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Even with ravioli, it takes a little practice

2/7/14 | By Paul Suplee, CEC PCIII

One of the pleasures of teaching is watching a kitchen full of qualified students tackle something new and different.  The easiest and most accurate way to determine whether a competency is not in the students’ repertoires is by noting the condition of the kitchen at the end of class.

Today happened to be such a day; our student aide made the comment that she was pretty sure that the class used every pot, pan and bowl in our inventory.

When the smoke cleared and the ashes settled from the onslaught, what we found was a variety of ravioli, agnolotti, Cornish pasties and tri-color pasta; all from scratch.

One student stuffed his artisanal pieces with lamb curry while another made a chicken-basil stuffing.  Since we had food in the walk-in that needed to be used after the nightmare of scheduling through the recent school days, I decided to let them have at it when it came to their fillings.

Fresh pasta is one of the greatest foods to master in the kitchen.  Like bread, it is a simple process that brings you closer to your food as you knead the dough and get it ready for its simmering bath.  Following a few suggestions the students made some colored with beet juice and spinach juice while others stayed traditional with a plain fresh pasta.

Of course tasting the wares is a perk of the job assuming that it isn’t made too salty or mushy.  The abilities of the students shine in this one particular class since it embodies a great deal of the cooking skills that a professional cook deems necessary.  Fresh pastas, canapés, hors d’oeuvres, sausages, pates and terrines only scratch the surface on the complex topic of garde manger.

Since some of the students make fresh pasta the night before in Italian class. They were happy with the ‘full circle’ of seeing the same thing twice from different chefs.  It gave them a good perspective on where and when pastas could be used on a menu; not only in just an Italian setting but also as a platform for finger foods.

When making your own ravioli, just remember that it might not turn out the first time.  That is the secret to success in the cold kitchen, the bake shop or anywhere else that you might think you’ll get tripped up when cooking.  People seem to have a fear of makings breads and pastas, but with a little practice anyone can be a pro.

So if it doesn’t turn out, try it again and again.  Once you get the feel of it you won’t want to stop.  Of course, you might have to tack on a few extra miles each week on the treadmill.  But it will be worth it.  Try something new.  You’ll thank me.

 Tomato-Pesto Ravioli

Makes enough for 4

1 # fresh pasta

2 c. Italian filling (recipe follows)

Fresh parsley, basil and chervil,

EV olive oil to coat

1 tbsp. salted butter to coat

Roll the pasta out into two long rectangles, about 1/16-inch thick

Starting at one end but about 1 inch in, pipe the filling in 1 teaspoon mounds

Moisten the pasta around the filling with water and top with the second piece of pasta

Press around the filling to make little 1 1/2-inch ravioli

With a pasta cutter or circle cutter, cut the ravioli into squares or circles

Since the filling contains no raw meats, it will cook in the time that it takes to cook the fresh pasta, which is about 3 or 4 minutes

Store with some semolina until ready to cook

Cook in salted water at a high simmer for 3-4 minutes and remove, immediately tossing in the herbs and olive oil, and some butter if that is your preference.  I like the butter, but it’s up to you

Serve immediately and enjoy how amazed your guests will be by this simple but decadent dish

Italian Filling

makes 2 cups


3/4 c. fresh mozzarella

1/2 c. sundried tomatoes

2 ea. garlic cloves

1/4 c. ricotta cheese

1 whole egg

salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and work into a smooth paste

Set aside until you are ready to stuff the ravioli

Pesto Cream

2 cups fresh basil, picked and blanched

3 ea. garlic cloves

1/2 c. parmesan cheese

1/2 c. Pine nuts

EV olive oil, as needed

Salt and pepper to taste

1 c. heavy cream

Combine the basil, garlic, parmesan and pine nuts in a food processor until pureed

Drizzle in just enough oil to bind it into a pesto

Refrigerate and use on pasta, chicken, pork or anything else that sounds good

When you are ready to make a pesto cream, bring the cream to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of pesto

Reduce until it is thick and creamy.  Adjust seasoning and serve with the ravioli

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