Recipe: Sweet and Savory Ravioli
To celebrate Italian Heritage Month, Columbus Day, and the wonderful pears and grapes in season right now, try this unusual savory-sweet pasta dish.
Fruit and pasta may sound like a modern fad, but the combo has a long history. My passion for pasta with fruit began while researching my first cookbook, Shakespeare’s Kitchen, when I discovered the many sweet-savory pasta dishes of the Renaissance. Now I’m always on the lookout for fruit and pasta pairings when in Italy and constantly pester my Italian friends to send me recipes. This pasta recipe, direct from Italy, features a very unusual combination of ingredients—sausage, grapes, roast beef, pears and even a sprinkle of almond cookies.
I was able to find all the ingredients, even Italian almond amaretti cookies, right here in Great Barrington at Locke, Stock & Barrel on Stockbridge Road. They not only had one of my favorite pastas Garofalo but they had it in my favorite shape—toothsome rings of pasta called calamarta. You’ll love how nicely Garofalo pasta keeps its al dente quality until the last bite.
“Open” Meat and Pear Ravioli
From Pasta Modern: New & Inspired Recipes from Italy (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2013) by Francine Segan
Nowadays, many Italians, pressed for time, forgo ravioli making and turn the filling into a free-form sauce for pasta. It’s a very liberating concept! The flavors are the same and it saves time.
Lombardy, a region in northern Italy, is renowned for its casconcelli, delicious ravioli made with an odd but oh-so-tasty assortment of ingredients: salami, roast beef, pears, grapes, and crushed almond cookies. The filling makes an exceptionally tasty sauce for any dried pasta.
3 tablespoons butter
2 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
1 sweet sausage
1/4 pound roast beef, thinly sliced then cut into strips
1 garlic clove, minced
3 small fresh sage leaves
1 large pear, thinly sliced with peel left on
½ cup seedless grapes, cut in half
1 pound calamarata shaped pasta, preferably Garofalo brand
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
3 amaretti cookies, crushed, optional
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the meat from the sausage casing and crumble into the pan; cook until browned. Add the roast beef, garlic, whole sage leaves, pear and grapes. Cook the mixture until the pears are soft.
In the meantime, cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until almost al dente. Drain and toss into the sauce along with 1/4 cup of its cooking liquid. Stir well and cook, adding more cooking liquid, if needed, until al dente. Stir in the zest, 1/3 cup of grated cheese, cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg and minced parsley to taste, until well amalgamated. Season with salt and pepper and serve topped with more shaved or grated cheese and a sprinkling of amaretti crumbs, if using.
Tips to Making Perfect Pasta
1. Use a big pot and lots of water so the pasta has room to move while it cooks. Use at least 1 quart (approximately 1 liter) for every 1/4 pound of pasta.
2. Think horizontally when cooking small amounts or filled pasta. When making long pasta like spaghetti for just one person, Italians put it into a wide shallow pan. You need only fill the pan with enough water to cover the spaghetti horizontally, not vertically!
3. Never put oil in the water. It prevents the pasta from releasing its starch and absorbing the sauce.
4. Do not add the pasta until the water boils or the pasta will become gummy.
5. Use the time on the box only as a general guideline. The best way to tell if pasta is ready is to taste it. Start tasting 3 to 4 minutes before the package’s suggested cooking time.
6. Never rinse pasta. The starch on the pasta helps sauces adhere to it, and is a thickening agent for the sauce, too.
7. Always save a little of the pasta cooking water to toss with the pasta and sauce to thicken and meld the flavors. Again, it’s that starch that helps bring everything together.