When it comes to vegan cooking and baking, cheese substitution is one of those things that gives me a headache. I’m a bit wary of soy-based alternatives, as they seem over-processed and unnatural in comparison. There are, of course, equally over-processed varieties of “cheese” that freak me out too! (Full disclosure: I did have a bizarre addiction to Tofutti cream cheese a year or so ago, and have been rather reluctant to group it into the Weird Fake Cheese category. But the editor in me demands consistency above all else!) Another interesting alternative that I’ve come across online is blending together nuts, nutritional yeast, and other stuff to make a creamy, cheese-like substitute. This usually involves soaking the nuts overnight, which is far more than I care to go through to make fake cheese. (Also, the vegan community seems to invariably refer to this substance as “nut cheese”—a phrase that is so hilariously gross, I have trouble taking it seriously. Yes, deep down, I’m a 13-year-old boy. :P) So, my very simple solution: make a filling so tasty, it doesn’t need cheese. No headaches here!
Honestly, if you’re too lazy to make ravioli, just make this filling and eat it like mashed potatoes. Seriously—it’s awesome. The combination of sweet potatoes and coconut milk actually changed my feelings toward coconut many years ago. When I was young, coconut was THE grossest. My parents have been using Skin Trip lotion since I was little, and I found the scent revolting. I went to birthday parties fearing that the cake would come out covered in horrible shredded coconut, completely ruining my reason for coming to the party in the first place! But when I started getting into cooking after college, I happened upon a recipe for sweet potatoes, carrots, and green beans simmered in coconut milk. For some reason, it intrigued me. I made it, and wow—I could not believe how amazing sweet potatoes and coconut milk tasted together. Add a spicy kick, and it really doesn’t get much better. My boyfriend even declared this to be his favorite of all the ravioli I’ve ever made (and I’ve made a lot)!
Vegan Sweet Potato, Coconut Milk, & Roasted Chili Ravioli
yield: approximately 2 dozen large ravioli
- 2 cups of semolina flour
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- a little over 1 cup of water
- a dash of salt
- 3 small to medium sweet potatoes
- around 6 oz. of coconut milk
- 2 chili peppers (I used red serranos)
Preheat the oven to 450°. Rub the peppers with a little bit of olive oil, then place the potatoes and peppers together in the oven. Roast for about 15 minutes, or until the pepper skin begins to blister and blacken. Remove the peppers and place them in a paper bag (an air-tight container also works if you don’t happen to have a paper bag). Close and let peppers rest for at least 10 minutes (they will steam in the bag, making the skins easier to remove). Peel the skin away from the pepper, then remove the seeds from the inside. Mince the pepper and set aside.
While you’re waiting for the potatoes to finish roasting, combine the flours and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour water in the well and stir to combine. Turn out on a floured surface and knead until a smooth dough forms. Divide into two, then cover in plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and let rest.
When the sweet potatoes are soft, remove them from the oven. Once they’ve cooled, remove them from their skins and mash in a large bowl. Add the minced pepper and the coconut milk, and stir until well combined.
Roll one round of pasta dough into a rectangular shape on a well-floured surface, until thin but not in danger of tearing (about 1/16 of an inch thick). Place evenly-spaced spoonfuls of filling along the surface of the dough. Roll the second half of the dough out, replicating the size and shape of the first. Brush a little bit of water in between the spoonfuls of filling, then place the second rectangle on top and press to seal.
Cut out ravioli with a sharp knife or a pasta wheel. To make extra-sure they are sealed, press all around the edges with a fork. Freeze any ravioli that you won’t eat immediately.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the ravioli. Cook until they begin to float (this should only take a few minutes). If you like your ravioli a little crispy (I know I do!), heat a little olive oil in a pan, then add the cooked ravioli and pan-fry over medium heat for a few minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Top with a little bit of fresh rosemary and sage if you happen to have it, then serve!