Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Noodle Noir, Part 2
(Continued from Part 1)
After many turns of The Roller’s crank, lots of sweat, and a few choice words (but no tears, not this time), I finally had fresh pasta that I could fill, cook and sauce (see Noodle Noir, Part 1). I also had a suitable filling (also see Noodle Noir Part 1), but sauce?…I needed a sauce.
After all the labor of the noodles, I needed to use my head. The sauce had to be simple. I would have loved fresh herbs in this sauce, but it was only April, and I was still in Minnesota. I needed to use what was in the cupboard. I also only needed enough for two, so I made half the recipe.
Simple Tomato-Garlic Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
16 ounces tomato sauce
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
I sautéed the garlic in the hot oil, until it started to brown a little, being careful, oh so careful, not to burn it. I then added the pepper flakes, then the tomato sauce and the seasonings. Satisfied that it would behave itself, I set the sauce to simmer on a back burner while I dealt with the ravs.
I had to work quickly, before the raw noodles dried out. I spooned out the filling by heaping teaspoons (any more and it would bust out of the ravs and make an ugly mess) onto the lower third of the long side of the noodle strips. I left a couple inches breathing room between each blob. It would be best if they didn’t contact each other. I think you understand why. I brushed some water on three sides of the filling, to help the noodle pocket stick together, then tucked the blobs in for a nap by folding the top part of the noodle over the filling. I pressed the noodle together around the filling, keeping as much air out of the pocket as possible. I then cut the ravs apart from each other and pressed the edges together pretty hard, satisfied that the spinach and ricotta would not see daylight until dinner time.
When all the ravs were made, it was time to really put the heat to some, and put the rest on ice. Remember, I was only cooking for two, and would save the rest of the ravs for another, busier day. I brought pot of salted water to a boil for the hotties and froze the rest in a single layer on wax paper-covered pans. I was careful, having learned from experience that if these babies are stored too close to each other, they’ll stick together better than even the toughest crime families. Once they were frozen, I locked them up in freezer bags in their new, icy home.
Once the water was at a simmer, I put in some ravs, giving them elbow room, not too many at a time. I also didn’t want them to completely fall apart under the pressure, so I didn’t boil them hard. Just a simmer. There are some who would say these babies will float like corks when they are done cooking. I don’t believe them. The last piece of detective work I needed to do was to investigate my cooked ravs. I didn’t want to go through this much work only to eat raw dough. I checked a representative sample by cutting into a piece of pasta to see if it was done. 3 to 4 minutes of gentle simmering and they were cooked. I removed them from the pot. I repeated this process with the rest of the ravs, keeping the cooked ones warm in the oven.
When they were all done, I poured some hot sauce over each serving and topped it with grated cheese-Parmigiano Reggiano for me, please. Tasting it all was the real test of my day’s work, and I passed that test. Passed it with flying colors. The nuttiness and firm texture of the whole wheat pasta were a welcome change, and the increased WFQ* was just a bonus. The filling and the sauce were equal supporting partners. This was good. This was really good. I was in my happy place.
With a warm fuzzy feeling, I watched the April rain and thought of those spring foods that were still to come to Minnesota. I would wait. Perhaps not patiently, but I would have to wait. And a sexy vegetarian ravioli in a spicy red sauce would go a long way toward making me feel better that they weren’t here yet.
* Whole Food Quotient
I checked back, perhaps a little over a week later, on the ravs in the chiller. They had served enough time, though I suppose they could have lasted in there a month or more. I sprung them from their confinement, simmered them (a little longer since they were frozen) and sauced them. It was the right thing to do, and it confirmed my earlier suspicion: their only crime was being delicious.
(Photo at top by Harry Leckenby)