Monday, July 20, 2009

Shrimp Ravioli and Red Vodka Sauce

I've been waiting for this moment - when my pasta-making adventures would bring me face to face with the queen bee herself, ravioli - for a very long time. As you may already know, I get weak in the knees around the stuff. It's what I order anytime I go back to New York. It's what I dream about when I'm not in New York. I've got it bad. I find store-bought ravioli incredibly uninteresting. And doughy. But homemade? Fugeddaboutit!

So with Martha's pasta maker in hand, I cranked out some paper-thin sheets of delicate dough (this time I made it with 2 cups of flour, 3 eggs, salt and a drizzle of olive oil). Deciding on the perfect filling involved a lot of hand wringing. I mean, this was historic, me making my first ravioli, and I simply HAD to get it right. After about an hour of online browsing, I felt even more pressure and indecisiveness. Since the weather has been scorching hot (for Seattle, anyway), I wanted to pick something on the lighter side. Mushrooms, rich cheeses and cream sauces wouldn't do. Then it hit me: shrimp! And what veggie a) tastes delicious pureed, and b) accompanies shrimp perfectly? Leeks!

So I crossed my fingers and started mixing. Sauteed leeks, cooked shrimp, garlic, eggs, ricotta, a little Parmesan and a handful of fresh herbs got whizzed in the food processor. Figuring out how to best assemble the ravioli was tricky, to say the least, but I eventually found a modus operandi that worked. After hearing other people's ravioli war stories, I too was anxious about them falling apart in boiling water....but they didn't.

I decided to serve these buggers with a simple, quick red vodka sauce and I've gotta say, it was a match made in heaven. Tristan and I ooooo'ed and ahhhh'ed throughout the entire meal, muttering how unbelievably delicate the pasta was, how light and fluffy the filling turned out and how insane that the whole process took me 3 whole hours!

But honestly, I'd spend 3 hours like that any day.

Shrimp Ravioli
Scallops, lobster or crab could easily be used in place of the shrimp. And I think a simple lemon butter sauce would be an excellent alternative to red vodka sauce.

Fresh pasta sheets
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 thin leeks, washed and thinly sliced (whites and light green parts only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined and roughly chopped
8 ounces (about 1 cup) ricotta cheese
3 eggs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or a mixture of parsley & chives)

Egg wash: 1 egg + a few splashes of cold water

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and a pinch of salt; sautee, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sautee a minute longer. Transfer to a food processor.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add remaining tablespoon butter. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, just until no longer transluscent. Remove from heat and transfer to food processor.

Add ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, herbs and a pinch of salt to the leeks and shrimp. Process in short pulses until mixture forms a chunky paste. Cover and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Work with one pasta sheet at a time on a lightly floured surface. Place tablespoons of shrimp filling on upper half of pasta sheet at 1 1/2-inch intervals. Using a pastry brush or simply your finger, brush all edges with egg wash, including in between filling scoops. At this point, I find it easiest to cut segments of 4 ravioli (unless you have another set of hands helping you).

Starting at one end, carefully fold bottom half of pasta sheet over the upper filling, doing your best to match up edges. Work your way down the 4-ravioli segment, slowly removing air pockets as the pasta sheet is laid over the top. Using a pizza wheel or pastry scraper, cut into individual ravioli. I was scared to death about them falling apart when boiled, so to ensure success, pinch all edges of each ravioli together using fingers or the tines of a fork. If they become a little warped, simply trim with cutter to get clean edges. Place ravioli on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet to prevent sticking; place in refrigerator. Repeat process with rest. At this point, ravioli can be frozen for later use.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add ravioli, one at a time, and cook for about 6 minutes (they should float). Drain and serve with sauce of choice.

Quick Red Vodka Sauce
This sauce only takes a few minutes to make and can be used in a multitude of pasta dishes.

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large can (28 oz) pureed or crushed tomatoes

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes; saute until garlic is just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add vodka and bring to a simmer; cook about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, fresh parsley and cream and continue simmering for about 8 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve hot.

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