And now, it’s time for another installment from my husband and guest writer, S:
As I wrote in my prior guest appearance, I was raised on Italian food. Well, mostly spaghetti, with wonderful homemade sauce. About once every two months, my mother would make ravioli, which was a real cause for celebration. Round or square, it didn’t matter. We all loved it. And it was always cheese only; never with meat! The world had yet to discover the variety of fillings ravioli could contain. (Or maybe it had—but South Jersey definitely hadn’t.)
In my adult life, for no particular reason, I rarely eat ravioli and never make it. It has little to do with whether it’s fattening or not or what kind of filling is in it. I suspect if my mother made some the next time I visited, topped with her great sauce, I’d dig in, but otherwise I don’t think much about it.
Then about two years ago, I was mixing the sound for a Food TV cooking show called “Ciao America” hosted by Mario Batali. He went from city to city, finding the best and most idiosyncratic Italian food around. One perfect example was t-ravs, the name for breaded, deep-fried ravioli as it is enjoyed in St. Louis. As are a lot of the other meals Mario indulges, it’s incredibly unhealthy and looks delicious. Since I would spend upwards of ten hours mixing a single 23 minute episode, I’d watch and re-watch the same tempting food being cooked to perfection. I rushed home with the t-rav recipe and my wife humored me just once. And it didn’t live up to my imagination, which is either a sin or a blessing, depending which side of the medical profession you’re on. And so ravioli once again faded from my field of vision.
Until recently, that is. When Debbie and I went back to Maine, she said that this time we’d have to eat at Sul Mare, a restaurant not far from our lovely cottage. Unfortunately, the experience was almost completely negative. Most of the food was simply weak: too salty or uninteresting or whatever. A real letdown. The highlights were the service (we said we didn’t like our main courses early on; they were apologetic and charged us only for the appetizers) and the grilled ravioli appetizer.
It was fresh smoked mozzarella ravioli, grilled and served over luscious slices of grilled eggplant. It was heavenly, down to the grill marks. Debbie and I decided that when we got home we’d give it a shot.
It was OK for a first attempt, but not a home run. Debbie bought some porcini ravioli, made locally, which is a great place to start. We cooked it, broiled it [editor’s note from Debbie: We have yet to pull out our mini-Weber grill this summer, I’m ashamed to say, so we just used the oven], and served it with sauce. (We didn’t serve it over eggplant.) True, it had a slightly crunchy and almost smoky feel to it, but I don’t think we’ve cracked the code. Debbie liked it more than I did.
Please, take a gander at our exact process and let us know what you think. What did we miss?
Broiled (or Grilled) Ravioli
Serves 6 as an appetizer, 3-4 as a main course
1 package of fresh or frozen ravioli of your choice
Tomato sauce, warmed [homemade is best, but your favorite jarred sauce will be just fine, too]
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Chopped basil or Italian parsley
Boil a couple of quarts of water, lightly salted. Add the ravioli, a couple at a time, stirring in between to keep them from sticking to the bottom. Cook according to package directions. Drain well—the more moisture you can remove the better the final result. Turn the oven to Broil [or if you’re not as lazy as we are, fire up the grill]. Place them on the broiler pan and put in the broiler for 5-7 minutes, or until the ravioli skins start to brown and blister. Turn them and broil for another 3-4 minutes, or until the flip side is browned, too. [If you’re using a grill, brush or spray both sides of each ravioli with olive oil before putting them on the grill, and cook as described above.] Serve over a layer of warm sauce, with parmesan and fresh herbs if you like.