Not For The Faint of Heart

Tonight, after watching my favorite college football team Penn State most likely get their butts kicked by OSU, I’ll be learning how to make “homemade” ravioli using wonton wrappers.

Yeah, I know it will rub some folks the wrong way to discover that I am not an OSU fan, even though I live in the great state of Ohio.  But my dad went to Penn State, and I started watching the games with him as a little kid.  He’s such a huge fan that my sister Sarah and I bought him one of those life-sized cardboard Joe Paterno cutouts for his birthday this year.  So now, Joe not only paces the sidelines coaching the Nittany Lions, but leisurely watches the games on TV from the comfort of my parents’ living room as well. 

I do, however, live with an OSU fan, so things could get a bit tense around our house today.  Realistically, the outcome of the game may very well dictate just how much I feel like preparing his evening meal.  But I’d like to think that, win or lose, I will rise above the pettiness of football rivalries, and assemble ravioli with a smile on my face.   He’d just better not whistle the OSU fight song while I’m doing it.

The Cookbook:  How To Cook Without A Book:  Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart, by Pam Anderson, Broadway Publishing.

Yes, I know…I own a cookbook that’s supposed to tell me how to cook without needing a cookbook.  But the premise of the book is to arm the cook with some recipes and techniques that can then be easily adapted to other dishes. 

The Recipe:  Quick Ravioli with Herbed Ricotta Filling

Other Menu Items:  Kitchen Sink Salad

Cooking It Up:

At halftime, I still had hope, which was quickly dashed midway through the third quarter.  I don’t even know the final score, because I stopped watching the game with about 5 minutes left on the clock.  Suffice to say, Penn State shouldn’t have been insulted by the 17-point loss the powers that be had predicted for them. 

Luckily, the second half was so painful to watch that Chris didn’t have the heart to tease me about it, so in turn, I slunk off to the kitchen to start the ravioli.

A note about cooking – I’ve found, over the years, that I kind of have to get myself in the mood, at least on some level, especially when making more complicated dishes.   If I’m expecting my pie crust to fail, then it probably will.  Of course, it might fail even when I’m feeling happy and confident, but that’s for another post.  Before this evening’s food prep, I found myself attempting some sort of sloppy creative visualization, telling myself over and over again that the ravioli WOULDN’T blow up. 

Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all.  But the filling was already prepared, so I couldn’t turn back. 

This process, while it has potential, is not for the faint of heart.  And it’s rather sloppy (or maybe that’s just me).  It is difficult to get the air out of the ravioli without oozing filling out the sides.  And if you’re like me, and tend to believe that anything with filling should have LOTS of filling, then you might be in a sad state of affairs if you can’t reign yourself in.  But after a couple of initial rejects, I had about 22 ravioli waiting to go into the pot.

I’m pleased to report, only one of them exploded.

Quick Ravioli with Spinach Ricotta Filling (adapted from How To Cook Without A Book):

You’ll notice I’ve changed the title of this recipe.  I wanted to make it a little healthier by adding some vegetables.  In addition, I haven’t yet received permission from the publisher to replicate this recipe as presented in the cookbook, so with my typical disdain for rules and regulations, I happily adapted the recipe to meet my personal needs.

You will need 1 package of wonton wrappers to make this dish, which should give you about 24 ravioli.  Each person can generally eat about 6 or 8, depending on what else you’re serving.

Filling:  Heat 1 tsp olive oil  in a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add 1/2 cup finely chopped onion and 2 cloves minced garlicCook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 to 2 cups finely chopped fresh spinach.  Mix well so the spinach wilts slightly.  In a large bowl combine 1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tsp dried basil leaves, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1 large egg, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the spinach-onion mixture.

Assembly:  Bring a large pot of water to a simmer, adding 1 TB salt and 1 tsp canola oil Make  sure your countertop is clean and dry.  Lay out several wonton wrappers and put about 1/2 TB of filling (or 1TB if you’re better at this than I am) in the center of each wrapper.  Brush the edges of the wrapper gently with water.  Lay another wonton wrapper over the filling, and pinch the edges together firmly to seal.  Let the completed ravioli stand on a wire rack until your water is simmering.  (I think the simmer, rather than a boil, probably keeps the ravioli from blowing up.)

Cook the ravioli in the simmering water in batches, 4 or 6 at a time, for about 3 minutes.  They’ll start to rise to the top, and the pasta will turn mostly translucent.  Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, put them on a platter or plate, and dribble a little of the cooking water over the top.  Put them in a warm oven while you cook the rest of the ravioli.

I served them with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated Parmesan, but it would also be good with melted flavored butter or your favorite marinara.

Kitchen Sink Salad:

This is my favorite quick salad, and it changes every time I make it.  You probably have some version of it too.  It’s brilliant for using up all the extra vegetables in your crisper drawer, and you can tailor it to your liking.

My favorite version is simply romaine, black olives, red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, pepperincini rings and mozzarella cubes with Dillon French Vinaigrette.  For this meal, I didn’t really have time to mess around with lettuce, so I used a can of garbanzo beans, a can of olives, 2 chopped tomatoes, half a cucumber, zucchini ribbons (made with a vegetable peeler) and pepperincini rings.  I was craving ranch dressing so I whipped up some Hidden Valley.

Notes on the Ravioli:

Here are some tips to help you out with this recipe.  Learn from my trauma! 

  •  Only make as many ravioli as you plan to eat that night.  These tend to get chewy as they stand, and I don’t think they’ll heat up very well.  Your extra wonton wrappers, however, can be refrigerated for several days, or frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.  Just thaw them before using.
  • Do not, do not, do not, overfill the wrappers!  Start small and experiment as you get better at the filling process.
  • Sometimes the ravioli stick together while cooking.  You can gently nudge them apart with a spoon or spatula.
  • It is important to drizzle the ravioli with a little cooking water before putting them in the oven.  This keeps them from drying out.  Most of the water will evaporate.

Whew!  Definitely not a weeknight meal, but it was a fun experiment.  I’d like to try them again, now that I understand what to expect.  Maybe with a butternut squash filling, one of my all-time favorites. 

Until next time,

Clevelandkat

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~ by clevelandkat on November 14, 2010.

4 Responses to “Not For The Faint of Heart”

  1. I love your writing and your site! You have a wonderful way of combining everyday stories with great recipes and culinary experiences. I can’t wait to start cooking. My Dad used to make his own lasagna noodles by hand, especially in the Fall during football season (nothing like coming home on a chilly day to a house with a big pot of Bolognese sauce simmering on the stove). There always seemed to be a Bear’s game on the TV, along with the sounds of my Dad working the hand operated pasta machine. And … lots of profanity as the Bear’s lost yardage, missed field goals, made poor running plays, and generally suffered year after year to much-despised opponents (Packers, Vikings). Oh the agony.
    Keep up the great work. I am looking forward to your next post!
    Cheers!

  2. Thanks Tony, you just made my day! I’m dying to get a pasta machine but have to admit, I’m a little intimidated as well. If I struggle with wonton wrappers….
    Living in Chicago for 7 years, I too have memories of profanity driven by the Bears. I will always remember flying home from Vegas the night they were in the Super Bowl (was it 2007?), just in time to see them return the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. Thanks Rex Grossman.
    Cheers back atcha!

  3. IT must have been a sorry game indeed if you didn’t get teased. Ahhh football.
    This recipe sounds interesting. I might have to give it a go. You should see us making burritos and eggrolls around here, Les is like you- lots of middle part. Lots.

    • It was indeed a sorry game.
      Maybe you all should come over for a burrito-making contest…who can stuff the most “middle part” into one flour tortilla. Mine usually blow up in the oven. I like cheese. Lots of cheese.

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