Archive for ‘March, 2013’


I am not a religious person, but I do celebrate good food. This fact is perhaps no more apparent than at Easter.  When I was growing up, Easter ritual meant that it was time to get out the sugared coconut and construct “the bunny cake.” It also meant (and I know I’m not alone here) obsessively consuming Cadbury eggs, with their addictive sunrise colors and melting appeal, always a few too many, and ultimately, swearing off the sickly treat for the next 11.75 months of the year.

While this year I might just be tempted to bring back the bunny cake, last year we celebrated Easter dinner with something new, and decidedly more adult: egg raviolo. On the heels of my spaghetti carbonara kick, and feeling enamored by the possibilities of the uncooked egg, I recalled this daring dish. I had eaten a heart-stopping version of it once, while visiting a friend in DC.

So what the heck is an egg raviolo? For starters, raviolo in Italian is simply the singular of ravioli, thus indicating a single piece of filled pasta is served, rather than many, one to a plate. In this case, an over-sized mound of filled pasta hides a delicate surprise at its center: a golden, unbroken egg yolk. And just as freshly rolled pasta dough does the work of the egg shell, so too must something replace the whites. You guessed it: ricotta.


While there seems not to be too many rules of tradition to this dish (other than the fact of the egg yolk), most of the recipes I found employ a mixture of ricotta in which to couch the egg. This not only provides a necessary pillow, but also a mellow, creamy counterpart to the warm, runny yolk. One friend recently described a dreamy “souffle-like” egg yolk raviolo that she thoroughly enjoyed at a San Francisco restaurant, and I would imagine this could be nearing the pinnacle of perfection for this dish.

My filling was decidedly more dense, but it had just the right flavor, and provided a sturdy life preserver for the star ingredient. It contained a mix of ricotta, spinach, parmigiano, nutmeg, pepper, and a bit of lemon zest, which I blended in a food processor and then piped onto sheets of pasta. The fun part, of course, came next – dropping in the yolk.

Much like making carbonara, cooking the egg raviolo sounds far more precarious than it actually is. In fact, the next time I make it I will roll my pasta to the thinnest setting on my machine (I did the second thinnest and found it was actually too thick, and nowhere near danger of collapse when filled with cheese and egg). Ensuring a tight seal on the pasta is an essential and simple step for success; I traced an egg white circle around the ricotta raft before laying the sheet of pasta on top and lightly pressing along its edges. If you have a round biscuit cutter, this would be a great option for making neat pieces of pasta; however, I just cut mine out with a knife.

At this point it’s “go” time. In a saucepan I melted half a stick of butter before gingerly dropping my four ravioli into a pot of boiling water. Just before pulling the ravioli with a slotted spoon, I added a few tablespoons of pasta water to the butter. Although I have seen versions that include anything from bacon to truffle shavings to blood sausage to sage leaves, the butter and a fresh grating of parmigiano, in my opinion, is all the raviolo needs.

Plating them, one for each guest at our table, I felt that a new tradition had been started. Easter Egg Raviolo to open the meal and, who knows, maybe this year a bunny cake to finish.



Last week my husband, Justin, left for a late winter adventure to Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain, and the northern limit of the Appalachian Trail. The trip is an annual tradition amongst some of the outdoorsiest men of his family, along with a motley crew of backcountry skiers and ice climbers hailing from the mid-coast, the county (that’s Aroostook, if you’re not from Maine), and a possible New Hampshire straggler.

While I like to consider myself a solid adventurer, it is a journey that I regularly sit out. This year, the first year in our own house, I have added companionship. Look at this beauty:


Lest I mislead you with my title, or the photo above, I should clarify that I’ve been left at home with a half bucket of mozzarella, not a full bucket. The first half of the bucket went toward Justin’s edible contribution to the trip, a dinner of pizza rolls for the gang. Luckily, the nice people at Micucci Market suggested to him a 3 lb. bucket of Fior di Latte. Using his own good sense he decided on 2 lbs. of sopressata and capicola.

Containing 12 balls of mozzarella, the bucket cost a whopping $16. I love Miccuci.

Before heading off to the snowy peak of Maine’s highest peak, Justin bode me farewell, and instructed me to eat the mozzarella. And so I did.

A familiar sandwich

One of my favorite jobs at work is taking on any project that involves InDesign, Adobe’s desktop publishing program. Sometimes, however, the program gets the best of me, and I lose track of time and space. Earlier this week I had one such afternoon, but luckily the bucket of mozzarella had my back. That morning I had whipped up a sandwich of sopressata, mozzarella, baby chard, and whole grain mustard on Rosemont’s whole grain scala bread. Dying of hunger and tired of sitting down, I ate the sandwich standing while staring mindlessly out the window.

Memory transported me back in time, to a crowded train in Italy. I was 22 years old and generally trying to decide where the next chapter of my life would take me. When I boarded the dusty regionale in a small port town on the Adriatic coast, there was only standing room. I arranged myself between the other passengers bound for Bologna, and attempted to pass the time with a book.

About half an hour into our journey, the young woman with a bob haircut who was standing beside me, unearthed a sandwich from her bookbag. I didn’t think that I had been gazing at her lunch with longing desire, but she must have known I would not refuse her offer of half the sandwich. She told me that her father had made it for her as she got ready to head back to university.

I’ve had two transcendent moments with mozzarella, and this was one of them. While the other involved a late-night party in southern Italy, playing cards and gorging on huge braids of buffalo mozzarella as if common bar mix, this moment was quiet, simple, and remarkably clear – even when I think of it now. My realization was this: mozzarella is made more fantastic when put in contact with just the right ingredients.

In other words, the cheese on its own would have been good, yes, but it became superior – magical – when paired with the bread and greens that comprised the other components of this simple sandwich. It was transformed. The greens, picked from her father’s garden, were fresh and bitter, tossed with a fruity olive oil and an expertly assessed dressing of salt (Italians seem innately to know better than the rest of us how to salt their greens). This fruity, bitter, salty mix mingled perfectly with the slightly sour juice from the mozzarella, and yeasty, baked flavor of the bread. With each bite I marveled at how harmoniously they shared the spotlight, elegantly giving way to one another. In taste and texture, both.

From this moment forward I understood mozzarella differently. I realized that one of pizza’s greatest victories lies in the slurry of liquid that forms between the tomato sauce and mozzarella run-off. And a quick bowl of spaghetti with pesto can have no greater favor done for it, in my opinion, than to be topped with a few chunks of mozzarella and fresh tomato.

Which was exactly what I enjoyed when I got home

That evening, as I maunched down my bowl of pesto (Rosario’s, so good), made silky by mozz and zesty by “cocktail” tomatoes (who puts them in a cocktail?), I thought about how it is, in some regard easier to taste the full flavor of mozzarella when it is eaten with something else. In fact I was still tasting it as I ate my imperfectly salted green salad.

It was a full day of mozzarella, for sure, and I made positive progress on my promise to Justin. However, the days ahead had other plans for me, and no more meals at home. Luckily the bucket kept the remaining cheese fresh. And so we celebrated his return with what else – pizza.