Mario Batali’s Mint Love Letters

On April 21, 2012, in Featured, Recipes, by Chris Baccus


If you are ever in New York City, I highly recommend Babbo.  It’s an Italian restaurant from celebrity chef Mario Batali.  It’s amazing.  I say Mario is a “celebrity chef” but he is the real deal and is by far my favorite chef. His approach to Italian food that used to be featured in his Food TV Network show Molto Mario, back when Food TV had good shows instead of all of this competitive reality crap.

My favorite two dishes of Babbo’s are the oxtail gnocchi and mint love letters.  I’ve tried making both but have been more successful with my attempts at the latter than the former.  Nothing I’ve made is equal or better to what I’ve had a Babbo’s.  That said this is a very impressive dish and it is definitely worth your time and effort, especially considering how Babbo’s isn’t around the corner from my home.

This dish took about a hour and half to make, so do it on a weekend, not after work.

First thing you’ll want to do is make the Basic Red Sauce. I did this the day before.. The recipe is simple and uses these few ingredients.

First start with making your pasta dough, I use a basic recipe that requires 30 minutes after the dough is made making sure it is not sticky and wrap it in plastic. Let it sit and make your filling.

For the Mint Love Letters, ie the Ravioli, you’ll want to start with the filling.  Blend peas, mint, Parmigiano Reggiano, heavy cream and salt and pepper using a food processor. I’d advise adding the heavy cream separately until you develop a thick paste that will hold as the filling in the pasta sheets.

Now work with your pasta creating two sheets of similar size and shape that you’ll use to create about 3 to 4 raviolis.  I run the pasta through the rollers starting at thickness 1 working down to thickness 5. You can go as low as 6, but you will have some rip. I recommend thinning the sheets to size 5 thickness.

Prepare each ravioli using two thin sheets of pasta dough and small dollop of filing making sure it’s not too large as you don’t want it bursting later when boiling.

Continue making your raviolis and dust with flour so they will not stick to each other. Also start heating your water to bring to a boil, lightly salt.

Start your sauce by lightly browning your spicy ground lamb. If you do not like lamb, use ground beef and add a 1 teaspoon of each of basil and oregano and add a few flakes of dried red pepper.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes, being careful not to overcook or undercook.

While the ravioli is boiling and the meat is lightly browned, add the red sauce and about 5 chiffon leaves of fresh mint before serving. Cook the red sauce and meat for about 3 minutes.

Add several raviolis to each plate and complete with the meat sauce.  Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano. Serve.


Basic Red Sauce

Mint Love Letters with Spicy Lamb Sausage 

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Review: Candle Cafe in New York City

On September 26, 2011, in Food, by Chris Baccus

Corn Chowder on a cool late September evening

One of the most compelling attributes of New York City is its rich variety of restaurants. A stroll down any avenue or side street is like walking down the cookbook aisle of a bookstore.  You are sure to pass steakhouses, Italian cafes, Indian houses, French bistros, and just about anything else your palate desires.  Choosing can be quite exhausting. However, this last weekend I was in Manhattan and I knew exactly where I was going to sit down to explore a new experience in my culinary travels.

The Candle Café is often referred to as the best vegan restaurant in New York.  Whether it is or not, I honestly cannot confirm as this was only my second vegan restaurant in the city.  I can confirm it is a must stop for diners interested in the pleasures that can come from a menu limited to fruit, vegetable and grain.

Some of the farm-to-market entrees

Limited is not the right word as the menu explores the great bounty that can come from so many options the soil provides us and one is sure to be debating which dish to get instead of the typical struggle a non-meat eater has at most restaurants in this county – where there is a token dish for vegans, if there is even one.

That’s the beauty of a place like Candle Café. It demonstrates vegan cooking can excite even the most boorish gourmand.

It was a busy Saturday night, yet getting a table was still possible. Unfortunately, this demonstrated quite possibly the best vegan restaurant is still an oversight in Manhattan.  I was dining alone and sat at the bar near the front door. The bar is more juice bar than cocktails, yet the restaurant does feature many organic wines.

I opted for a smoothie, a bowl of corn chowder, and something called “Paradise Casserole.”  The menu also features a full page of seasonal items that was due to change next week as one customer informed me. She was eating a delicious looking marinated, sesame seed crusted tofu salad.

The corn chowder promptly arrived following my smoothie.  Since vegan uses no dairy, the chowder was more of a broth than creamy puree.  There were whole kernels of corn and diced carrots and celery.  The broth was full of flavor with a bit of thickness that did border the line of soup versus chowder.

Paradise Casserole lives up to its name

Soon after finishing my soup and it being cleared away, the Paradise Casserole arrived. It’s a layered dish compromising of sweet potato puree, black beans, and millet. The millet acted as the foundational integrity as the casserole lay on top a bed of sautéed kale. A small cup of warmed balsamic vinaigrette rested to the side, which a poured gently around the edges of the kale.

Casseroles have pretty much died a much deserved death since their over use in the 1970s, yet Candle Café makes an argument for the return of the casserole.  The layering adds to the experience where one bite can comprise of sweet potato and kale while other bites may include the sweet potato, black bean and millet.  The warmed vinaigrette added another level of interest. It all ended well as I mixed in some more dressing with the sautéed kale.

Candle Café was a pleasant departure from my normal stops in New York and its menu made me consider future dishes to prepare at home as we have transitioned to three to four days of vegetarian or vegan meals each week.

Sound proofing the Vitamix

I did leave one final takeaway. The juice bar has a Vitamix blender that was encased in Plexiglas to reduce the loud noise of the machine. Having the same blender at home and knowing the deafening sound it blares, perhaps a Plexiglas project is in my near future.


Candle Café
1307 Third Avenue
New York City, NY



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