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Tag Archives: ravioli

T.J.’s Artichoke Ravioli in a Toasted Bread Crumb and Butter Sauce

15 Sep

T.J.'s Artichoke Ravioli in Toasted Crumb Butter Sauce 10

In his book Heat, Bill Buford chronicles his adventures as an amateur slave cook for Mario Batali, and his immersion into the professional cooking world. Amongst the people he mentions in the novel is Lidia Bastianich. If you’ve never seen her show, try to find it. She is about as close to one of my Italian aunts in the kitchen as one could get. Her recipes will make your legs shake and you’ll get that squishy feeling like you did when your crush passed you in 2nd grade or when you straddled a swing too long.

I mention Lidia because one of my favorite pieces of wisdom comes from her in Buford’s book. He talks about the link between food and sex, and he refers to a conversation he had with Lidia on this very subject. When pressed to explain further, Lidia states that, of course food is like sex, and then throws him a rhetorical question, “‘What else do you put in someone’s body?'” I never thought of it that way, but it’s dead on when you think about it, and it’s why good food and wine can lead to a euphoric, erotic level of being.

And the connections can be drawn from there. Perhaps the encounter is a fifteen-minute exercise in lust on the kitchen counter, or a quickie in the front seat of your car as you take a break from a long road trip, or the clumsy first time when all the ingredients are there, but you’re unfamiliar with timing and how everything works together. Or maybe it’s a languid evening that requires four hours of musical ambiance, punctuated by the brief recognitions of humanity’s inherent beauty and the privilege you feel in recognizing it, or maybe you’re just starving and you tear open everything and scarf it all down while closing the front door with your back left heel. This could be food. This could be sex.

This recipe effuses sexuality in that it’s indulgent, but also smooth and simple. Most importantly, it’s easy. When I first read it over, I was uneasy about using a whole stick o’ butter, but it was the perfect complement to these ravioli. Serve this with some greens in a light vinaigrette, and you’re getting lucky on two levels.

I mentioned Lidia because it so happens that this sauce is from her book, Lidia’s Family Table. Also, I use Trader Joe’s Artichoke Ravioli for this, but I think any good filled pasta would work famously with it. The recipe below serves 4, but I usually halve it since there are only two of us.

T. J.’s Artichoke Ravioli in a Toasted Bread Crumb and Butter Sauce

Serves 4 or so

Ingredients:

2 packages Trader Joe’s Artichoke Ravioli, or a filled pasta of your liking

2 tbsp. dry bread crumbs

8 tbsp. butter (1 stick)

Lots of freshly ground black pepper

1 cup of the pasta-cooking water

2 tbsp. chopped parsley, Italian would be optimal

1 cup Parmesan or Grana Padano

Makin’ It:

Get a big ol’ pot of salted water boiling for the pasta.

In a small skillet, toast the bread crumbs over medium to medium-high heat, tossing them often so that they get browned evenly. When they are almost all brown, drop in 2 tablespoons of the butter. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl the pan around to melt the butter and stop the crumbs from getting too brown. Set this aside.

In a big skillet, melt the rest of the butter over medium heat. Grind in the black pepper generously. Ladle in 1 cup of the hot pasta water and get it simmering. Keep stirring and simmering it as it reduces a bit while you wait for the pasta to finish.

Remove the cooked pasta from the big pot o’ water and add it to the skillet. Toss it with the sauce. Off the heat, toss in the Parmesan and parsley. Plate your pasta portions (dividing the sauce among the four plates, obviously) and sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs on top of each right before serving, like this:

T.J.'s Artichoke Ravioli in Toasted Crumb Butter Sauce 2

Make and serve this, and it will be one of those encounters you remember in the wee hours of an insomniac night.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

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T.J.’s Arugula and Parmesan Ravioli with Easy Homemade Pesto

23 Aug

Arugula and Parm Ravioli with Pesto (10)

As the years progress, I keep adding to my list of items that I will no longer buy in a grocery store: croutons, pot pies, Brut Aftershave, certain salad dressings, frozen cream pies, pizza rolls, Texas toast, last minute gifts for family members, anything from Little Debbie, lingerie, et al. Amongst these items is pesto sauce.

I admit, I used to think pesto was pretty highfalutin when I first started cooking. It’s probably because of how it was first marketed. I remember around the time that I actually read Under the Tuscan Sun (in the ’90’s at some point), the whole summer-in-Tuscany-while-dining-al-fresco-with-really,-really-sexy-people became ubiquitous in t.v. commercials, cooking shows, and advertisements in general. To indulge in pesto, I believed, meant that I had to be not just a “foodie,” but I had to be a foodie cool enough and affluent enough to buy most of my home furnishings from yuppie catalogs and then practice recreating the pictures in those catalogs with any skinny, sexy white friends that I might have had (I had maybe 2, total, at the time. Now, none.). I imagined I’d have to be fluent in Chardonnay, sweaters, nanny-comparison-talk, South Orange County faux-Mediterranean architecture, and the brief history of Irvine north of the 5 freeway. Alas, I was, and still am, horribly deficient in these categories, so I felt that pesto was beyond my reach socially, intellectually, and sexually.

But as I learned my ways around the kitchen, the mystique around pesto started to dissipate for me, probably in part due to the Great Recession sending the once al-fresco-dining-really,-really-sexy-people to shop at WalMart instead of Eddie Bauer. Furthermore, my wife lived in Florence, Italy, to study abroad in her early twenties, and she has had a love affair with pesto ever since, so I had to get it on the menu somehow. I started cautiously with the store bought stuff and it pleasantly surprised me. “I’m loving this and I’m not nearly that sexy,” thought I at the time.

After a few more years in the kitchen, I finally decided to tackle homemade pesto. Searching for recipes assuaged my fears; pesto is probably the easiest, quickest pasta sauce to make if you have the ingredients, which can be found at any grocery store nowadays. I nailed it the first time I made it and I had an epiphany about something I already knew: Italian food is generally simple to make. Advertisers and marketers would have you think differently, though, so fuck them. Thus, pesto is now on my list of items never to buy at a store.

On another note, I have a deep love for Trader Joe’s, and generally every pre-made item I get there tastes fantastic. The Trader Giotto’s Arugula and Parmesan Ravioli are marvelous and this homemade pesto sauce perfects them. Top it with a few shaves of Parmesan or Grana Padano, and you’re gettin’ laid.

Easy Homemade Pesto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 cups packed, fresh basil leaves

3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup raw pine nuts

2/3 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Makin’ It:

Put the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor (or blender, if you’re ghetto like that) and pulse it until it’s chopped. Add in the olive oil and process this until it’s smooth, scraping the sides as needed. Add in the salt and pepper and pulse a few times more. Transfer this to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Easy as a divorcee with oats to sow.

Assemblage:

You’ll need:

1 package of Trader Giotto’s Arugula and Parmesan Ravioli (or any ravioli or pasta that tickles your taint at the time)

1/2 recipe or more of the above pesto recipe

Shaved, shredded, or grated Parmesan, Romano, or Grana Padano

Assemblin’ It:

Cook the ravioli according to the package instructions. Drain and toss the ravioli with about 1/2 of the pesto recipe until each ravioli is well coated. Use more pesto if it blows your hair back. Top with the cheese and you get this:

Arugula and Parm Ravioli with Pesto (1)

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

T.J.’s Butternut Squash and Ravioli with Béchamel Sauce

21 May

Butternut Squash Ravioli and Bechamel 3

This seemingly over-indulgent and altogether gorgeous dish will beguile you. You might think that you can’t possibly eat this without guilt. Believe it or not, this dish, with shaved cinnamon-crusted Toscano cheese, béchamel sauce (pronounced bay’-sha-mel), butternut squash ravioli, and passion, is but 10 points on the old Weight Watchers Points system (Points Plus and 360° can genuinely fuck off).  When I tabulated the points, I was blown away myself.

Yesterday, Sunday, we took our kid to his first big league ball game at the Big A and watched the Angels actually beat the White Sox under the Southern California sun. Since it’s a 3 1/2 hour drive for us each way, we decided to take the next day off, drop the kiddo off at daycare, and ponder the niceties of life.  Like date nights, these simple days off once in a while are important for families and general sanity, I’m realizing.

For example, non-holiday Monday morning shopping at Trader Joe’s cannot be more peaceful. It’s insightful, really, to realize that just the space of no kid or regular public around can truly make you see another angle in this life-journey that we travel. The rigmarole of wrangling with a kid who doesn’t want to get dressed, putting the kid in the car as they remark on the cracks in the sidewalk and that there are wipies on the floor of the car, having inane conversations about the construction equipment lining the streets, acknowledging that, yes, the back seat window is completely covered with melted stickers, dealing with glutted small town traffic replete with old people braking when they see leaves on the street, getting the kid out of the car without s/he running rampant through the parking lot, and finally chasing the kid around Trader Joe’s as he aims for every Achilles tendon to maim with his kid-cart…these activities make us forget that there was once a time when shopping always seemed to be accompanied by the old Price is Right music when Johnny was explaining each item upon which to be bid. It’s still there. I promise. I heard it today.

And with it, I found this:

Trader Joes Butternut Squash Triangoli

Of course, homemade ravioli are always superior, but they’re a pain in the ass to make. Alternatively, these are pretty awesome in my opinion, and I think you’ll agree.

When I calculated the WW points, each portion is a 4.  I knew that I had a WW béchamel sauce recipe that turned out to be a 3 for 1/2 cup o’ sauce, which is a good amount of sauce, I might add. We also topped it with a T.J.’s cinnamon-coated Toscano cheese, of which we only took a few shavings for each portion. A 10? Could it be true? ‘Tis.

And then it all struck me in an epiphany. The butternut squash ravioli with a nutmeg-flavored béchamel sauce, topped with shaved cinnamon Italian cheese, there is no need to say more; it’s a nut-buster on every level. Moreover, it’s light. Lastly, to make it, it’s as easy as a cougar in a fit of whimsy with a new dress from Nordstrom Rack.

T.J.’s Butternut Squash and Ravioli with Béchamel Sauce

Serves 3

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup flour

3 cups 1% milk

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 white pepper

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 package Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Triangoli

shavings of Toscano, grana, or parmesan cheese (again, the cinnamon coated Toscano cheese totally works with the squash and the nutmeg; it’s a match made in the heavens)

Makin’ It:

Note: You need to constantly whisk the sauce, kiddo, no joke. So give yourself 20 minutes or so to do it. If you don’t whisk it constantly, you will have a burnt milk mess on your hands. I’m just sayin’.

Get a big pot o’ water boiling for the pasta. When it’s boiling, add a few tablespoons of salt right before you put in the pasta. Get the sauce almost done before you start cooking the ravioli; timing is kind of key in all of this.

For the sauce, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat Whisk in the flour and it will get cake-y and crumbly. No worries. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, until it’s totally smooth and those lumps are gone.  Add in the salt, white pepper, thyme, and nutmeg. Get this to a simmer to thicken it, which will take about 10 to 12 minutes (or more), as you whisk. When it’s a creamy consistency and it’s boiling a bit, you’ve nailed it.

Drain the cooked ravioli and toss it with some of the sauce. Divide the ravioli between three plates and top each with 1/2 cup of the béchamel sauce. Top this with some shaved cheese, and then sprinkle a bit of dried thyme on there to keep it real. You’ll get this:

Butternut Squash Ravioli and Bechamel 1

Butternut Squash Ravioli and Bechamel 4

Say it loud alone, but obnoxiously in mixed company:

Acqua fresca, vino puro,

Fica stretta, cazzo duro.

Until later, eat drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013