Friday, April 27, 2007

Lamb, swiss chard and pecorino ravioli with lamb reduction

Here's something I concocted in order to use up the leftover lamb reduction from my recent braised lamb shank adventure. I adapted this from two of Mario Batali's recipes, Basic Pasta and Ravioli Genovese. Basic Pasta is from his book Simple Italian Food, and Ravioli Genovese can be found here.

For the pasta, form a mound of 3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, with a good sized depression in the middle. Put five large eggs and one teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil into the depression and gradually incorporate the flour with a fork. Knead for six minutes, wrap the resulting dough ball in plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling, start by sauteeing one bunch of swiss chard (greens only) in butter and garlic for two to three minutes, until wilted. Once it's cooled down, chop it finely and put it into a large mixing bowl. Next, brown 1/4 lb of ground lamb, let it cool, and add to the chard. Add two eggs, 1/2 C of ricotta, 1 C of grated pecorino romano (pecorino toscano is a little milder than romano, but would be a good choice as well; the reason I went with pecorino instead of my beloved parmesan is that pecorinos are made from sheep's milk, while granas such as parmesan come from cow, and since lamb is central to this whole endeavor, I wanted to keep it all sheep like), 1/4 C of toasted pine nuts, 1/4 tsp of fresh ground nutmeg, a couple pinches of salt and a couple twists of fresh ground pepper, and mix.

Roll out the pasta dough (working with about a handful sized chunk at a time) until it's to the point of being almost sort of transparent. Cut a number of 3 to 4 inch rounds out of it. On each of half of the rounds, place about a teaspoon of the filling in the middle, wet the edges with water or egg white, and place a round on top, pressing the edges to seal (and making sure to press out as much air as possible). Use the tines of a fork to crimp the edges. Alternatively, you could roll out one large sheet, place a teaspoon of the filling every 2 or 3 inches, place another sheet on top and cut the ravioli into squares. Boil the ravioli for 5 to 6 minutes in a large pot of heavily salted water (this is the secret to cooking pasta - the water should be about as salty as the ocean). You should generally not add oil to the water when cooking pasta, by the way. It prevents the sauce from adhering.

As for the lamb reduction, well, go braise some lamb and you'll have plenty of lamb reduction left over. It freezes pretty well. I thawed and reheated mine and it was good as new. If you use pork instead of lamb in the filling, a basic red sauce would work nicely (as would parmesan in place of the pecorino). Or you could go Mario's way - never a bad strategy - and just drizzle melted butter over it and sprinkle a little more cheese on top.

Garnish with whatever you have at hand (I used pine nuts and parsley) and buon appetito!

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