Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fresh Herb Ravioli in Brown Butter

Scarborough Fair/Canticle by Simon & Garfunkel
I love my back yard.  It is enchanting to me.  There are hot summer evenings, like the ones we've been having lately, where I half expect to see fairies peek out at me from behind leaves and flower blossoms.  We don't have fireflies here, but we should.  But should some fireflies arrive and bring along some fairies with them, I imagine that this song would spontaneously start playing - out of nature itself.  It is one of the most mystical magical songs I've ever heard.  Spellbinding.  Although the message is sad - love being promised only when impossible tasks are completed - the tune seems to hold hope.  In this enchanting back yard of mine, I have a pot filled to overflowing with rosemary, chives, and unbelievably huge leaves of velvety sage.  If I were a fairy, it's the very place I would choose to hide. 

As I was tending to the plants on my back patio last week I noticed that my pot that holds chives, rosemary, and sage has become enormously bountiful.  Other pots are doing well, but this particular pot  is definitely the overachiever of the patio planet.  I figured I better be thinking of ways to use this bounty of freshness - and quick!

The single most important tip I usually share with people is "use fresh herbs."  One of the most common topics I get asked about is how to breathe new life into old worn out recipes - "How can I make my meals more exciting?" 

Fresh herbs have a way of elevating everything and anything to which they are added.  Dried herbs are fine.  But fresh herbs are rock stars.

One of my favorite ways to use fresh herbs is with pasta.  I use it quite liberally in pasta salads.  And my pasta salads are usually pretty darn good!  So when pondering on some ways to use these herbs, I thought it was time to make some ravioli with pockets full of fresh herbs and creamy ricotta!  
Simple and savory!

Yes, I made my own pasta, but don't run away because the thought of making your own pasta seems intimidating.  It is perfectly fine to use wonton skins - usually found in the produce section by the tofu and other asian foods.  Wonton skins are great stand-ins and make this whole dish even more easy than it already is.  Simply put a dollop of the filling in the middle of the wonton and either fold it over to make a triangle, or place a second skin on top.  Either way, you'll want to moisten the edges with water so the skins will seal together.

For those that are really wanting that whole fresh pasta experience, I will show you how I make my ravioli, using my recipe from an earlier post.

I decided to keep my sauce super simple as well.  And nothing is as simple as brown butter!  So nutty in flavor - so simply decadent!  A further sprinkle of more fresh sage ribbons and you're ready for a memorable meal - a meal fit for fairies and knights alike!

Fresh Herb Ravioli in Brown Butter
makes 30 ravioli
10 oz. ricotta cheese
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 stems of rosemary, leaves stripped
5 leaves of sage, ripped in small pieces, reserving one for the garnish
6 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
3 T. snipped chives
1 t. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh pasta or wonton skins
1/2 c. butter

In a food processor, place the cheeses and herbs and olive oil, and pulse until well mixed and the herbs are cut small.  Season with salt and pepper.  I like to place the mixture into a pastry bag to help pipe it out.  You could just use a spoon though, if you prefer.

If using wonton skins, simply place a liberal tablespoon of filling in the center of each square and wet the edges with a little bit of water.  Fold over into a triangle and seal by pressing firmly.  Set aside.

If using fresh pasta, this is how I do it.

First, I roll my fresh pasta dough out into long rectangles, working on a lightly floured surface.  I have a hand-cranked pasta machine, but you can use a rolling pin just as well.  I trim the rectangle up so it's neat and squared on the corners.  (Save the scraps and put in the freezer in a baggie to add to some hot soup in a few months.)
Put a hefty tablespoon of the filling evenly spaced along the lower half of the rectangle, making sure you leave enough room between to seal in between each ravioli - about 1 1/2 - 2".  Fold the top half of the pasta rectangle down over the filling, having edges meet.  With your finger, gently press around each mound of filling, pushing air out and defining each ravioli.  
Using the handle of a wooden spoon, press firmly, creating a seal in the dough, encasing the filling in each ravioli.
Using a pastry wheel, trim the outside edges and then cut each ravioli apart from each other.  It'll give you a pretty zigzag edge.  Place the cut ravioli on a rack that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Set aside.
Once your ravioli are all filled, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Add a couple tablespoons of kosher or sea salt to the water and then add the ravioli, making sure to not crowd them. They will float to the top when they are done - about 3 - 4 minutes.  Work in batches if you need, placing the cooked ones back on the rack while you proceed with the others.

In a sauce pan or a saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Continue to cook but pay close attention.  The butter will become frothy but then the milk solids will start to brown.  When it looks like the pan below, remove it from the heat immediately.  Those brown solids can turn to black quickly - and then you'll have to start all over again!  You will smell that nutty aroma telling you you've hit gold!
Toss the cooked ravioli lightly in the brown butter and serve.  Top with some freshly grated parmesan and some sage leaves that have been rolled up and then cut into thin ribbons.  Perfection!


  1. I can imagine a younger you dancing around in your backyard with a fairy outfit on. These sound great!
    Aunt Linda

    1. Exactly! At least we had the fireflies, right? These ravioli are truly one of my favorites!