had to cut them for us to eat. To help our ravioli dinners go more smoothly, Mom and Zia began making ravioli that were small enough for us little ones to handle on our own.

Which brings us to the die top-right of the picture. This will create 24 ravioli that are 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) square and this most closely resembles the size Mom & Zia made, and Zia continues to make, to this day.

Moving to the bottom-left of the photo, this die will create 40 raviolini that are 3/4 inch (2 cm) square.  Mom used these raviolini, calling them cappelletti, in soup. Try as I might, I’ve never gotten the hang of this die. The filling bowl is mighty small, the dough must be mighty pliable, and I end up mighty frustrated, which brings us to …

… the die located bottom-right of the photo. I use this die to make my cappelletti. Each cappelletti is 1 inch (2.5 cm) square and the die will make 48 of the pasta pillows. They may not be as petite as Mom’s but I can make these.

In the center of the photo is a round cappelletti stamp. This is the traditional shape for cappelletti. There was just no way Mom would ever have found the time to individually stamp enough cappelletti for a family of five. Frankly, I don’t know how she did it with the smallest of these dies but she did, repeatedly.

*     *     *

Lastly, in a recent post, I mentioned that Santa gave me a stand mixer attachment that makes a number of pastas — spaghetti, macaroni of 2 sizes, bucatini, fusilli, and rigatoni. I mentioned that the spaghetti was perfectly made but that some of the other pastas were thicker than what one would purchase at a grocery. This is not a problem for me for the superior taste of homemade pasta far outweighs any concerns about its thickness. Thinking that the eggs in my pasta dough may have been the cause for the difference, I said I’m make some dough using water and semolina flour to see if thinner pasta would result. Well, last week I made the dough and the pasta was no different from that which was made with the “egg dough.” Although I’ve no photos of rigatoni made with a pasta dough made with eggs, I did take pictures of rigatoni made with “eggless” pasta dough and compared it to a manufactured brand.

*     *     *

*     *     *

In the photo on the top, the raw, store-bought rigatoni is on the left and a freshly made specimen is on the right. Beneath that photo is another, similarly arranged picture, and both pastas are cooked. You can see that the homemade rigatoni are thicker than store-bought. The same holds true for the homemade bucatini, both macaroni, and fusilli. It is yours to decide whether that difference in thickness is a deal breaker.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

I know. It’s still Christmas in your home and the last thing you want to consider right now is dinner on New Year’s Day. Well, if you want to make that dinner truly special, you’ll need plenty of time so that you can find a picnic ham, skin-on, to make a Bartolini family favorite on the first day of the New Year. Pork Roast with Fennel, Porchetta con Finnocchio, is a spectacular dish, one sure to impress you dinner guests as you start 2013 off on the right foot. You can find the recipe by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

The Bartolini Clan hopes that Yours was a Wonderful Christmas

and

May Peace Reign in 2013.

Happy New Year!

*     *     *