Ravioli has been one of my favorite foods since I was a little kid. My Italian-Argentinian grandparents would make them by hand, and my first birthday was celebrated with a huge raviolada. I kept the same tradition when I celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, over 18 years ago, though in that occasion, as well any subsequent ones, I bought the ravioli already made, from the supermarket.
Genova Delicatessen Ravioli are, by far, my favorite ravioli in America. They have the softest, most supple pasta shells of any – fresh or frozen – that I have eaten. Indeed, as far as texture goes, I don’t think I’ve had any served at restaurants that surpass them.
The fillings are OK. Good without being too special. They are mildly seasoned, so they don’t stand to very flavorful sauces. In this occasion I paired them with a truffle pasta sauce from Safeway, and it was too much for it. Butter and Parmesan cheese are sufficient.
The ravioli come frozen and require that you separate them before boiling. They are rather small, so it’s a quick 5-minute boil. They do cost about twice as much as Safeway-brand ravioli, but they are a whole level above them.
Plus what I learned about truffles & are the truffles sold at the Berkeley Bowl any good?
During a very brief stay in Barcelona, my daughter fell in love with a dish of truffle ravioli in a parmesan and truffle oil cream sauce at one of the Sensi tapas restaurants. So when she asked that I include a pasta dish for our Christmas dinner, I immediately thought of that dish – and started researching recipes and truffles.
Truffles, I knew, were very expensive and rare fungi that grows naturally in Italy and France and is only available at exorbitant prices for a few months of the year. What I didn’t know is that it’s extremely hard to preserve them – because it’s their aroma which actually gives dishes the ethereal earthy flavor that we so like. Infusing them in oil doesn’t really work, but food scientists were able to isolate its most prevalent odorant – a compound called 2,4-Dithiapentane – and replicate it. This is what is mixed with olive oil, butters or salt and sold as “truffle” whatever. That is to say, this is what most of us know as truffle flavor. The little pieces of truffle we see in commercial products are apparently there mostly for show.
There seems to be a revolt against truffle oil among some top chefs, who belief its fake flavor confuses diners and stops them from being able to appreciate the subtleties of real truffles. Thinking back to the truffle dishes I’ve had, I think this is likely to be the case. I still dream of Aquerello‘s ridged pasta with foie gras, scented with black truffles, which I believe is topped with real truffle, but most other truffle dishes I recall did seem to be rather one-dimentional. Years ago, my husband gave me expensive botles of black and white truffle oil for Christmas, so I know those flavors quite well. While I didn’t care much for the white truffle oil, the black truffle oil does impart a rather tasty flavor.
I found many recipes online for pasta in a truffle sauce, and at first my decision was on whether to use truffle oil or butter. While researching what was easily available to me, I found that the Berkeley Bowl was actually carrying fresh black truffles for about $160/lb (via instacart). Given that the page offered no information about these truffles, and that French black truffles are currently selling for $95/oz (a regular truffle weighs an ounce or less), I was quite doubtful of these – but I did learn that truffles are also grown in the West Coast – indeed, as close as Napa Valley – so I imagined they were domestic. My daughter suggests, however, that they might just be expired truffles – not fresh enough to retain much of their flavor. She might have been right.
Ultimately, I decided to give them a try – and so far I’ve had mixed results. I first used them the night I got them by shaving them on a dish of plain pasta served with vegan butter. The truffle shavings completely failed to impart any flavor on the dish. It was a total failure.
For my Christmas Eve dish I decided to do something different. I took part of a truffle and chopped it very finely and infused it in good quality melted butter early in the day – so that it was solid by the time I actually made the sauce for this dish. This, by itself, didn’t give the sauce much truffle flavor, but I think it helped it build, so by the time all the ingredients were combined – the truffle ravioli, the sauce and the shaved truffle on top – the results were delicious. The dish had a very earthy flavor, truffly but not as strong as truffle oil.
I was lucky enough that I was able to follow this recipe closely, as I was able to find the called-for taleggio cheese at the Berkeley Bowl as well. The recipe writer suggests that you can substitute this cheese with Fontina, Robiola or Brie, though to me its flavor was closer to camembert. Indeed, I added a couple of ounces of camembert, as I hadn’t gotten as much taleggio as the recipe called for. I’d probably had done better using less cheese, as the sauce was a tad too salty – I’m making this recommended adjustment in the recipe below.
I wanted to make ravioli in the first place, and was happy to find porcini & truffle ravioli from the Pasta Shop at the Berkeley Bowl. These are made with “truffle essence”, that is to say, the artificial aromatic compound. They were tasty by themselves, but they were really elevated by the sauce and the shaved truffle.
To store truffles before using them, dry the surface with a paper towel and then place in a bowl filled with uncooked rice (to help draw moisture away). Store in the fridge or a cool place in your house.
Ravioli in Truffle Sauce Recipe
12 oz fresh or frozen mushroom ravioli
2-3 Tbsp truffle butter
8 oz taleggio cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes
3/4 cup heavy cream
Parmesan cheese to taste
Cook the ravioli according to package instructions, drain.
Meanwhile, melt the truffle butter, cheese and cream over medium heat – stirring frequently. Transfer the ravioli to the sauce and coat all over. Transfer to a serving dish or individual plates.
My vegan daughter wanted pasta with a creamy pesto sauce for Thanksgiving, and I, of course, obliged. I was fortunate to find this amazing recipe online and both my daughter and her non-vegan sister loved it. It did require a couple of adaptations from the original recipe, noted in the one below.
12 oz pasta
2 cups plain, unsweetened oat milk or another vegan milk
Meanwhile, add the milk, pesto, corn starch, nutritional yeast and salt to a medium sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it starts to boil. Turn heat down to medium and continue whisking until it has the consistency you want, add more cornstarch if necessary.
Truth be told, I love pasta baked with sauce and cheese, and I’m a pretty big fan of good meatballs as well. Still, this is the sort of dish I can easily make on my own and, as it turned out, much better.
There were lots of things wrong with this dish. First, baking the meatballs was a mistake, they were left dry and with a crusty shell. The recipe also called for too much salt. Second, the tomato sauce was pretty tasteless. No wonder, making a pasta sauce requires a long simmering town. This dish would have been much better with a commercial pasta sauce. Finally, the mozzarella cheese was pretty bland. The dish could really have used some Parmesan cheese instead of the bread crumbs that was included.
I paid ~$8.50 for this meal kit for two people with the discount.
What a complete waste of calories! Seriously, if you are going to eat all that pasta and all that cheese, make it worth it! Alas, despite the presence of two cheeses, this dish is very, very mild. You can barely taste the cheese – it would seem mascarpone cheese completely dilutes the flavor of Parmesan.
And as if 1,000 calories and over 50 grams of fat for a pretty “blah” dish wasn’t bad enough, I was hungry again a few hours after eating this!
On the plus side, this was easy to make. And the broccoli was fresh and tasty. But there was just no point to this meal.
I paid a tad over $6 for this kit, or $3 per serving with a promo.
My vegan daughter is into zucchini. She only recently discovered it (i.e. was willing to give it a try) and now she can’t get enough. I made her pasta with zucchini the other day, by just winging it, but tonight I decided to actually shop for and follow a recipe. I decided on this Blue Apron recipe for Fusilli Bucati Pasta with Summer Squash, Corn, & Tomatoes because it was simple and easy to “veganize”.
I did, of course, make some changes to the recipe – as you can see by ingredient list below. Instead of fusilli, I used rigattoni pasta. I prefer to give my kids chickpea pasta, rather than wheat pasta, as it has more fiber and protein – and Grocery Outlet, my closest grocery store, didn’t have chickpea fusilli. I used more garlic and more corn than what came in the Blue Apron kit because it was so recommended by the people who commented on the recipe. I used zucchini instead of summer squash as we’re still in winter and cherry tomatoes because they were easy to find. And I used Romano/Parmesan/Asiago cheese mix because that’s what I had at home – though instead of adding it to the pan, I served it on the side. I did the same with the butter. That way, both my vegan and my non-vegan daughters were happy. Finally, I used basil instead of parsley because several reviewers said basil worked best.
My kids were very happy. My oldest daughter liked it as much as any meal kit I’d ever bought – and while the youngest didn’t like the tomatoes (she’s currently anti-tomato), she just picked them out. The kids particularly liked the corn, which added crunch and sweetness to the dish. Next time I’ll experiment with using other types of tomatoes to see what work best for both girls.
In all, I spent $9 to make this recipe – a significant saving over the $20 it would have cost if I bought it from Blue Apron. This includes the price of the ingredients I had to buy in larger quantity than needed (e.g. the pasta and corn, which they only had packaged by four cobs), but not of the items I had at home.
Blue Apron Ingredients
½ lb Fusilli Bucati Pasta
½ lb chickpea rigattoni pasta
2 cloves garlic
3 cloves garlic
1 ear corn
2 ears corn
1 Summer Squash
½ lb Heritage Globe Or Cocktail Tomatoes
10 oz cherry tomatoes
¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tbsps Butter
2 tsp butter
2 Tbsps Grated Pecorino Cheese
Romano/Parmesan/Asiago cheese mix
1 bunch Parsley
6 basil leaves
Pasta with Zucchini, Corn, & Tomatoes
This recipe feeds four, it doubles the recipe in the kit.
1 lb pasta of your choice
4 ears of corn
1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Zucchini, cut in 1/3″ thick half moons
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch basil leaves, coarsely chopped
butter to taste (optional)
Grated cheese to taste (optional)
Put a pot of salted water to boil. When ready, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, cut corn kernels off the cob and discard cob and silks. Season halved tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. When hot, add the zucchini slices all in one layer and fry until brown, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add corn and garlic and stir fry for two minutes. Add the tomatoes, season, and stir fry for another minute. Turn down heat to low. Mix in half of the chopped basil.
Once the pasta is ready, drain, reserving 3/4 cup of cooking liquid. Add pasta to the vegetables and mix. Add the cooking liquid and cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes, or until the water boils off.
Transfer to serving plate(s) and sprinkle remaining basil on top. Served accompanied by butter and cheese.
My daughter had a craving for zucchini tonight (!), and I didn’t really have many ingredients to work with. So I sauted succhini slices in some olive oil with some chopped garlic (I used 2 cloves but should have used 4), cooked some chickpea pasta, and then added it to the pan. The zucchini had started to caramelized by the time I added the pasta and it was pretty sweet. I added some fresh thyme, and my daughter was quite happy with the results.
Like pretty much everyone in the whole world, my kids love pasta. Alas, I wish it was more nutritious – so whenever I can find some pasta that seems better, I give it a try.
Barilla veggie pasta is made with zucchini and spinach pure and supposedly gives you a full serving of veggies. However, it doesn’t have any more fiber than regular pasta – perhaps because it’s not made with whole wheat. It does have some vitamin A, though I think it may be better to get this by adding some shredded carrots to the pasta sauce you’re using (something which I just thought of, so never tried – but will now). Still, substituting this pasta for regular pasta is a painless way to get a bit more nutrition.
There are some minuses, however. Now that Barilla has abandoned its anti-gay practices, the main one is the price. It can cost about twice as much as bargain regular spaghetti brands, and it costs 25% more than the regular Barilla pasta. However, it’s still far cheaper than other enhanced pasta brands. It’s sold in a 12 oz package, which is perfect for a four-person family, but may be too little for larger families.
In all, I’ll probably buy it, particularly when it’s on sale, though I’d like to try the more nutritious brands as well.
I got this recipe from Allrecipes.com and it’s absolutely delicious! Heart attack worthy, but well, worthy.
1 package pasta (penne, ziti, rigatoni or something of the sort).
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 lb mild Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (with garlic & basil if available)
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
Boil pasta until it’s al dente. Drain and place in an 13″ x 9″ baking dish.
In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sausage and cook until browned. Pour out and discard excessive fat. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the white wine and deglace the pan. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix well.
Sprinkle both cheeses on top of the pasta and bake in a 350°F. oven for 20 minutes.
Mike, the kids and I have now gone to Luigi’s for dinner twice – once, in May 2012, when coming back from the Redding area after watching the amazing lunar eclipse, and more recently, last November, when coming back home from Oregon. Both times we had quite a good meal.
There are two words to describe Luigi’s (OK, maybe they should count as tree): cheap and large portions. Indeed, Luigi’s has the largest variety of pizza sizes we’ve ever seen. You can get a 10″ mini – but also a 30″ “Big Luigi”. It’s big enough for a large crowd.
I can’t recall exactly what we’ve had in those two occasions, but I know we’ve sampled both the pizza and the pasta and we’ve been happy with both. The pasta seems freshly made (but I’ve only had their beef ravioli, $4.60), their huge meatballs are quite tasty and the pizza features fresh ingredients.
There is another pizza restaurant in Red Bluff I want to try, but this one is conveniently located by the freeway and easy to find, so I’m sure we’ll stop by again.
Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta
75 Belle Mill Rd.
Red Bluff, CA
Su-Th 10:30 AM – 9 PM
F-Sa 10:30 AM – 10 PM