Temptation relies heavily on its co-conspirator, convenience, particularly when it comes to those high-calorie foods we realize are best kept in the every-once-in-a-while-as-a-treat category. With that thought in mind, I came up with the perfect solution: I can eat just about anything, anytime I want, but I’ve got to make it from scratch.
Let’s review my logic: ice cream, french fries, pizza, bread and pasta? They all take sufficient time and planning to prepare that I would now enjoy them as infrequently as I, and my waistline, thought I should. “No more 1:00 AM post-bar cravings or bad choices in restaurants for me,” I thought. I mean really, how often am I going to break out the pasta roller or wait for yeast to rise?
Well, let me loosen my belt up a notch and share the results.
In all seriousness, I haven’t gained a pound and it has successfully reduced the frequency with which I enjoy all of the above. Most importantly, however, I have learned that these demanding dishes, once you’ve made them a few times, aren’t all that difficult and don’t require an entire Saturday afternoon to prepare. Most of the work is in the waiting – for pizza dough to rise or pasta dough to rest – and the results are spectacular! You may never order take out or delivery again.
Except at 1:00 AM as you stumble home from the bar and you’re kinda buzzed and having a sugar crash and these days you don’t even have to call you can just order the pizza from that app on your phone and it already has your credit card information so you don’t have to worry about slurring your words while trying to share it over the phone but not too loudly so the person walking 6 feet behind you can hear it…
Asparagus and Ricotta Ravioli with Lemon Caper Butter
What is the secret to tender pasta? We tested this recipe with all Type “00” flour, half Type “00” and half all purpose, and just all purpose. Using just Type “00” made a noticeably more tender dough. Where do you find it? Try your local specialty or Italian market, or order it on Amazon. The other secret is letting it rest for 20-30 minutes after kneading. Don’t skip that step. Otherwise, this is easy and impressive. Have fun!
- 1 1/2 cups Type “00” flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs water
- 1/2 lb asparagus, blanched and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 1/4 cup Mascarpone cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 tbs chopped garlic or regular chives*
- 1/4 tsp lemon zest
*Garlic chives are the broader, flat ones. You can find them easily at Asian markets and farmers markets. Or grow a pot of them at home.
- 6 tbs butter
- 1 tbs capers
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2-3 thin slices of lemon
- Make dough: Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the middle and crack in the eggs. Add the oil and begin whisking gently with a fork, slowly pulling in flour from the edge. As it comes together, sprinkle the water over the top to produce a slightly sticky dough. On a lightly-floured surface, knead the dough for 3-4 minutes until elastic. It will still be slightly tacky. If it gets too sticky during kneading, sprinkle a little more flour on your work surface. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
- Make filling: mix together asparagus, Mascarpone and Parmesan cheeses, chives and lemon zest. Season with a little salt and a generous amount of pepper. (That’s easy, huh?)
- Make butter: melt butter in a small sauce pan with capers, garlic and lemon slices. Reduce heat to low and let flavors infuse while making and cooking ravioli. If desired, strain before serving. (This is also pretty easy.)
- Make ravioli: Set a stock pot of water to boil over high heat. When it boils, add 2 tbs salt and return to a boil before adding pasta.
- Roll out pasta with your pasta machine according to instructions. You want it thin but not transparent which is usually somewhere around one setting down from the thinnest one (9 out of 10, 6 out of 7 etc…). You’re balancing two things here, you want to make sure the dough isn’t so thin that the pasta breaks, but you also don’t want the edges, which are made up of two layers of dough, to end up too thick and doughy.
- Lay the dough on a flat surface, lightly dusted with flour, with the long side facing you. Beginning 1” from one end, place heaping tablespoonfuls of filling in the middle of the bottom half of the dough. Leave 2” between each mound of filling.
- Brush water around the filling (or just use your fingers) and fold the top half of the dough down over the bottom half to cover the filling. Press as much air as possible out of the filling pockets and seal the dough around the edges. If one of you is fairly laissez-faire and the other is obsessive, you’ll press out the right amount of air somewhere in the middle.
- Cut between the pasta using a knife or a pastry cutter – the fluted ones make the pasta look pretty but aren’t necessary.
- Boil the ravioli in two batches for 3-4 minutes a batch and serve tossed in the lemon, caper butter.