Not that long ago I received a coupon from Buitoni for a free package of their Riserva refrigerated pastas, thanks to the Tastemaker program at Foodbuzz. I have tasted many of their pastas and the family has always like them. I particularly like the Wild Mushroom Agnolotti.
Even though it was suggested that I try the Quattro Formaggi Agnolottie, I chose Spicy Beef and Sausage Ravioli.
I wanted something meaty...and wasn't in the mood for a marinara sauce, which naturally leads me to a creamy cheese sauce. Quattro cheese + Sauce Mornay = to much cheese. I know...normally there is no such thing as too much cheese...but in this case, I thought it would be a little too rich. The Spicy Beef and Sausage Ravioli was the perfect match.
With that in mind, and with a desire to make the ravioli in a non traditional way, I came across Giada De Laurentiis Fried Ravioli recipe. It was simple, quick and very satisfying. A fulfilling meal when served with some fantastic Cheesy Garlic Bread and a simple spring lettuce mix salad with sliced red onions, red grapes and topped with shredded parmesan cheese. Or serve them as a delightful appetizer. Either way, they're going to be a hit! Crispy on the outside and a wonderfully slightly spicy meatiness on the inside.
Oil for frying (about 2 inches in a medium sized sauce pan)
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs
1 package Buitoni Spicy Beef and Sausage Ravioli
Sauce Mornay for dipping (recipe to follow)
Heat oil to about 325'.
I have a confession to make. I had started out by heating my oil in one of my cast iron skillets (don't aske why). When I was about to fry the raviolis, I got a little nervous. You know how the oil bubbles up when you drop stuff in it? Well, I was concerned about having the oil spill over the side...thus causing an oil fire. I decided that the oil needed to be "carefully" transfered to a sauce pan (which is much deeper than a skillet...still not sure why I started with the skillet). I placed the sauce pan in the kitchen sink (to catch any oil that might spill). I noticed something unknown had dripped into the sauce pan, so I quickly rinsed it out and dumped out the water. I then proceeded to pour in the hot oil....which spit and splattered upon hitting the slightly wet surface of the sauce pan. So I backed up a bit to be on the safe side and waited for it to settle. Thinking that the water had all splattered away....I began pouring the remaining bulk of the hot oil....it started spitting again, I think some oil must've spilled into the sink...and boy did it get angry then!!! I backed away about 5 feet to wait for it to settle down. All of a sudden, the oil exploded!! I had an oil fountain spurting up from my sink into the air!!! It was a rather spectacular sight. I'm sure my eyes were huge and my moouth was gaping open. Thank God, not a drop landed on me. But I can't say the same for my kitchen. Oil was everywhere!! The ceiling, window, counter tops, clean dishes that were off to the side, dripping down the fronts of the cabinets...and puddles of it on the floor. What a mess! What a lesson! WOW.
Ok...so, you are safely heating your oil in a deep...DRY sauce pan with about 2" of oil.
And your raviolis are ready for their journey
Pour the buttermilk into a shallow dish and pour the bread crumbs into another shallow dish.
Dip the raviolis into the buttermilk...allowing the excess to drip off. Then coat with bread crumbs.
Working in batches, fry the raviolis for about 3 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Remove and drain onto a paper towel lined plate and proceed with another batch until complete.
Giada shredded parmesan cheese over these little nuggets of goodness while they were still hot. Since I was serving them with a cheese sauce, I passed on that little step.
While those are cooling, make your Sauce Mornay, a.k.a. Cheese Sauce. For the cheese sauce I went to Julia Child's MtAoFC. Let me tell you something...I have been trying to make cheese sauce for years. I have followed several recipes. I have tried various cheeses. And I always ended up with something that really wants to be a creamy cheese sauce but somehow falls short. Sometimes the cheese wasn't right but always...the flour was detectable.
Always a failure.
Julie Child ROCKS!!! Her instructions, thought they are not typically laid out in the manner in which we are use to, explains in such a way that you know what you're looking for....not just doing. It doesnt just say "stir continuously for 2 minutes" but it says "stirring until the butter and flour froth together for 2 minutes without coloring". That one simple word....Froth....spoke volumes to me. That was the point where the flour had truly dissolved and was no longer detected. Not only in flavor, but in texture. And what I ended up with was the most amazing creamy cheese sauce I have ever made or ever hoped to make.
Sauce Mornay begins with a simple Sauce Bechamel, which is a basic white sauce. What makes it a Mornay are the simple ingredients that are added directly afterwards.
Sauce Mornay (Cheese Sauce)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup coarsely grated Swiss cheese
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
In a small saucepan, heat to just a boil, while stirring, the 2 cups of milk and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Remove from heat and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, over low heat. Blend in the flour and cook slowly, stirring continuously until "the butter and flour froth together for 2 minutes without coloring," thus creating a roux.
Remove from heat. As soon as it stops bubbling, pour in your hot milk all at once. Immediately start beating with a whisk, vigorously. Make sure you gather all of the roux from the sides, bottom and edges of the pan.
Return to a moderate heat and stir until the sauce comes to a boil. Boil and stir for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and beat in salt and pepper to taste.
Beat in the cheese until they have melted and are well blended into the sauce.
Season with nutmeg, cayenne and salt and pepper (if needed). Stir in the butter a bit at a time until melted and blended.
Thank you Buitoni for the coupon and giving me a chance to review your wonderful Spicy Beef and Sausage Ravioli! I have served Buitoni refrigerated pastas several times and will continue doing so. They're tasty, convenient and the whole family (especially Sir Sportsalot) really likes them.