Seasonal Flavors: Ravioli for Lovers

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Cut heart shapes out of your pasta with a cookie cutter.

One February day a few years back, a young friend asked me you help her make heart-shaped ravioli for her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day. Of course!  Love and food go together and it’s nice to celebrate that in the dead of winter and, even better, to celebrate it at home.

Homemade ravioli looks difficult, but it is really fun to make and a joy to serve. In Italy it’s often a smaller first course rather than the larger serving we see in U.S. restaurants. When I make it, I serve it on small plates, only 4-5 ravioli per person, and then follow it with the main course of meat or fish, vegetable and a salad.

To me, the best ravioli has a bold flavor and my absolute favorite is made with a sharp cheese like gorgonzola added to the more subtle flavor of mild mushrooms. It certainly helps to have a pasta maker—in fact, I wouldn’t make it any other way. But the diehards will roll the dough by hand.

Americans grew up with canned atrocities smothered in a bad tomato sauce that were labeled as ravioli. I prefer to use a drizzle of really good olive oil that has been infused with lots of garlic. Garnish with a little fresh basil and some fresh Romano cheese.

Gorgonzola-Mushroom Ravioli for Lovers

Makes approximately 12 ravioli

For the pasta:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp olive oil

These amounts are approximate.  Put the flour on a clean counter, board or marble stone and make a well in the center.  Break the eggs into this well and start kneading it together with your hands….messy but fun.  Add the oil as the dough comes together. Add more flour if it’s too wet, or a little oil if it’s too dry.  Be patient; at first it is really sticky but keep working at it. Once the dough forms, knead for five minutes. Then cover the dough with a cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes. This step is critical for successfully rolling the pasta.

Use a pasta maker set on the highest setting and force the dough through as you roll.  Gradually lower the setting, putting the dough through the roller twice for each setting. Or roll it out by hand.

For the filling:

  • 4 oz gorgonzola, softened at 
  • room temperature
  • ½ pound mushrooms, chopped 
  • and sautéed in 2 T olive oil

For the sauce:

  • ½ cup olive oil heated gently with two crushed garlic cloves

Preparation:

Carefully place the rolled dough on the counter and prepare to cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter.  Put a teaspoon of cheese and a teaspoon of the mushroom onto the center of each heart. Top with a second heart and press the edges with a fork. At this point, the ravioli can be frozen in a zip lock bag or stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

When ready to serve, boil a gallon of salted water and cook the ravioli for no more than five minutes (a little longer if it was frozen—don’t thaw before boiling). Drain carefully with a slotted spoon and serve immediately with a drizzle of garlic infused oil, a grate of cheese and some fresh basil. Yes, one or two of them always break in the water—if only I could solve that problem—sorry!

Final note: I take over this cooking column from my friend Elena Day, an extraordinary cook and gardener whom I have known for nearly forty years. I hope I can fill her shoes.