Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Edible 'love letters'

These "love letters" are mint and pea stuffed ravioli, which are luxuriating in a spicy lamb ragù sauce. A combination of poetic liberty and culinary creativity, the ravioli were for a special Valentine's Day dinner a few weeks ago. Mama mia, what flavors and textures!! The homemade pasta was positively silky, the ravioli filling was seductively creamy, and the spicy lamb ragù sauce has some serious Italian attitude! The Minty love letters with spicy lamb ragú recipe is from molto magnifo Italian chef Mario Batali, but I took it a step further by forming letter shaped ravioli. The cooling mint that is used both in the ravs and sprinkled on top a final garnish was a perfect combination with the lamb sauce, so if you make this, do make sure you have plenty. It was a lovely, romantic dinner for two—signed, sealed and delivered, with love. 

Click to get the recipe for

Kitchen notes:

Sausage— I couldn't find the Moroccan Merguez lamb sausage that the recipe calls for so I made the sausage myself, minus the casing, which essentially was similar to making a bolognese ragú sauce. I used this homemade Merguez Sausage recipewhich is really fiery and made with ground lamb, cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds, along with paprika and Moroccan harissa, which you can find at Whole Foods Markets.  One quick note: sauté the ground lamb first and drain off all the fat that you can. Grilling the lamb in patty form would have gotten a really supreme good char flavor, then you could break it up when you made the sauce. It all goes into a Cuisinart blender at the end anyhow. 

Sauce—I made tomato sauce using just olive oil, diced onions, diced garlic, and a big can of ground peeled tomatoes. Please don't even think of buying sauce from a jar, which is filled with stuff you don't want, like sugars and preservatives. Even a plain old can of ground peeled tomatoes is better than a store bought sauce—it's bright and fresh.

Homemade pasta dough— I made Mario's basic dough recipe and rolled it super thin, using the 7th notch of my pasta maker so it would be light and tender.

Mint and pea ravioli—You can make the ravioli into any shape you wish of course. To make the envelope ravioli, I simply made rectangular squares, then added on a little triangular flap on the top. Don't overstuff them or they will be messy or explode when cooking.

Final touches—Be sure to have a good hunk of Parm-Reg or Grano Padano cheese to grate over the top of your love letters, and lots of fresh mint leaves.

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Because this meal was so time consuming to prepare, I admit it was a labor of love and took a good part of an afternoon. You'll need to make the merguez, the sauce, the homemade pasta, the mint and pea filling for the ravioli, and then assemble the ravioli. But if you have a snowy winter day, it's a fun to play in the kitchen. You could make all this in advance, even a day or two before your planned dinner date. The all you would need to do is boil water for the ravs, warm the sauce, and chop some fresh mint. There will be plenty leftover to freeze for another meal or two.

photos, Dan + Diane

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