Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sage Ravioli with Brown Butter and Hazelnuts

Looking back through the recipes on this blog, I see so many firsts. From the first time I fried chicken, to my light, buttery gougeres (my first simple marvel of french patisserie), to the first go at ice cream (fig gelato, actually), I've loved expanding my horizons in the kitchen. Today's post is another first for me, but it's so easy, many of you have probably already done it.

Ravioli are simple to make yourself, thanks to fresh wonton wrappers, now available in many grocery stores. I just never got around to taking advantage of this incredibly convenient product. Mike recently discovered them when he made some amazing fried shrimp wonton appetizers. Then we made the amazing Tunisian appetizer, Brik, and once we did that, we knew ravioli had to be the next thing on our list.

If you like making homemade pasta, by all means do it. But for me, that's just one more time-consuming, fussy step that isn't particulary challenging or fun. With wonton wrappers (or eggroll wrappers cut down to size), you can focus on the creative possibilities of homemade ravioli--dreaming up your filling, sauce and special extras that can take this from simple entree to impressive starter, or even surprising dessert (mascarpone ravioli with nutella dipping sauce, perhaps?)

Sage Ravioli with Brown Butter and Hazelnuts
I have always liked the idea of a brown butter sauce for fresh pasta, with frizzled strands of cheese just barely melting into it. I have often seen brown butter paired with sage, and adding the crunch of toasted hazelnuts seemed like a natural addition to me. I like this as an appetizer or small plate, and at least that keeps you from going overboard on the nutty butter sauce. If you've never made brown butter, know that it is temperamental. If it gets darker than a very light brown, it could be burnt--taste it to find out. Once you practice a couple times, you'll know when to whisk it off the heat. There's a useful photo of brown butter here. You will probably have extra filling and extra sauce with this recipe, so make a few extra in case any ravioli get mangled.

Serves 4 (3 raviolis per person)

1/4 cup raw hazelnuts, roughly chopped (or use dry roasted, unsalted nuts)
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 tbs. chopped fresh sage
coarse salt and black pepper
1 egg white
24 wonton wrappers
6 tbs. unsalted butter
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish

Put the hazelnuts in a large skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat, and toast, shaking the pan often, until light brown and fragrant. Remove from skillet and set aside. (You can also toast nuts on a baking sheet in a 300 degree oven until browned, about 10 minutes. Dry roasted nuts do not need to be toasted).

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta and sage. Season with salt and pepper. On a lightly floured work surface (like a baking sheet), lay out 4 wonton wrappers horizontally in the space furthest away from you. Place a tablespoon of filling in the middle of each square. Use your finger to coat the edges of the squares with egg white and press another wonton wrapper over the filling, pressing the edges tightly to seal. Cover this row of four ravioli with a kitchen towel so the dough doesn't dry out. Repeat, doing two more batches of ravioli, covering them with the towel as you go.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt it generously. While you are waiting for the water to boil, make the brown butter. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it within reach of the cooktop. Add the butter to a small saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally to melt the butter. Once it has melted completely, don't step away. Let the butter cook until it turns a light brown color and there are a few tiny brown specks at the bottom of the pan. It is crucial to stop the cooking as soon as the butter is light brown and smells slightly nutty. Remove the saucepan from the heat and submerge the base in the ice water for about 30 seconds to stop the cooking. Season the butter with salt to taste and set aside.

When the water is boiling, add the raviolis. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the dough is al dente. You might want to make an extra ravioli or two to test the cooking time if you're unsure. Using a slotted spoon, shake off any water and remove the ravioli to 4 appetizer plates. Immediately drizzle with the brown butter and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Sprinkle hazelnuts on top and serve.

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Lydia said...

Hooray, a recipe that uses fresh sage -- which is at its peak in my herb garden right now! I love using wonton skins for dumplings and ravioli -- so much easier than making dough.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

If I were in Dallas, I'd have sage enough for 50 bloggers to make this but I have none in Seattle. I did make ravioli and really enjoyed it but I must try the wonton wrapers! I do love the buttered sauce sage!

Garrett said...

I love fresh sage, and like the idea of using a wonton wrapper than making pasta, something i am terrified to do.