Sunday, February 14, 2010
My Venture into Ravioli
Italian food and I go way back. Pizza. Lasagna. Prosciutto. Pasta. Who doesn't love Italian food? I have not eaten an Italian food I didn't like.
Italian foods are always so flavorful. This dish is no exception. The bulk of the flavor comes from the pesto. If you've never made pesto, it's a cinch to make. It's nothing but fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and a little salt. Pesto is best when it's not overly heated – which can both dull the flavor and color. That's one reason why I always try to make my own. The brands that you can buy in the refrigerated section of your local supermarket are not bad. However, I have never found any pesto that is sold in a jar (near the jars of spaghetti sauce) that is worth eating. The canning process, to me, destroys the fresh taste of the basil which is why I think the refrigerated brands are better.
A few years ago, I got tired of spending a fortune on little containers of fresh basil so I decided to plant my own. I had a huge pot in which I had planted some potatoes the previous year. I live in an apartment with huge, south-facing windows so plants thrive – even during the winter. Since the pot was huge, I figured I could throw in some extra seed. I mean, who has ever had too much basil, right? It took a few months but the plants grew and grew – giving me all of the fresh basil I ever needed. I must have purchased mutant basil seeds because the plants kept growing and growing and growing. It got to the point where I could no longer reach the tops of the plants to cut off the leaves. To use up the basil, I was putting it in EVERYTHING. I froze the extra basil. I froze pesto. I made pesto for my mother. I still could not use enough. The more I trimmed, the thicker it grew back. My apartment was permanently shadowed by that stupid, mutant basil plant that blocked most of the sunlight from that window. Finally, I was so sick of basil that I tossed the plant. After I pitched it, the storm clouds parted. My mood improved. Life was good without the fear of being eaten alive by that evil basil plant.
It took a long time but I started craving basil again. When I had to buy enough basil to make pesto several months ago, I remembered why I planted basil seed in the first place. I thought I was going to have to sell a kidney to be able to afford the basil. Not that I'm bitter.
As you know from previous posts, I have several pet peeves. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear somebody say "EYE-talian". It's so annoying. I mean, you wouldn't say EYE-taly, would you? I could hear it now. "Yes, I've been to Venice, EYE-taly and ate EYE-talian food and met some really nice EYE-talians." If I heard somebody say that, my ears would bleed!
Anyway, this recipe is so quick and easy to make. It's perfect even for a weeknight dinner. It's great for your vegetarian friends and family members. If you wanted, you could add some cooked chicken or some extra veggies. I fixed this recently for my mother and sister and asked them if this recipe would be blog-worthy. They loved it and encouraged me to post the recipe. I told my mom that sometimes, I like to make the recipe per the instructions below then add 1/3 of it to a casserole dish and top it with some freshly grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese. I then add 2 additional layers of the ravioli and cheeses and bake it at 425F until the cheeses have fully melted and started to brown. Now THAT'S a very nice EYE-talian treat. Enjoy – and happy ravioling!
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1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 tsp sugar
1 20-oz package fresh cheese ravioli
7 oz tub refrigerated pesto
2 oz jar chopped pimentos, drained
1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Chop the onion and garlic. Heat a large skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. On another burner over high heat, start heating a large pot with enough water to cook the ravioli.
When the skillet is hot, add the onions, a pinch of salt, and the sugar. Cover and stir periodically while waiting for the water to boil. The goal is to get the onions really soft but not to overly brown them. If the onions start to brown too much, reduce the heat a little and add a little water to the skillet.
When the water comes to a rapid boil, add a good amount of salt to the water. Add the ravioli and stir. Cook the ravioli per the instructions on the package. Don't forget to stir the onions now and then.
While the onions are softening and the ravioli is cooking, add the pesto, pimentos, olive oil, lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper to a medium bowl. Stir to combine.
Two minutes before the pasta is done, add the garlic to the onions and cook 1 minute. Stir to combine (leave uncovered for the remaining cooking time). After one minute, stir in the pesto mixture and stir to combine. Cook for about a minute to warm the pesto mixture.
Use a spider or strainer to remove the ravioli from the water and add it immediately into the skillet with the pesto. It's OK if some water gets in the skillet. In fact, that's a good thing. If desired, add some salt and pepper to the ravioli then gently fold the pesto over the ravioli and immediately take the skillet off the heat. Sprinkle a good amount of parmesan into the ravioli and stir.
Spoon some ravioli onto a serving plate and top with more parmesan. Serve with garlic bread.
Posted by Cooking Ventures at 4:47 PM