Restaurant Quality Ravioli at Home for $6

By Martin Musialczyk

This week’s food adventure led the Ebbtide Staff to a local haunt, Saltoro, an Italian restaurant located in Greenwood. Upon asking the staff which of the dishes stood out as a favorite, the butternut squash ravioli came out on top. But with a fairly high price point of $13, I hoped to shed some light on how to duplicate a restaurant quality ravioli to better fit the student minded budget.

Knowing how little time most students have with the countless hours spent on studying, preparing ravioli from scratch is a task best left to a restaurant professional, food enthusiast, Iron Chef, or authentic Italian who has been preparing it for years with the precision of a ravioli ninja–a precision needed to be able to pull it off in under an hour.

Otherwise, the ordeal can pretty much consume a whole day for someone trying to make it for the first time. So, instead of suggesting ways to make ravioli from scratch, the method to duplicating restaurant-grade ravioli will employ fresh pasta products found in at least two places in the area, Central Market and Trader Joe’s.

At Central Market, the Cucina Fresca line of products has many stuffings to choose from, but to stay true to this article, the focus will be on their roasted butternut squash ravioli. The ravioli comes in at a whopping $6, but with the minimal amount of other ingredients used in the remaining preparation, the final price tag will be within a more reasonable amount under the student budget.

But still, if that price is putting a bitter taste in your mouth, Trader Joe’s boasts a bunch of fresh ravioli options including a porcini mushroom truffle ravioli that comes in at under $4. Both of these ravioli will be prepared the same way, so whichever one you choose, it’ll still be quick and easy to make.

Fill a large 4-quart pot with water just above the halfway point and add about 3 tablespoons of a non-iodized salt to water and heat to boil. Place a 12-inch saute pan on a burner next to the pot of water you are heating up and turn it to a medium low (Step1).

Chop a large clove of garlic into a small mince. Take your time and protect your digits. This is probably the time you might want to avoid a deep-rooted conversation about who you’re voting for or what in the criminy is happening in “The Westworld.” But seriously, did you see the last episode? Gee Willikers! If you haven’t, you may want to give it a whirl. But if you do, don’t talk about it while chopping garlic.

These next few ingredients aren’t necessary, but if you have them on hand it will add elements to the dish that will help elevate your ravioli to restaurant quality status. Fresh basil, parmesan cheese and chili flakes may be added at different steps in the sauteing of the pasta, but they can be left out for purposes of keeping the affair budget-friendly.

Once the water gets to a roaring boil, you can decrease the heat to a medium-low and add your fresh-out-of-the-box ravioli straight into the water, being careful not to splash boiling water on your arms or feet. Give the ravioli a delicate swirl with your ladle or long handled spoon to make sure the pasta isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.

When the water returns to a boil, it should only take about two minutes of cooking time (Step2). The rule of thumb for ravioli is once the ravioli gets heated enough to steam on the inside and float in the water, wait another minute to allow the pasta seals to cook all the way through.

At that point, the pan you have been gently heating up at a medium-low should be at a reasonable warmth so that when you add your olive oil it will gently shimmer. Add the garlic to the oil and allow it to cook for about 10 seconds. The garlic at this point should have turned a slight golden color at which point you want to turn your heat up to medium.

With a small strainer, or your trusty bamboo handled spider strainer (cue cooking nerd speak), take the cooked ravioli directly out of the pot of boiling water into the pan of garlic infused oil. Public Service Announcement: any time you introduce moisture to hot oil, the event can be quite dynamic and, in some instances, very dangerous if the oil is too hot. So, make sure you add the ravioli to the pan off the heat by pulling the pan away from the burner onto a cooler area of the stove.

Once you’ve accomplished this step, shake the pan on the burner to dislodge the ravioli from the bottom of the pan (Step3). Add about a quarter cup of the pasta water you used to cook the ravioli into the pan of simmering ravioli. Unlike in the rice dish that was written about in the last article, you will want to use the starch in the ravioli to your advantage. The little amount of starch in the ravioli will end up thickening the small amount of water into a quick pan sauce (Step4).

Allow some of the water to evaporate. The ravioli should not be swimming in water. There should only be enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Once this has been established, cut the heat. At this point, you may want to add some of the optional ingredients. Add some grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese directly into the pan along with some fresh basil leaves torn by hand into smaller pieces (Step5).

For best results, grate the cheese yourself. And if you’re in the mood for some heat, add a small pinch of chili flakes–around a quarter teaspoon.

If you know how to flip food in a pan, give the ravioli a couple flips. If you don’t want to risk seeing your ravioli smack the ceiling and then drop to the floor like in a clip from “Mr. Bean,” simply stirring the ravioli with a spoon will be just as effective.

Place the contents of the pan in a shallow bowl and if you wish to add some more parmesan cheese, grate a little bit of it directly onto the ravioli and drizzle a little bit more olive oil on top (Step6). And finally: Enjoy.

I hope this opens up some money saving avenues for you without having to sacrifice quality.

Look forward to seeing you next issue.

Here’s a breakdown on the steps:
1. Boil water in a large pot.
2. Cook ravioli for about three minutes.
3. Transfer ravioli to a warmed pan of garlic infused oil.
4. Ladle a little bit of the hot pasta water to pan of ravioli.
5. Grate parmesan cheese and tear some basil leaves on top of the ravioli in the pan and mix gently.
6. Place the ravioli in a shallow bowl finishing it by grating some parmesan cheese and drizzling with a little bit of olive oil.