I’m a tad confused on the title of this post (yeah, real first world problems). I kind of want it to look and sound like a restuarant menu dish with the hero ingredients followed by the sauce and frills in italics below. You know, something like:
Fresh Ravioli with Spinach & Homemade Ricotta
Morel Mushroom Sauce with Chestnut and Walnut, Almost-Burnt Butter Crispy Sage
Now doesn’t that sound fancy? Well, firstly, this post has been long in the making, and its ingredients have been accumulated even longer – waiting impatiently to be purposed into a meal. For some odd reason, over the last few months I’ve received bottles and tubes of chestnut puree/cream. And to be blatantly honest, I had absolutely no idea how to use it – and then began the incessant googling. The French may have some suave and sophisticated ways to use it, but little old me sure doesn’t! Then comes morels, or guchhi, which SS insisted his parents bring back from Kashmir (not that he as *any* intention of cooking with them ahem ahem). I also bought the pasta attachment to my kitchen aid, which was an extremely considered and thought through decision, but till date I have only been able to successfully use the roller (my last attempt to cut the rolled sheets into fettuccine was a big glubby disaster.
Since that fateful day, I have found a pasta recipe (from Taj’s Favourite Vegetarian recipes book – the ravioli which coincidentally, we have had the privilege of eating – made by Chef Arun at the Falaknuma Palace) that works very well – essentially equal weights of semolina and flour, with a few drops of olive oil and a pinch of salt. The result is a smooth and beautiful dough, that honestly needs hardly 1-2 minutes of folding/kneading followed by 10 minutes of rest under a tea towel. It really is that simple. Also, especially with ravioli, since the pasta is just one element – there is a stuffing and a sauce of some kind, the per person quantity of pasta required is quite small. 3-5 pieces per person is my upper estimate in case of the sauce being rich (eg. brown butter, creamy sauces, this mushroom morel sauce) or the stuffing being heavy (cheese, truffle). I typically use 50 grams each of semolina and flour to comfortably feed 4, maybe even 5 people.
This time, after feeling more comfortable with the whole pasta making process as well as being more familiar with the equipment, I felt courageous enough to make some alterations to the dough to make it slightly healthier by using half quantity of whole wheat flour and 1/4 each semolina and flour (as pictured above- L: flour + semolina R: whole wheat version). The result? Slightly sticker and tougher than the former, but after a rest and a dusting of flour, the resulting pasta was as velvety and smooth as the former. Taste test? No one could tell that they were made from whole wheat! That means, I successfully made a (partially) whole wheat ravioli! Yes, I am tremendously excited about this!
Right, then on to the fillings. Making the fresh ricotta at home was fairly simple – milk brought to 185*F and then taken off the heat, mixed with lemon juice or vinegar, and left to separate. The fresh creaminess is something no store bought ricotta can emulate! I simply mixed blanched spinach with the ricotta, along with some parmesan and seasoned to taste. Now this sounds clean and yum, but I felt it needed a punch, so I stirred in a tsp of truffled pesto to add that herbiness of the basil as well as the fragrance and elevation of the truffle. I ran short of fresh ricotta so I used little bit of roasted pumpkin, walnut and parmesan to fill the left over raviolis (that I had roasted for a salad with some rosemary, sage and olive oil). Both turned out to be really wonderful, and I would do them both again, but maybe not on the same day!
The sauce was inspired by the desire to use the morels, which I haven’t ever cooked with before. I read a few tutorials, and used them as best as I could to create my own version of a morel and mushroom sauce. To balance it, I squeezed in a little chestnut puree as well as some parmesan and crushed walnut. The resulting sauce was by itself reminiscent of a great and hearty mushroom soup, with as a base for the ravioli, really worked wonders as it didn’t overpower the pasta, and just sat beautifully protecting the pasta from the base of the dish.
- 50gm all purpose flour
- 50gm semolina
- 2 tsp olive oil
- water, as required
- Mix together the dry ingredients and drizzle with the olive oil. Add water as required to bing dough together and transfer to a floured surface to knead/fold for a minute or two. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and rest for 10 mins before rolling as needed.
- Roll the pasta dough and fill with stuffing of choice. If not cooking immediately, store the ravioli on slightly floured kitchen towel in the fridge till ready to use. Can also be frozen like this.
- When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to boil Add salt and olive oil. Cook pasta for a few minutes - until they swim up to the surface and they there for a minute.
- Transfer to serving dish and eat warm.
- For the whole wheat variant - use 50gm whole wheat, 25 gm all purpose flour and 25 gm semolina. The method and other ingredients remain the same.
- 5-6 medium morel mushrooms, stems removed and halved
- 200gm mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs butter
- 1/2 onion, minced
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 tbs cream
- 2 tbs butter
- 1 tbs chestnut puree or 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbs crushed walnuts
- 2 tbs parmesan
- Sauté the morel mushrooms with the olive oil and the first tbs of butter. Once slightly browned, add the onion, garlic and mushrooms. Once the mushrooms and cooked down and their juices have almost dried up, season and squeeze in the chestnut puree, if using. Add the cream.
- Allow to cool slightly before transferring the chunky bits to a processor. Mix with the balance sauce in the same pan and season to taste. Stir in the walnut and the parmesan. Finish with the remaining butter.
- This is a rich sauce. If you wan to lighten it, halve the butter and use some vegetable stock to add flavour.
- 1/2 litre full fat milk
- 1-2 tbs lime juice/white vinegar
- 1/2 cup ricotta
- 7-8 leaves of spinach, shredded lengthwise
- 1/3 cup parmesan
- 1 tsp truffle pesto / truffle oil / pesto (optional)
- 1 tsp mixed herb and dried garlic seasoning
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Bring the milk upto 185*c (or just before it comes to a boil) and remove from heat. Gently stir in the vinegar or lime juice and leave to separate for 15 minutes.
- Blanch the spinach in boiling water for a couple of minutes.
- Pour the clumpy milk into a sieve lined with a cheesecloth.
- Mix the cheese with the spinach, parmesan, season with salt, pepper, mixed herbs and adjust to taste. Add the pesto, if using.
- If the cheese appears a little watery or loose, pop into the freezer for a couple of minutes before filling the pasta.
- 75gm butter
- 8-10 sage leaves
- Melt the butter over a medium heat. Let the butter brown and give off a nutty aroma, but watch closely to make sure it doest burn. Pour into a container to stop from burning and drop in the sage leaves that will crackle and crispen almost immediately.
- Make the pasta. Leave to rest.
- Make the filling and store in refrigerator
- Make the sauce.
- Roll the pasta, fill and cook in boiling water.
- Make the brown butter sage sauce.
- On a serving plate – pour the morel mushroom sauce, top with the freshly cooked pasta and finish with the brown butter and crispy sage. And a tbs of parmesan, for good measure!
And because Spinach & Homemade Ricotta Ravioli with a Morel Mushroom Sauce wasn’t enough, the meal started off with an Old Fashioned for SS, followed by a roast pumpkin, avocado and hazelnut salad, the Spinach & Homemade Ricotta Ravioli with a Morel Mushroom Sauce and finished with salted caramel apple crumble and tender coconut ice cream washed down with a cup of herbal tea. Yeah, I don’t spoil him AT ALL! 😛