It’s an exciting moment when I realize I’ve come up with a flavor combination that’s spot-on. Over the years, I’ve accepted that there are times when a dish could use something other than salt, garlic, or parmesan cheese (I know, I was shocked too). I remember making a stir-fry ages ago that called for apricot preserves and thinking, “What? Ew, no. Really?” Despite my reservations, my cooking naivety had me terrified of not following a recipe to a T, so in went the preserves. And wow! I couldn’t believe how great that stir-fry tasted, and I knew it wouldn’t have been the same without the apricot.
As of late, I’ve become pretty confident in my ability to brainstorm combinations that will make for a great dish. And owning a copy of this hasn’t hurt either. . .
I bought The Flavor Bible a few months ago, and it hasn’t made it to my bookshelf yet. I read this thing like one might read a magazine that’s lying around the house—pick it up, flip through, read whatever catches my attention. I love it! And it sure feels good to think up a taste combo, check with TFB, and have my suspicions confirmed. Case in point . . .
I made the pasta con crema di zucchine from Calabria from Scratch a couple weeks ago, and it was delicious. I’d prepared it with rigatoni the first time, but I wanted to try something more complex, with a flavor that would compliment the zucchini. Homemade ravioli was an easy choice, but what kind? After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided that a ricotta and lemon zest filling might work well.
Let’s see what TFB has to say . . .
Confirmation in bold and BOLD CAPS? Go me! It’s settled; that’s what I’ll be making.
Let’s begin with the ravioli. Don’t be intimidated! Homemade pasta is delicious, and a lot easier than you might think. A basic egg pasta dough is just flour, eggs, and a little bit of olive oil. Here we go . . .
Ricotta & Lemon Zest Ravioli
(makes about 3 dozen)
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- a little bit of olive oil
- approximately 1 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese
- 3 tablespoons of Greek yogurt
- zest of one lemon
- salt, to taste
Pour flour into a large bowl and create a well in the center. Crack your eggs into the well.
Using a fork, blend eggs and slowly incorporate flour. When you can no longer blend with the fork, begin working the dough with your hands. Once you have a solid ball of dough, transfer to a well-floured surface. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top and knead for several minutes, adding more oil if necessary, until you have a smooth dough. Cover with a damp tea towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, make your filling. Combine ricotta, Greek yogurt, lemon zest, a few shakes of salt, and stir to combine. I would recommend using less than one lemon’s worth of zest. In my finished dish, the lemon flavor was great at first, but became a little over-powering after a while. Taste filling and add more salt if needed, until it seems right to you. Set aside.
Uncover dough and prepare to roll out. If you have a pasta crank, go ahead and do your thing with that (and know that my rolling pin and I envy you very much). If not, roll out dough on a well-floured surface, with a well-floured rolling pin. If, after a bit of rolling, you feel like the dough is really starting to resist, just let it rest for a few minutes. (As you work the dough, glutens form and strengthen, increasing its elasticity. If you leave it alone for a few minutes, the glutens will relax and the dough will be easy to work with once again.) Roll the dough out as thin as you can (I shoot for around 1/16 of an inch or less).
Once you have your thin sheet of dough, you have a couple of options. You could cut the sheet into evenly-shaped halves, place spoonfuls of filling about an inch apart over one half, cover with the other, press to seal, and cut into squares with a pastry wheel (or a knife, if you don’t care about pretty, crinkly edges). I do care about pretty edges, but do not have a pastry wheel. So, I use a round cookie cutter (approx. 3 inches in diameter) with rippled edges. I place a spoonful (approx. a teaspoon and a half) of filling in the center, fold one edge over to meet the other, and press to seal. I find that a tiny bit of water helps to dough to seal. You can wet your finger and run it along the edges, or just give the ravioli a misting from a clean spray bottle.
If you cut your ravioli the way I do, you’ll have a bit of leftover dough. Just knead it back into a ball, let it rest, and repeat the process, until you’ve used up all the dough or your arms hurt and you’re starving. Set ravioli aside on a floured surface and cover with your tea towel. (Note: you can always freeze any ravioli that you won’t use right away. Just layer them in a large container, separated by sheets of parchment paper.)
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add ravioli. Once the they begin to float, they’re ready! (Keep an eye on them; you’d be surprised how quickly fresh pasta will cook.) Drain water and cover with puréed zucchini sauce. Oh wait, you still need to know how to make that, don’t you?
Puréed Zucchini Sauce
(from Calabria from Scratch)
- 1 pound of zucchini, halved or quartered lengthwise and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
- 1 bunch of scallions (or 1 small onion), chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley
- 1 chicken (or vegetable) bullion cube, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons of freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese
- black pepper, to taste
- additional romano or parmesan cheese, to taste
Heat oil in a large sauce pan. Add garlic and scallions, and saute over medium heat until soft. Add zucchini, parsley, basil, and bullion cube.
Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, until soft (around 20 minutes). You may need to add some water, depending on how much liquid the zucchini release. When you’re able to smush them with a spoon, they’re ready.
Place mixture in a blender and purée until smooth. If it isn’t blending easily, just add a little bit more water. Blend in 2 tablespoons of cheese and spoon over ravioli. Grate more cheese over top as needed. Enjoy!