Mario Batali’s Mint Love Letters

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


Recipes:

Basic Red Sauce

Mint Love Letters with Spicy Lamb Sausage 

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Homemade Ravioli with Ricotta and Asparagus

On March 27, 2011, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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This dish was requested by my wife. Years ago before we had our twin boys I had made this dish one evening in Northern Michigan staying at my in-laws cottage in Lake Leelanau. It was in my Mario Batali phase where I was watching his cooking show on FoodTV and had even had a few meals at his restaurant Babbo’s in New York City.

Two key things I learned from Batali during this phase. One, don’t over-sauce your pasta. Just gently coat the pasta. Two, use fresh pasta because dry pasta just doesn’t make a great pasta dish.

I took a course at William-Sonoma’s at the Somerset Collection a couple years ago that showed me how to make great homemade pasta using our Kitchen Aide mixer with the optional pasta attachment.

Basic Pasta Dough

2 1/3 cups flour
1 cup semolina flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs olive oil
4 eggs
2 Tbs water, plus more as needed

Combine the first three ingredients in the mixer and mix for 30 seconds on a low speed. In a separate bowl, combine the last three ingredients using a whisk to combine.

Pour the liquid mixture slowly in phases to the flour mixture with the Kitchen Aide using the flat beater to combine. Do this until the dough can be formed, but not sticky. Add a little extra water, 1 tsp at a time as needed to get right consistency.

Separate into two balls then wrap in plastic and flatten into discs (see image below.) Let them rest room temperature for 30 minutes.


Dust a cutting board lightly with flour. Cut off a 1/4 of a piece from the wrapped discs of pasta dough and roll out with a rolling pin in a rectangular shape until flat enough to go through the Kitchen Aid pasta attachment on setting #1 (thickest setting.)

Have the pasta pass through the extractor each time lessening the number by one until you pass it through on #7. Fold the pasta over two times and then repeat the process two complete times and now you should have a long, almost see-through piece of pasta. Cut and set aside.

Repeat this process with remaining pasta dough.


Cut each pasta sheet so that you can fold over a piece with a dollup of the ricotta mixture. To make the ricotta mixture combine 1 cup of ricotta cheese, 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and blend with a fork. Place 1 teaspoon of mixture on each pasta square. Wet the edges with a little water and seal each ravioli.


Bring a pot of water to boil, salt, and cook the pasta for about 5 minutes until tender.

In a separate saute pan make the sage butter sauce.

Sage Butter Sauce

5 Tbs of butter
3 Tbs of chopped fresh sage (do not use dried)
salt and pepper to taste

Add the butter and brown it on medium-high heat. Once all melted and getting a dark color add the sage and cook for 15 seconds and then add the cooked ravioli. Toss in some cooked asparagus too (optional) and serve immediately with some grated Parmesan.

Enjoy!

 

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Real Home Cooking: Shortcut Ravioli

On March 26, 2009, in Recipes, by Chris Baccus
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One thing I wanted to do with this blog was to make it about home cooking, not just gourmet cooking. Home cooking isn’t about doing everything by scratch, well at least the non-idyllic version isn’t. Home cooking is often about finding shortcuts and having dishes that are easy to make after a long day at work.

The following dish is all about shortcuts. First, I started with fresh frozen ravioli from Alcamo’s in Dearborn. The ravioli I like from Alcamo’s is the chicken portobello mushroom. It has diced all-white meat chicken breast combined with diced mushrooms. They are excellent, but run $10 for a package that serves two. If you don’t have Alcamo’s in your neighborhood, than any store bought cheese ravioli works.

I was going to accompany the pasta with my homemade Alfredo sauce, until I realized my heavy cream expired last week. So, I went with a backup sauce packet. Knorr’s garlic herb white sauce actually works very well for store bought ravioli. I did add some fresh asparagus and Parmesan Reggiano to bring some fresh elements to the dish.

There are a lot of dishes that come together without much effort. This was just one of them. I hope you find it useful if you ever are in a pinch.

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