I, as a child, was an absurdly picky eater. I have alluded to this on occasion, but I’ve held back on detailing my full blown neurosis for quite some time. Let’s discuss.
The first few minutes of my dinner were devoted to inspection. I would sift through and overturn every single thing on my plate, searching for a rogue onion that might have managed to latch onto my special, onion-free latke, or any other suspect ingredients that my mother might be trying to sneak by me. She once cut up pear slices and tried to pass them off as apples. I had none of that. She also once forgot to separate out my special latke before adding onions to the mixture, and served it to me convinced that I wouldn’t notice. YEAH RIGHT, MOM. You know those teeny tiny mushroom bits in Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup? I’d pick all of them out of my tuna noodle casserole before I’d even take a bite of it. My food could not touch other food. My orange juice always had to be strained. (Pulp-free orange juice is a MYTH people — it always needs to be strained. I still hate pulp. Blech.)
My parents’ round dining room table sits in an alcove that was pretty much made to hold the table and nothing else. Nestled in the arm’s-length corner between my seat and my dad’s seat used to sit large ceramic crock the size of a small barrel, with a piece of wood set across the top to hold various plants and trinkets. Childhood me, having no concept of the decomposition of organic matter (or perhaps simply no concern about anything but my own fussy needs) discovered that this crock was the perfect receptacle for disposing of all of my unwanted foods when my parents weren’t looking. I shared this secret with my brother, and he agreed that I was a genius. As soon as my parents would begin clearing the table and simultaneously warning me that my brother and I had 10 minutes to finish our dinner, I would begin tossing broccoli and spinach and cooked carrots into the crock. My brother would pass me his veggies under the table, and I would dispose of those as well. My parents eventually got wise to this and made us clean the thing out. Nasty, but still kind of worth it to me at the time, considering how many vegetables I’d managed to avoid eating.
I also loathed all condiments and sauces. I ate pancakes without syrup. Pasta without sauce. I didn’t try ketchup until I was fifteen. Mustard: twenty. Mayo horrified me until I learned how to make it. This was my life, people! Now, I make up for it by turning my food plates into big hot messes. I want my breakfast covered in syrup and runny egg yolks. I like to mix up all of the food on my plate so I can get a little bit of everything in each bite. It’s gross and awesome.
Still, I was thinking the other day about the fact that I rarely make pasta with sauce. Part of this is probably due to the fact that I still don’t like onions, and I know there are definitely little bits of them hiding in 99% of the jars of sauce on store shelves. I will make my own tomato sauce every now and then. (Over the summer I made this sauce with freshly roasted tomatoes, basil, and garlic from my mom’s garden, and it was SO GOOD that I ate half of it with a spoon like it was soup……) Still, I love the taste and minimal fuss of pasta tossed with olive oil, butter, and fresh parmesan. That is totally good enough for me.
As I was mulling over my pasta sauce weirdness, I also started thinking about ways that I might try to incorporate sauce into my pasta dishes. And for whatever reason, my mind immediately jumped to ravioli, and putting the sauce inside the pasta. And if the sauce is inside, that means the filling needs to be outside. This is when I got kind of excited about the idea, as I always kind of want more filling from my ravioli. (Or more veggies, technically, because I like to pretend that eating a monster plate of pasta is totally good for me.) Also the whole veggies-on-the-outside thing gives me a perfect excuse to pan-fry the ravioli……again……like I always do. (It’s the best.)
To make the sauce a little more filling-like, I decided to cook it down a bit to make it thicker, and then combine it with some goat cheese and parmesan. Now, I don’t want you guys to freak out (like I did when I tasted it), but this filling tastes like the most decadent vodka sauce ever. So crazy delicious. Unfortunately, one thing I didn’t take into account was just how much the sauce would reduce. Consequently, I was only able to make fourteen ravioli. Sadness! I also meant to use mushroom and spinach as the vegetables, but I completely forgot to buy the latter. Kale was a good substitute, although I do think I would have preferred spinach. I had also intended to make some herbed ricotta to use as a sauce of sorts, but I was apparently operating under the delusion that I could make and photograph ravioli, ricotta, and queso blanco in a matter of hours, then immediately start prepping for a taco night dinner party. (Considering the ricotta was the only thing that didn’t happen, I think I did pretty well.) But anyway, herbed ricotta with this would be a great addition, although it was also delicious without it.
My ideal veggies for this dish were spinach and mushrooms, but the great thing is that you can use whatever you prefer. The filling is so delicious that you could honestly eat these on their own and they’d be awesome. I highly recommend pan-frying the ravioli to get them nice and crispy, but you totally don’t need to do that either. Just fill them with delicious goat cheesy tomato sauce and then do your thang!
yield: approximately 2.5 dozen ravioli
- 1 24 oz. jar of pasta sauce
- 6 oz. of goat cheese
- 1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan
- veggies of your choice (I used about a dozen small mushrooms, sliced, and a few large kale leaves [though I would also recommend a small bunch of spinach], washed and roughly chopped)
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
To make the pasta dough:
Sift flour into a bowl and make a well in the center. Crack eggs into the well, then beat with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour. When you can no longer mix with the fork, begin kneading. Knead until smooth, then cover with a damp towel and set aside.
To make the filling:
Simmer sauce in a pan over medium heat until it has reduced a bit, to the point where it doesn’t pour easily, if that makes sense. Remove from heat and let cool for several minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Mix in parmesan and goat cheese, then set aside.
To make the ravioli:
On a floured surface, roll pasta dough out into a large rectangle, until it is thin, but not in danger of tearing (around 1/16 of an inch thick). Cut rectangle in half, then drop tablespoons of filling over the surface of one of the halves, leaving a little less than an inch between.
Using a pastry brush (or your fingers), rub a little bit of water on the surface of the dough between the filling, to ensure a proper seal. Carefully place the second rectangle of dough on top, and press all around to close. Cut ravioli with a knife or pasta wheel. To make sure they’re sealed (and pretty), press all around the edges with a fork.
Note: If you still have some filling and a bit of dough leftover after trimming off the edges, knead the dough back together, and roll out again. Use a biscuit cutter (or any other round sharpish thing) to cut out as many circles as you can. Spoon filling into the center, brush water around the edges, then fold over and seal.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add ravioli and cook until they begin to float (this should only take a few minutes). While the ravioli are boiling, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and saute mushrooms and greens until wilted. Remove veggies from pan and set aside, then return pan to heat. When ravioli have finished boiling, transfer to the pan and fry until golden brown on each side. When ravioli are almost done cooking, return the veggies to the pan.
(Any leftover, uncooked ravioli can be frozen in a heavy-duty ziploc bag.)