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.