Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Just about every culture on Planet Earth has its version of a dish in which a meat- or cheese-based filling in encased in a jacket of dough.

The Chinese have their wontons; the Japanese their gyoza; the Russians, pelmeni; the Poles (and pretty much all the other Slavic folks), pierogi; the Jews, kreplach. And the Italians, Gawd bless ’em, have ravioli.

As a young Snot-Nose, I never gave much thought to the fact that ravioli and kreplach were culinary cousins. Ravioli was something that came in a can with a picture of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee; kreplach were a (very) occasional treat that would come to table floating in a bowl of my grandmother’s chicken soup. The first was pedestrian and leaden, the second ethereal.

As I grew older, though, I was exposed to ravioli that did not come out of a can. The good stuff, with tender pasta, delicate cheese fillings, and flavorful sauces. Vodka sauce, brown butter and sage, that sort of thing. All a far cry from that Boy-Ar-Dee tomato gravy-oli.

One day, while dining at Romano’s Macaroni Grill in Houston (of all places), I had yet another kind of ravioli: Ravioli Aperti, AKA open ravioli. Best described as a kind of deconstructed (unraveled?) ravioli, it had lasagne-like sheets of pasta surrounded by a sauce made of what normally would have been used as ravioli filling... almost as if the guy working the ravioli line had taken the day off, saying “Screw it - just throw it all together in the pan and serve it, willya?” But it worked! It was a whole new way of looking at a familiar old dish.

A couple of days ago, Serious Eats posted a recipe for meat and pear open ravioli. Aha! thought I. Ravioli aperti con carne e pera! The combination of savory and sweet sounded irresistible: I had to try it.

The recipe called for large tubular pasta - calamarata, a kind of ziti on steroids. But when I had had ravioli aperti, it had been prepared with lasagne-like sheets of pasta in the form of largish squares. And so I made my own pasta, hacking it up into 2-inch square sheets. Lookee:

Ravioli Aperti con Carne e Pera
Ravioli aperti con carne e pera... AKA unraveled ravioli.

The verdict?  Delicious. It would also be fun to try making this recipe as “conventional” sealed-up ravioli if I could only figure out what best to sauce it with... but meanwhile, we have a fine candidate for those rare meals when we decide to go a little carb-crazy.

Oh, Chef Boy-Ar-Dee? Won’t see him no more.

1 comment:

Kevin Kim said...

Magnificent. When I've got the funds, I'll track down some ingredients and try to make this myself.