It sounds like a super-modern idea: ravioli filling poached on its own and served without the pasta. That’s our go-for-the-gusto, eat-dessert-first spirit. Plus everybody’s cutting down on the carbs these days.
But people were making precisely this sort of thing during the Renaissance with cheese ravioli fillings. They called them ravioli bianchi. They’re as dainty and elegant as you might imagine, and certainly a conversation piece.
But how do you make naked ravioli without having the filling fall apart on you? It’s a delicate business. The grated cheese is mixed with egg white, which will eventually stiffen and make everything hold together, but you have to be careful. Too little egg white won’t stiffen adequately and too much will make the mixture too liquid to hold anything like a handsome shape — by the time it stiffens, the “ravioli” may have spread into strange tongue-like shapes (which will still taste good).
Even in the best of circumstances, I have to admit, these don’t look totally like regular ravioli. You pay a certain price for high concept and the whole low-carb thing; inevitably they’re a little irregular. On the other hand we don’t hold a certain irregularity against gnocchi. Think of these as carb-free gnocchi.
The following recipe is based on one that appears in a manuscript called Buehler 19 in the Pierpont Morgan collection. It’s certainly a dish of its time. In the Renaissance, people were mad for sweet spices, so the original version is flavored with cinnamon, ginger and saffron.
On top of that, they didn’t have tomatoes in Italy yet. (When they finally got them, for a long time the only thing Italian cooks could think of to do with tomatoes was pick them green and fry them like eggplant slices — that’s right, fried green tomatoes is Italian.) Lacking any tomato sauces, they usually served their pasta with melted butter — and sugar, if they could afford it.
Cheese with sugar, butter and sweet spices is perfectly fine in its way, but more exotic than this recipe needs to be. There’s no reason we couldn’t substitute Parmesan for the spices and serve these naked beauties on top of some marinara.
I’ve found the following proportions work best. Be careful that the water doesn’t come to a full boil while the ravioli are in it or they might come apart. On the other hand, if they do, just hide the disobedient pieces under the sauce.
By the way, when I’m in a hurry, I’ve been known to use supermarket pre-shredded mozzarella for this. Do not judge me.
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
- 1 egg white
- 1½ to 2 cups marinara (say, one 14-ounce jar)
- Put the mozzarella and parmesan in a food processor and process until fairly smooth. Add the egg white and process to a paste.
- Divide the cheese into 6 portions. Roll each into a ball about the size of a walnut; roll between your hands until quite smooth.
- Bring a quart of water to the boil in a saucepan and reduce the heat to a slow boil. With a slotted spoon, place the ravioli in the water. Bring the heat back up to a very slow boil and cook until done, about 8 minutes. The ravioli will flatten into disk shapes. Turn them over with the slotted spoon after 4 or 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the marinara sauce. Divide between two bowls.
- When the ravioli are ready, remove them with a slotted spoon, drain a moment and place on the sauce. Sprinkle with more Parmesan if you like.
Originally posted on ZesterDaily .