Why is it so hard for me to learn this lesson: shortcuts -- at least in cooking -- never, ever work for me. The bread-making disaster with my mother in February, fiascos with no-cook lasagne noodles.......the record is painfully clear.
I was once again reminded of this with another cooking disaster last Friday night. My friend Gwen, who is an excellent cook, was visiting for the weekend. It's a long trip from Alberta, so she doesn't visit often. We had several fun things to do while she was here: dinner with other friends, a fabulous brunch to attend, sites to see, catching-up to do.
We had decided to have dinner at my place one night during her visit, and just relax at home with a movie. I thought it would be fun to cook something I had learned from Letizia in one of her wonderful cooking classes near Assisi at alla Madonna del Piatto.
Perhaps lasagne? Letizia's recipe has worked very, very well for me several times. It's light but a bit labour intensive -- still, always worth the time. I learned the importance of simmering the ragu for several hours, to get the best flavour; and to not mess around with no-cook lasagne pasta, because it soaks up so much liquid that it can seriously alter the recipe.
But my time was tight during Gwen's visit, so I decided to make ravioli instead. I used Letizia's ravioli recipe with delicious pecorino and a pear filling (which turned out beautifully.) Unfortunately, the dish took a very bad turn when I decided to try a shortcut for the pasta itself.
I borrowed an idea from the cookbook: Giada DeLaurentis' Everyday Italian, which a friend gave me for Christmas. Giada, a beautiful celebrity TV chef, has some very nice ideas and quick recipes. But she led me astray on making so-called quick 'n easy ravioli.
Giada suggested it was possible to use wonton or eggroll wraps instead of making your own pasta. Just put a small amount of filling on the wrap, seal the edges, and that's it! "Homemade" ravioli!
Needless to say, it didn't work. I pressed Gwen into helping me lay out the wonton squares and we desperately squeezed the edges together with a fork to try and seal the imposter ravioli.
Like flailing lobsters, when these imposters hit the water, they became very unpleasant. They floated for a minute or two, then fell apart. What a mess! I should have realized (as Letizia has since pointed out) that wontons are normally steamed or fried, not flung into boiling water. The dough just isn't up to that kind of action.
Time for plan B. I had A LOT of filing that I didn't want to throw away. I also had some fresh lasagne sheets, so we cut those up into smaller squares and floated a few. (See photo above.) These at least held together, but because the pasta was quite thick, the consistency just wasn't right. Boiling for 7 or 8 minutes still wasn't long enough to really cook the pasta, but any longer in boiling water and the packages (I won't call them ravioli any longer) began to fall apart.
I drank quite a lot that night, as did poor Gwen. I think it will be a long, long time before she comes to my house again for dinner.