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Even with ravioli, it takes a little practice

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.
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
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
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
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