We don’t tend to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We’re totally broke, for one thing, and for another, we’d rather not have to spend a day doing obligatory and clichéed things to tell each other how we feel. We do that on a daily basis anyway.
I am of course talking about our love for Gren. Duh. He’s so smooshy. In the words of Cait, “I want to smoosh him. With smooshes.” We definitely smoosh him regularly.
In any case, because it’s expected of us (and because nobody ever wants to do anything with us on Valentine’s Day), we usually have a nice meal together and talk about how stupid this Hallmark holiday is.
If you are of the same bent, or if you love to do smooshy romantic things for your true love, why not make up some fresh pasta and go from there?
I figured I would give ravioli a try. Why the heck not?
The ingredients for each component of this are so simple. The only one I really measured for was the pasta dough, because I’m not yet at the eyeballing stage for that.
For the ravioli filling:
You will need sweet potatoes, dried shiitake mushrooms (you can use fresh ones but I like the chewy texture of the dried ones), and roasted garlic.
Plop a handful or two dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of warm water and leave them for 30-60 minutes, or until all tender. I find that placing a small plate on top ensures they all get evenly exposed to water.
While those are percolating, peel and cube a large sweet potato. This one weighed in at 1 3/4lb. Plop that in a pot full of water and boil until tender.
Drain the sweet potatoes and mash ’em.
Take your hydrated mushrooms out of the water, cut off the woody stems, and chop them finely.
I found that after chopping, a quick sojourn in the food processor got them to the size I wanted them.
Save the water from your mushrooms — it makes a great vegetable stock.
I made this roasted garlic last week from three heads of garlic. If you click on the link above you can see how I did it. I’m going to use all three heads, because the Pie and I have been together for almost eight years, so it’s not going to matter how much garlic we consume. Do exercise some caution if you’re new to the relationship and you’re still trying to impress … Though I suppose if you both consume the same amount of garlic it really doesn’t matter, does it?
Anyway, I plopped that in the food processor as well (with a drop of olive oil) and came out with a lovely aromatic paste.
In a bowl, combine your mashed sweet potato, the minced mushrooms, and the garlic paste and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Stir that around and set it aside.
For the ravioli pasta:
For this you need durum semolina flour, salt, and eggs. Semolina is perfect for making pasta because it has an extremely high gluten content, which means that your pasta will stay cohesive even when immersed in boiling water. That is kind of important.
So take 3 eggs and whisk them together with a pinch of salt. I like to add in a few drops of olive oil, as well, for smoothness.
Pour 2 cups durum semolina flour on a clean work surface, make a well in the centre, and pour in the eggs.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I wish I’d thought of it sooner so I could have made a better heart.
Using a scraper and/or a fork, gradually incorporate the eggs into the flour until you have a coherent ball.
I used some regular all-purpose flour at the end, just to reduce the tackiness of the dough a bit. You will want to knead it for about 10 minutes, just to get all the gluten working for you.
Wrap up your final ball and let it rest for about 20 minutes.
Cut your dough into manageable sections. I cut mine into four. Flatten out your first section enough so it fits into your pasta machine. If you are rolling it out by hand, have fun with that.
I prefer my pasta maker.
I cut my strips in half, so that I could fold the second half over the top half like a mirror image. Though it does help if your top half is slightly bigger than your bottom half.
Put little dollops of your filling on your bottom sheet with enough space in between so you can cut them easily.
Carefully line up the top half and lay it over the filling.
Working from the inside out, gently stretch and press the top dough over the filling to form little pockets.
When each pocket is sealed, use a knife or a ravioli cutter to separate them.
For this first round, I went all the way up to the #7 setting on my pasta maker, which made the pasta sheets very thin — a little too thin. You can see how they have torn and I had to patch them.
The next round, I only went up to the #5 setting, which was much more manageable, and I prepared the ravioli on waxed paper, which made peeling them up much easier. I probably could have gone as high as #6, but I’m still new to this.
I separated each round of pasta with waxed paper to prevent sticking.
I had some leftover filling, which I froze. I would gladly make this again.
Now, set a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt and a few drops of olive oil, and get started on your sauce.
For the sauce:
You will need butter, sage, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese.
Slice 10-12 sage leaves finely to ensure all their lovely aromatic juices get released.
To save time and my sanity (I really hate grating cheese), I cubed up about 1/3 cup of my extra-hard parmesan and gave it a go in the food processor. Totally worth it.
So for your mis en place you have your sage, chopped, your cheese, grated, about 1/2 cup lemon juice, and about 4-5 tablespoons butter.
By now, your pasta water should be boiling, so carefully tip all your ravioli in and cook them for about 8 minutes.
While that is going on, in a large, wide, deep frying pan on medium-high heat, melt your butter.
Continue to cook the butter, scraping the bottom with a spatula to prevent burning, until it starts to foam up and the clear liquid turns a lovely light caramel brown colour. Add in your sage leaves and remove the butter from the heat.
See the brownness?
Pour in your lemon juice and give that a stir. Oh man does that ever smell good. Like all the best parts of everything.
Drain your pasta and plop them in the frying pan with the butter. Pour in your cheese and toss the lot to coat.
Serve it up, with plenty of leftovers.
Though none for Gren. Much to his disappointment.