CORN RAVIOLI with PANCETTA & SAGE

Me: It started with reading Omnivore’s Dilemma — I internalized a zealot’s distaste for corn. For all its versatility in the production of industrialized foodstuff – from the unseen glue in a Chicken McNugget to the soul of Coca-Cola, I came to see corn as enemy to all that was good about food. That romanticized heartland descriptor, “corn-fed,” assumed an insidious irony.

You: Dude, what baggage!

Me: Tell me about it.

You: Loosen up.

And there it is, the mantra that cures all. Why shouldn’t corn sit in a privileged place next to tomatoes, chard, virginal radishes? This ravioli makes a persuasive case. It causes me to release the angst typical of a someone who’s just read anything with the word “Dilemma” in its title. The corn flavor here is clear and true. Instead of cloying, its sweetness is a foil to salty pancetta, pungent sage, and the zing of Aleppo pepper. Truth be told, these were supposed to be agnolotti, but it was my first time making pasta like this and I slipped seamlessly into the bosom of Mother Ravioli.

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SWEET CORN RAVIOLI with PANCETTA, SAGE & ALEPPO MASCARPONE  

ravioli filling recipe recipe by Wolfgang Puck:
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups white corn, grated from about 4 ears
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ounce goat cheese
3 ounces mascarpone
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, minced

pasta dough recipe by Mario Batali:
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs

for assembly:
chicken broth to boil the ravioli
1/3 pound of pancetta, diced
1/3 cup of corn kernels
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup of mascarpone
1/2 cup chicken stock
1-2 teaspoons dried Aleppo pepper
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful of smaller sage leaves, briefly fried

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, bring the cream to a boil and reduce until about 1/3 cup remains. Stir in the corn, salt, pepper, and sugar and stir constantly until the mixture reduces and is thick enough to coat a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and thyme. Adjust seasoning to taste. Place bowl over an ice bath (or in the refrigerator) to set the filling.

For the pasta dough, mound the flour in the center of a large wooden board (or a countertop). Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs. Use a fork to beat the eggs together and gradually incorporate the flour, starting with the inner rim of the well, then moving outward. When half the flour is incorporated, the dough will begin to come together. Start kneading the dough using the palms of your hands. Once the dough is cohesive, set the dough aside and discard any dried bits. Continue kneading for 10 minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature before using.

When both the dough and filling are ready to use, run the dough through a pasta machine to make pasta sheets. Follow this tutorial to make the ravioli. I like to briefly freeze the ravioli in advance of assembly in order to prepare the other ingredients. In a skillet, saute the pancetta until it is crispy and nicely colored. Add the corn kernels and saute for a few more minutes. Add the butter, mascarpone, and Aleppo pepper and stir until incorporated. Set this skillet aside. Bring a pot of slightly salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and cook for 2-3 minutes until al dente (slightly longer if frozen). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked ravioli to the pancetta-corn-sauce mixture on medium heat. Gradually add chicken stock until you reach the desired consistency (the sauce should quickly reduce to coat the ravioli). Season with sea salt. Dish the ravioli, top with pancetta and corn from the skillet, and top with fried sage leaves and freshly ground black pepper.

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