Ravioli with Tomato and Garlic Gravy

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Today was ravioli day.  Making homemade pasta is fun and rewarding and homemade tastes so much better.  Years ago I was a guest in the home of a first generation Italian family in Toronto.  Not being Italian I was unfamiliar with the number of courses that constituted a typical Italian meal.  We all sat around a table in a small dining room where the table and the fabric upholstered seats were all covered in heavy plastic.  The first course consisted of antipasto, a beautiful salad and lots of crusty bread.  The leftovers were cleared from the table and the homemade pasta arrived.  Spaghetti with a meat sauce.  And more bread.  It was wonderful.  I cleaned my plate and felt very satisfied and pretty full.  The table was cleared and in came the fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and more bread.  It was all I could do to eat a few more bites and listened to everyone say, “What’s the matter?  You don’t like the chicken?”  Who knew the pasta was an appetizer.  But I’m a quick study.  I learned to take much smaller portions.  And to never wear a skirt when the chairs are covered in plastic.

Today our ravioli was the entree.

The first step is making the pasta dough.

Ingredients:

2 cups of AP flour

2 large eggs

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I used a food processor.  Put the flour in and pulse it a few times. Whisk the eggs and slowly add them in with the processor running on low.

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The dough should come together in a ball.  If it looks like small pebbles add 1 tsp of water at a time.  If it is too wet and the dough is sticking to the sides add flour 1 T at a time.  Once the dough has come together in a ball remove it to a lightly floured work surface and knead it by hand until the dough is smooth, a couple minutes.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes.

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While the dough is resting prepare the filling.

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic minced

1/2 cup sweet onion in a fine dice

1 cup mushrooms diced

2 cups fresh spinach chopped

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes diced

1 1/2 cups grated Asiago and Paramesan cheese

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In a heavy skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat and sauté the garlic, onion and mushroom just until tender and fragrant.  Add the spinach and stir until wilted.  Remove from the heat.

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Stir in the diced sun dried tomatoes and the cheeses and your filling is ready to go.

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Divide the dough into six pieces.  Flatten into a disk and run through the pasta machine rollers.  Continue folding and running through the rollers until the dough is thin and shiny.  If, at any time, the dough is too sticky dust it lightly with flour.

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Stretch the dough over the ravioli form.   Fill each indentation with about 1-2 tsp of filling.  Do not over fill.

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Put a second piece of dough over the filling and run a rolling pin over the top.  Invert and remove the ravioli.

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Cover the ravioli with a clean dish towel and prepare the sauce.

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil

7-8 cloves of garlic chopped

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 pint diced tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes

salt to taste

fresh basil

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In a Dutch oven heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant and tender.  Don’t brown the garlic.  Stir in the diced tomatoes and sun dried tomatoes.

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Stir in crushed tomatoes and basil.  Reduce heat and simmer.

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Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the ravioli until tender.  Approximately 5 minutes.

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Use a slotted spoon to remove the ravioli to a serving dish.  Ladle sauce over the pasta and serve with grated cheese.

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Enjoy!

NOTE:  You can fill your ravioli with a meat or a cheese filling.  You are only limited by your imagination.  I made 48 ravioli and froze half of them.  I put them in the freezer on a pizza tray and, once frozen, dropped them in a freezer bag for another day.  You don’t really need a ravioli form but I do think you need a pasta maker to roll the dough out properly.  I had extra dough and made linguini with it.

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Chicken Cacciatore

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I recently picked up a Step by Step Italian Recipes magazine by America’s Test Kitchen and came upon a recipe for Chicken Cacciatore. Prepared the proper Italian way. I’ve made Chicken Cacciatore for years and years but a bit differently than the Test Kitchens. So I thought I’d try their recipe to see which we liked better. I’m always about changing things up.

Ingredients:

6-8 bone in chicken thighs (I used 2 thighs, 2 legs)

salt and pepper

1 tsp olive oil

1 onion chopped

3 portobello mushroom caps cubed (I used baby Bellas)

4 garlic cloves

1 1/2 T AP flour

1 1/2 cups dry red wine

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes drained

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 Parmesan cheese rind

2 tsp minced fresh thyme and 2 tsp minced fresh sage (I used basil)

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Heat oil in a Dutch oven to shimmering. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook, skin side down, until browned. About 4 minutes per side.

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Remove the chicken to a plate and drain off all but about a tablespoon of the drippings. Add the vegetables and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender. (I also added a sweet orange bell pepper.). Season with salt.

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Add minced garlic and cook another minute until fragrant. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute stirring constantly.

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Add the wine scraping up browned bits. Stir in tomatoes and broth. Season with salt and pepper.

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Remove the skin from the chicken and submerge the chicken into the gravy as well as the Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer 45-60 minutes.

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Discard the rind before serving. Taste the gravy and season to taste. Serve over the pasta of your choosing.

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I served it over spaghetti with grated asiago. It was good. But the consensus at our house was the not-authentic cacciatore is better. Sorry Test Kitchen.

Cook the chicken the same as referenced above. The way I’ve always made the gravy for cacciatore begins with dicing 5-6 slices of bacon. I cook the bacon until most of the fat is rendered but the bacon isn’t crisp. Drain off most of the fat and cook the vegetables (mushrooms, onion, and peppers) until tender.  Add the garlic and basil.  Cook until fragrant. Stir in 1 T of tomato paste. Stir in 1/2 cup of dry red wine scraping up any browned bits.  Stir in 1 quart of tomatoes. Add the bacon, Parmesan rind, and submerge the chicken into the gravy. Cook 45-60 minutes.   Serve over the pasta of your choosing.

You see the difference. A lot more tomato, a lot less wine. And bacon. My daughter says everything is better with bacon. And in this recipe I agree.

Try it both ways. Try it somewhere in between. Cooking is all about experimenting with recipes until you find something that tastes great to you.

Let me know what you think.

Lasagna Soup

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Nearly eight years ago I traded my cigarettes in for knitting needles and became part of a phenomenal group of women.  We refer to ourselves as the Knit Wits. We meet weekly for lunch and knitting and road trips and we share recipes for some of the best food ever.  Our pot lucks are ridiculous. Seriously ridiculous!

This recipe, for lasagna soup, was contributed by a very special Knit Wit who passed away two years ago at age 85. We all miss her so much but every time I make one of her recipes I know she’s smiling. She loved to cook and feed people and she was an expert at it. She’d be proud that all of us continue to make and enjoy her food. I know that this soup will easily become one of your favorites as well.

Ingredients:

1 lb Italian sausage (hot or sweet or 50/50)

2 cups onion rough chopped

1 cup carrots sliced

2 cups mushrooms sliced

1 red pepper rough chopped

2 T garlic minced

4 cups chicken broth

1 14-oz can stewed tomatoes

10 oz can tomato sauce

2 cups fresh spinach

1 cup uncooked pasta (penne, mufaloa or your favorite)

4 tsp fresh basil or 2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp oregano

2 cups fresh spinach

salt and pepper to taste

sliced provolone or fresh mozzarella

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan

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In a Dutch oven or heavy kettle brown the sausage over medium heat. If you have sausages vs bulk sausage remove the casings.

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Add the onion and carrots.

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Sauté for about 3 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, pepper, garlic, basil and oregano.

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Sauté until garlic becomes fragrant. 1-2 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Bring to a boil.

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Drop in the pasta and simmer over low heat until the pasta is cooked.

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Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted.

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Slice the provolone or fresh mozzarella (I prefer the mozzarella) and put some in the bottom of the soup bowl. Grate some fresh pram to top the soup.

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Ladle the hot soup over the cheese and top with the parm.

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This is a very hearty, filling soup. Enjoy with some crusty Italian bread or a slice of warm garlic bread. This dish will make you wish you were a Knit Wit!