Plum Ravioli with Burnt Sage Butter
Ravioli are tender, flattened pockets of pasta which typically are stuffed with a savory filling made of meat, or perhaps cheese and vegetables, and are served with a light sauce.
Less commonly, they are stuffed with other things such as fruit. This recipe uses a dried plum filling for the ravioli. While it is on the sweet side, I still feel it works best as a main course. Given the right treatment1, though, it might also work well as a savory dessert.
You don't need a pasta machine to make ravioli with your own filling.
You can cheat shamelessly by buying some wonton wrappers, which are nothing more than pre-rolled, pre-cut and ready to use sheets of fresh pasta. They can usually be found at your local supermarket in the refrigerated cases of the fresh produce section. With these wrappers, you are on your first step to making a batch of delicious, homemade ravioli, with any filling you might possibly desire.
• 1 cup (237 ml) part-skim Ricotta cheese, which comes to about half a 15-ounce container
• 2/3 cup (157 ml) pitted dried plums, well chopped. These should still be moist, not shoe leather. Please read the "Make the filling" section, below, before chopping.
• 1/2 to 2/3 cup (118 to 158 ml) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. (If you can't find that, please use freshly grated Parmesan, not that nasty stuff in the green can!)
• 1 tablespoon (15 ml) unsalted butter
• 1 to 2 cloves shallot, peeled and minced. Don't substitute onion; it's too strong for the gentle flavor of this dish. If you don't have shallots, omit them entirely or substitute fresh chives or scallion greens, finely minced, in modest amounts.
• 1 to 2 cloves garlic , peeled and minced
• a dash of freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• sea salt and/or sugar, optional, to taste
• 1 package fresh wonton wrappers; about 50-60 wrappers; chilled. (They tend to get ornery as they warm up.)
• 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
• 1/2 stick (60 ml) additional unsalted butter, in small chunks
• 5 to 8 fresh sage leaves, chiffonade or finely chopped.
• 1/4 cup (60 ml) walnuts, pan toasted until fragrant and then chopped to 2-3 mm wide bits. Optional and to taste; substitute other nuts as desired.
Make the filling
Warning on chopping plums: Chopping moist dried plums will create a sticky mess on your cutting board. If you have only one board, do all other cutting and chopping for this recipe first before setting in on the plums. It helps to chill the dried plums ahead of time and run your knife blade for a few moments under very cold water before chopping. Don't try using waxed paper on your cutting board to protect it; it won't work.
Combine the ricotta, well chopped plums, and parmesan in a bowl. Sometime around now, you may be looking at your plum mixture with apprehension as its color may be a bit scary. Fear not, it will taste far better than it looks.
Melt the one tablespoon of butter in a skillet over low to medium heat, then gently sweat the shallots and garlic over low heat for approximately two minutes. Remove it from heat and let cool, then stir it into the plum mixture and season to taste (gently) with freshly ground black pepper. Taste it again and, if needed, add salt and/or sugar, but be cautious. I once wrecked a batch of ravioli because I thought some citrus zest might add a nice note, but it was overpowering.
Form the ravioli
Wet a dishtowel or several paper towels with water, squeeze out excess water until they are only just damp, and set them to one side on a dinner plate or cutting board.
I feel that the best shape for wonton ravioli is a triangle. While you can use two wrappers per raviolo to make the more classic-looking ravioli, a wonton wrapper is a bit bigger than typical ravioli. Folding over a single wrapper gives you a more reasonable size, which not only helps in serving portioning but also makes the wrappers go further and helps you avoid the tendency to overstuff them.
Before you start shaping your ravioli, remember that wonton wrappers are almost never perfectly square. As a result, they won't fold into a perfect triangle — the edges will not match up just right. I don't worry about this, but if it bothers you, you can do one of several things:
• Cut a stack of wonton wrappers to the proper size with a pastry wheel. (I don't recommend trying this with a knife unless the knife is breathtakingly sharp and heavy, because the wrappers can tear. Don't slice, chop straight down.) Honestly, I don't recommend this at all, since if you're folding a single wrapper into triangles you need all the real estate you can get.
• Hide some of the mess: After shaping the triangular ravioli, twist them into a tortellini shape by bending the long two corners around and pressing them together, then fold the short point outwards.
• Use two wrappers and press them together, with filling in the middle like a sandwich, to produce fairly large ravioli. The edges still may not match up, though.
• Use gyoza wrappers, which are the circular version of wonton wrappers. The difference in overlap with the circular shape is less noticeable.
Here's how to form them.
Lay a wonton wrapper flat on a board in front of you so that it is oriented as a diamond. With a pastry brush or, better yet, a clean finger, dip up some beaten egg white and wipe it around the outside border of the wrapper. Place 1.5 to 2 teaspoons (7 to 10 ml) of the filling into the center of the wrapper. Don't overfill it.
Take one point of the wrapper and fold it over, lightly, to form a triangle shape. Locate the little lump of filling with your fingers, and then gently brush outwards and downwards. The squeezing out of air and the sealing of the pasta become the same action.
As you form the ravioli, tuck them under those damp paper towels to keep them from drying out.
Make the sage butter
Put the chunked half stick of unsalted butter and the sage into a heavy2 saucepan and melt over low-medium to medium heat. Watch it carefully, stirring often. It will foam a bit. Look at the color of the melted butter under the foam: when it starts to turn golden-brown, take it off the heat. Residual heat should take it the rest of the way to brown, if your pan is heavy enough. The bits of sage should end up fried and delightfully crispy, having transferred some of their heady flavor to the melted butter but retaining plenty for themselves.
Please do make the sage butter! While these ravioli are quite good without it, the sage butter is absolutely heavenly, and the pairing works very well as the sage offsets the natural sweetness of the plums.
Cook the ravioli
Put about two inches (5 cm) of water into a large skillet (nonstick, ideally), season the water with about a tablespoon of salt, and bring to a gently rolling boil. Don't let the water come to a hard boil lest its turbulent action may tear the pasta apart.
Gently lower down 4 to 6 of your ravioli into the water with a slotted spoon or a spider. Don't crowd the pan; you don't want the ravioli to touch one another. Also, be careful because when you first put them in; if the water is not quite deep enough, they may stick to the bottom. If they do, gently and slowly pry them loose.
Allow the ravioli to boil gently for 2 minutes, or until they float. Remove them one at a time from the water with the slotted spoon or spider. Let each drain briefly over the pan, giving it a gentle shake to get off any excess water, then place it on a serving or holding plate. Rinse and repeat.
Four to six pieces makes a nice serving size for an adult. With a teaspoon, drizzle just a little of the sage butter across the top of each serving. You don't need much of this strongly flavored and aromatic butter. Sprinkle lightly with chopped, toasted walnuts and grated Parmesan, if desired, and enjoy!
Serve with a light salad of spicy baby salad greens and raspberry vinaigrette, with garlic bruschetta on the side.
Raw ravioli can be frozen. Lay them on wax or parchment paper on top of a baking sheet so that they do not touch one another. Freeze them on the baking sheet. Once they are rock hard, transfer them to a container or ziptop bag. Be sure to cook them thoroughly, directly from the frozen state.
Cooked ravioli should be refrigerated promptly. Spritz them lightly with vegetable oil and store them in a sealed container separately from the sage butter, which should also be refrigerated unless you plan to use it within a day or so.
By the way, unopened packs of wonton wrappers can be frozen, too. Just put it in the freezer, and the day before you need them, take it out and put it in your refrigerator to thaw.
1. If I were to try this recipe as a dessert, I might try to substitute drained mascarpone in place of the ricotta, and maybe add a tiny drizzle of good honey into the sage butter sauce. (I have not worked with mascarpone, though, so I'm not sure how this would affect the moisture balance.)
2. I have never achieved a successful browned butter sauce with anything but a heavy saucepan. With lightweight saucepans, the browned bits adhere rather permanently to the pan. See yclept's Browned butter with sage for a more involved version of this sauce that I haven't had the nerve to try yet.
This recipe has been scaled up and modified from a recipe found on a bag of Mariani® Pitted Dried Plums Plus. Mariani®, in turn, attributes its recipe to the California Plum Board. The original Plum Board recipe may be found here.
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Both exceptinsects and Albert Herring reminded me that the singular of ravioli is raviolo. Doh! (The worst part is, I think I knew that!) Albert Herring went on to say: "Technically speaking, "ravioli" is the plural, singular raviolo, so "raviolis" is a solecism. Or worse, looks like French, and francophile though I may be, you don't want to let them get near pasta. Although pruneaux d'Agen would almost certainly work well here."
wertperch says: "I used to chop dried fruits with a little flour, powdered sugar, rice flour or whatever worked for the recipe. Saves some stickiness..."
yclept says: "mmm... sounds yummy. I'm not sure I'd try marscapone for a sweet version, though. I'd just leave out the parm. Ricotta has a lovely fresh flavor (think Italian cheesecake) and is well suited for cooked sweets.
A sweet onion like a Vidalia or Walla Walla might be a good sub for shallots if folks can't find 'em. Much less oniony than yellow onions. Incidentally, did you know wontons are shaped that way to mimic gold ingots? It's a prosperity reference. We don't bother to use egg white to seal wontons, we just moisten the dough edges with water, but I can see the desire for a little extra security.
Hm, thinking of a sweet version, I'd be tempted to leave out the savory herbs from the filling and add a bit of chopped apple. Dress with fresh butter, tossed into the hot ravioli, and perhaps dressed with just a hint of lemon zest. Sprinkle with chopped toasted hazelnuts... Hm, it's a thought...."
princess loulou notes that where she lives, it is far easier to find fresh pasta sheets for purchase than wonton wrappers. Thanks for pointing that out!