As with most weeks, we were starting to run low on our fresh produce this past Tuesday. Now, we know we’ll be getting an infusion of produce Tuesday evening, which we might be able to use for our dinner. But, this time, we had plans for most of the afternoon, so we wanted to have something mostly ready for our dinner. Then we could come home, put away our CSA produce, make a quick dinner, and relax for the evening. But, with so little in the house, fresh produce-wise (several onions, some garlic, a lemon, a potato, and two sweet potatoes), what could we make?
In just a few minutes, we came up with the idea of making cannelloni, but we switched to ravioli after picking up a ravioli stamp at a thrift store. It was brand-new, as far as we could tell, and only $1.50, so we thought, why not? And ravioli for dinner was in our destiny.
As it turns out, lemon is a nice combination with sweet potatoes, so we do suggest making the lemon pepper pasta. It’s not any more difficult than any other pasta dough, so go for it. We did our pasta dough with half whole-wheat flour, too. We figure that no one gets enough whole grains, so, if we can fit them in dishes, why not? For the cheese, we were originally going to leave it out, but we tasted the filling as we were making it, and it need just a bit of something, so a couple of tablespoons of Grana Padano (an Italian cheese made just like Parmasan, just not in the Parma region) went into the mix. We actually think blue cheese would work here, too.
Procedure in detail:
Cook potatoes. We did this in our microwave. Again, we wanted this to be fairly quick to put together, so we scrubbed the sweet potatoes clean, pierced them with a sharp knife (so they don’t explode, which makes a real mess), and put them in the microwave for 5 minutes. Then we let them rest for 5 minutes, and repeat, if necessary. Once very soft, let cool completely and pull off the skins. As an aside, we made up the pasta dough while the potatoes were cooking.
Mash and season. Place the sweet potatoes in a small bowl and mash them using the back of a spoon. There aren’t enough potatoes to warrant breaking out a ricer, or a masher, so we just used the same spoon that we’d mix with. Add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and stir it in. Taste, and add more, if needed.
Add cheese. Add a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan, stir it in thoroughly, and taste again. Add more if needed, but not so much that the filling won’t stick together.
Roll and fill. Roll out some of the pasta into a long thin sheet. Get it as thin as you can; almost translucent is good. We think it’s easiest if you can make the sheet about 3 inches wide. Once rolled, lay it on your work surface and place about 1 teaspoon of filling over half of the sheet, spacing each dollop of filling about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Fold and press. Pick up the portion of the dough without the filling, and fold it over, covering the sweet potato mixture. Now, work from the folded end to the open end, pressing down the pasta dough around the filling and squeezing out the air.
Punch. If you have a ravioli punch, go to town punching out ravioli; otherwise, you can use a fluted cutter, or even a knife. The only thing the punch does is make same-size ravioli with a fluted edge, so they look a bit nicer. Pull away the excess dough, which can be mixed into the remaining dough and re-rolled, and place the ravioli onto a lined baking sheet.
Freeze. Once you have a baking sheet full of ravioli, place it in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. After that, you can transfer the pasta to a freezer bag for longer storage. Freezing makes the ravioli a lot easier to handle, so we always do it.
Simmer. To cook fresh ravioli, bring a large pan of salted water to a simmer — not a boil, which would break apart the ravioli — and drop them in without thawing. Let them simmer until they float to the top and the pasta is done, about 2 to 3 minutes, possibly longer depending on the thickness of your pasta.
We had our ravioli with a very simple sauce; just melted, lightly- browned butter with fresh sage. With the lemon pepper pasta, we didn’t want to cover up the flavor with a heavier sauce, like tomato, or even a cream sauce (unless it was very light). It was a very good dinner; the lemon flavor was there, complimented by the sweetness of the potatoes, making for an interesting flavor combination. The only issue we had was that we had overfilled a couple of ravioli and they ended up bursting as they simmered. Ah, the hazards of scratchin’. Five stars.