Spinach-Ricotta Ravioli with Mushroom Brown Butter

Finding a cooking companion is kind of like finding a good traveling partner. It’s best if you have a similar level of expertise, a mutual vision of your end result (and are willing to make little compromises along the way) and ideally have a comfort level with one another such that you can do a little ‘kitchen dancing’ in small spaces, if needed. The past two meals I’ve cooked with friends, I’ve been very lucky to have good cooking chemistry – sharing ideas and coming up with REALLY tasty meals, like last night’s fresh ravioli!

Kelly and I are friends through work and since we had a big meeting yesterday, we decided to celebrate by utilizing the pasta attachment left at her house last weekend. We opened a of wine and began to knead, chop, saute, roll and pinch. She had just gotten spinach in her CSA box, and I had mushrooms from mine last week, so we decided to go simple with a spinach-ricotta filling and two different sauces: mushroom brown butter and creamy tomato.

They were great! It was so fun to really see the little Italian pockets of flavor come together and I was shocked at how easy it was. We used spinach and basil in the filling, which yielded a firmer texture than just ricotta alone and the brown butter sauce was really amazing – salty and a little crisp, finished with a squirt of Meyer lemon, which was a bright end note and nice complement to the heavy butter. All in all, a huge success that was the result of a great culinary partnership.

Spinach-Ricotta Ravioli

Dough

  • 2 1/4 cups semolina flour
  • scant 1 tsp of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons oil

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk egg, water and oil together. Add to flour and salt. Mix until combined and starting to clump. Turn onto lightly floured surface, pull dough together and start kneading. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and springy. Note: The dough is tough! Just keep on kneading. You should feel it change textures as you go – first very grainy and eventually much smoother. After 10 min, once dough is smooth, flatten into disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 min.

Filling

  • 15oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 bunch baby spinach
  • 2 tbsp basil, finely chopped
  • handful grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • salt to taste

Wilt the spinach in a saute pan. Cool and squeeze out excess water. Chop finely. Combine with all other ingredients in a bowl. Be sure to taste the filling and make sure it’s got enough salt and basil to your liking.

Assembly

After dough has rested in fridge, remove and roll to about 1/4 thick (or just thick enough to fit into the widest setting on your pasta machine). Note: you may want to cut the dough into a few piece to make them easier to work with. Run through the pasta machine, starting on the widest setting and going down one level after each run through. We went down to 4 on a setting of 1-8. Note: since the ravioli edges are double thick, I would go thinner next time – to level 5 or 6. Lay rolled pasta sheets on a lightly floured counter and place rounded teaspoon sized dollops of the filling on top. Cover with another piece of dough. Gently press the top piece of dough on top of and around the filling, being sure to squeeze out any air around the filling. Lightly press surrounding layers of dough together. Pinch out ravioli with a crimper or ravioli punch. Separate and move aside to wait for cooking.

Cooking

While assembling ravioli, bring a pot of water to boil. Place several ravioli in the boiling water. After a few seconds they will float to the top, let them hang out there for a few more seconds and remove – totally cook time is maybe a minute. Note: Be sure to test one or two ravioli first! Every dough and water will be different, cook until aldente – it will NOT take long.

Mushroom Brown Butter ‘Sauce’

I use the term ‘sauce’ lightly for this one, because it’s really just brown butter with mushrooms. The mushrooms will soak up a lot of the butter, so they are meaty and rich – you really don’t need a lot of it to make a big impact. Quantities are to adjustable to your liking and how much you need.

  • wild mushrooms, rough chop
  • ~4-7 Tablespoons butter
  • salt
  • fresh lemon

Heat a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan. Add mushrooms and cook until lightly brown. Note: you can start and stop here while the dough is resting and finish the rest of the way when the ravioli are cooking/done. Melt rest of the butter and as it starts to bubble add back the mushrooms. Cook until butter is browned and mushrooms are crispy. Sprinkle in salt and finish with squeeze of about 1/4 of a small lemon – adjust salt and lemon to taste. Spoon over fresh ravioli.

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Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter

Nothing says fall like a pumpkin in my first CSA box. I signed back up for Farm Fresh to You last week, after feeling like I needed to go on a bit of a health kick and while my fellow food friends scoffed at my choice to start back up in winter (“Do you know how much butternut squash and kale you’re going to get??” they reminded me) I was delighted to find a pumpkin in the first delivery.

Being Halloween weekend, I figured it was the perfect time to prep and indulge in a little pumpkin. I spent Saturday morning roasting my squash, the afternoon cooking potatoes and the early evening mixing, rolling and chilling my gnocchi. It was quite the project, but I think it was a fun and worthwhile experience that will only get simpler with practice. At the end of it all I was able to feed four and even have some pumpkin puree left over for another special treat.

The dumplings tasted like fall with pumpkin and nutmeg, neither of which was overpowering, and both of which were delightfully distinct. I was a bit nervous about their texture, seeing as that keeping them light and fluffy is the biggest challenge with gnocchi, but for my first go, I was not disappointed! They fluffed right up after a couple of minutes in boiling water and were finished of in a quick saute in sage brown butter. While they may have not been the most perfectly formed gnocchi, I loved the sage and pumpkin combination with the salty, buttery end that made me feel like I was eating the season.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter (only slightly adapted from this bon appetit recipe)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 smallish pumpkin (I used a Sugar Pie Pumpkin)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 12- to 14-ounce russet potato, peeled, cut into eighths
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups (or more) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • Additional grated Parmesan cheese
  • Special Equipment
    Potato ricer – I used a colander

PREPARATION

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut pumpkin into 2-4 pieces; discard insides and seeds. Place pieces, cut side up, on baking sheet and brush with oil. Roast until very tender when pierced with skewer, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Cool slightly. Puree flesh in food processor until smooth (I used my immersion blender attachment). Transfer to medium saucepan; stir constantly over medium heat until juices evaporate and puree thickens, about 5 minutes. Cool. Measure 1 cup (packed) squash puree (reserve remaining squash for another use).
  • Meanwhile, cook potato in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. While potato is warm, press through potato ricer into medium bowl; cool completely. Measure 2 cups (loosely packed) riced potato (reserve remaining potato for another use).
  • Mix squash, potato, 1/2 cup Parmesan, egg, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl. Gradually add 1 3/4 cups flour, kneading gently into mixture in bowl until dough holds together and is almost smooth. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls. Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead gently but briefly just until smooth. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.
  • Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Sprinkle parchment lightly with flour. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll dough out on floured surface to about 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut rope crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll gnocchi along back of fork tines dipped in flour, making ridges on 1 side (fork rolling is optional – they’ll still taste great). Transfer gnocchi to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 6 hours ahead. Keep chilled.
  • Working in batches to not overcrowd the pot, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until tender 2-3 minutes (bon appetit recommended 15 to 17 minutes so test 1 gnocchi to start). Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to same parchment-lined baking sheets. Cool. DO AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover loosely and chill.
  • Cook butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat just until golden, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sage; stir 1 minute. Add gnocchi; cook until heated through and coated with butter. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with more Parmesan.

pretty pasta

It’s amazing what three little ingredients can do. Along with the carrot find at Berkeley Bowl, I also picked up some asparagus, kielbasa sausages, and fresh house made red pepper pasta. I’ve never made fresh pasta, nor had I really bought it, so I was pretty excited to give this a try.


I sauteed the asparagus with some salt and pepper, added the sausages to warm them through and finally tossed with the pasta. I could have sworn there was some cream in my fridge, but alas there was not, so I tossed it with olive oil to finish.

The asparagus and sausage were amazing, but I must say I was a little underwhelmed with the pasta… It had more flavor than the every day dried variety, but didn’t pack the punch I expected. Nonetheless, it was a tasty simple meal that’s proof you don’t need to get complicated to get good – not to mention it made me feel great that there were more veggies than carbs… maybe next time I’ll try making the pasta myself!

No More Blue Box Blues

I love boxed mac and cheese as much as the next gal – despite the supremely fake orange color, the powder cheese mix, and 12 months shelf life there’s something nostalgic and tasty about it. That said, this is a childhood treat due for an upgrade and is worth the effort to elevate!

This month Bon Appetit agrees and featured several baked pasta dishes with a mac & cheese cover story. I LOVE home made mac & cheese, and while I have a great recipe, I decided to indulge in the cover recipe as a Sunday evening treat…

Tasty tasty – my Pimento Mac & Cheese was delightful. Bell pepper, garlic and peppadews give it a kick. Cheddar adds the flavor while mozzarella makes it feel really cheesy.
I think the thing I enjoyed the most about this recipe was the use of peppadew peppers. I discovered these gems in Germany, where they sell them packaged with cream cheese in the middle, and again in South Africa where it’s common to put them on pizza. You can easily find them here at the ‘olive bar’ at Safeway – these mild little peppers usually come in an oil/brine, which makes them a little indulgent, but they’re almost sweet and oh so good. They’re a great addition to a salad, or an easy appetizer and I highly recommend giving them a go!
Peppadew Peppers

While I liked this mac & cheese – I do have one major complaint… It’s not SUPER creamy. That’s one of the best parts of mac & cheese! I want it to be cheesy, creamy and saucy. There was loads of flavor here, but less cheesy-ness than I like. There is no cream or bechamel sauce, which I noted before actually making it, but after eating it I definitely think starting with the milk/flour base would add that missing substance… Something to try next time as I continue to think outside the blue box!