Shortcut Ravioli with Peas, Spinach, Mint and Ricotta + Brown Butter Spinach Pan Sauce
If homemade ravioli seems intimidating, it’s time to check the kitchen project off your list.
With a clever shortcut, the time and effort are practically cut in half, and with a little imagination, the flavor possibilities are endless — but this green on green on green ricotta combination, served with more greens and brown butter, is dang good.
Making pasta from scratch is one of those kitchen tasks I can really slow down and lose track of time with. Herb-flecked sheets, whole wheat fettuccine, orecchiette, tortellini, pappardelle, tiny trofie, and many more — flour up to my elbows, mixing, kneading, rolling, shaping, is my idea of catharsis, and truly fresh pasta is absolutely without compare.
Honest to goodness it’s not as hard as you may think. It is, however, fairly time-intensive, and requires either a good bit of muscle or a stand mixer, and occasionally specialty tools like a hand-crank roller, various mixer attachments, or a beautiful wooden chitarra if you’re so lucky. Some times all of that is just too much, and a good cheat is the ticket.
Nowadays many markets offer convenient packages of fresh pasta sheets, but they’re generally too thick for delicate ravioli and require a bit of rolling, which defeats the shortcut if you ask me. What now? Thinking beyond potstickers and their deep-fried namesake, paper-thin wonton wrappers offer a perfectly sized neutral flour-and-egg dough-canvas for ravioli with any and all fillings you dream up.
Sitting down to unzip the pods and shell the peas is another of those cathartic kitchen tasks, and one I look forward to it every year. Delicate tendrils and sweet white blossoms that give way to picture-perfect pods, climbing English peas are among my favorite spring crops, and are a sweet complement to pasta.
What’s in it for me?
One-half cup of cooked green peas provides 67 calories, over 4 g protein, and more than 15% of your DV for fiber, particularly easily digested, blood cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. Peas are also a good source of a variety of minerals, including magnesium, iron and copper, as well as vitamins A and C, and the family of B vitamins.
Spinach, like other dark leafy greens, is nutritionally stacked. Despite being 91% water, it offers antioxidant nutrients, including beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and lutein and zeaxanthin, and is an excellent source of folate, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Spinach also provides a good amount of plant-based calcium, and both green peas and spinach are rich in vitamin K* — both essential for bone health.
As with other members of the onion family, shallot and garlic are rich in phytochemicals, and provide sulfur compounds with antioxidant properties critical to controlling inflammation and helping your immune system fight infections, improve cardiovascular health and lower cholesterol levels, and potentially prevent cancer. Mint, like other herbs, contains a variety of nutrients and volatile oils that also offer antioxidant benefits, in addition to anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
For roughly 100 calories one-quarter cup (2 oz) of ricotta cheese provides 7 g complete protein (contains all essential amino acids), which supplies slow-release energy, and encourages lean muscle growth and repair. Ounce for ounce ricotta has nearly 3 times as much calcium as cottage cheese and nearly twice as much as milk, and is among the cheeses lowest in sodium — only 28 mg per ounce. The fat from the ricotta, plus that from the olive oil and butter, help your body make the most of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) found here in the veg, lemon, and herbs.
Sautéing the fresh shelled peas quickly with garlic, shallot, spinach and mint, makes all the different shades of green pop, keeps the flavors bright, and maintains the high level of nutrients. Combine this with lemon zest and creamy ricotta, stuff it into the wonton ravioli, and finish everything with a nutty brown butter spinach sauce? Brilliant!
These rich, yet light ravioli are an irresistible supper for late spring and early summer. I’m even down for these with frozen peas in the middle of winter (anything with brown butter, really).
So no more thinking that homemade ravioli is too challenging, because this shortcut version is surprisingly simple and still elegant enough to show off your culinary chops to company — any night of the week!
Tell me… What’s your ultimate pasta dish?
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped (to yield about 1/4 cup)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup fresh shelled or thawed frozen peas
- 1 1/2 cup loosely packed spinach or arugula, larger stems picked off, divided
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, plus another small handful of leaves to finish
- 2 Tbsp ricotta cheese
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
- 40 wonton wrappers (3 1/2 inches each)
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or if you prefer, 2 Tbsp oil, omitting the butter)
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter (or if you prefer, 2 Tbsp butter, omitting the oil)
- grating cheese, such as Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano, to serve (optional)
- In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Gently saute the shallots 2 to 3 minutes, until softened and translucent, stirring occasionally to prevent over-browning or burning. Add the garlic, and cook another 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the peas and 1/2 cup water; simmer until the liquid is almost evaporated and peas are tender, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the spinach/arugula, the 1/4 cup mint, and the ricotta and lemon zest. Cool briefly, then transfer the filling to a food processor or blender, and pulse until smooth. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Set aside.
- On a clean work surface lay out several wonton wrappers (or half of them, if you have the space and want to do them all at once); keep remaining wrappers loosely covered with a damp paper towel to prevent drying out. Spoon 1 Tbsp of the filling onto the center of each. Using a wet pastry brush, moisten the wrappers around each mound of filling. Place 8 more wrappers atop each, and use your fingertips to press around the mounds to eliminate air and to seal. Set finished ravioli aside, and continue this process with the remaining wrappers and puree. You should have 20 ravioli total.
- While a large pot of water set over high heat comes to a boil, warm the olive oil and butter in a small skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted and turning golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes -- be careful it doesn't get too brown! Add remaining 1 cup spinach/arugula and cook until wilted, stirring, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside.
- When the water is boiling, add salt, then half of the ravioli; gently stir once. Cook at a gentle boil, adjusting heat as needed (too rapid of a boil and the ravioli could burst open), for 3 to 5 minutes, until the ravioli are floating and tender. Use a slotted spoon or Chinese spider to transfer the ravioli into a large colander placed over a bowl to dry off and drain. Drape a clean kitchen towel or piece of plastic wrap over the colander to keep warm. Bring the water back to a boil, and repeat with remaining ravioli.
- Carefully transfer 1 cup of the hot pasta water to the skillet with the spinach/arugula, and return it to medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add the ravioli to the skillet along with the reserved mint leaves; remove from the heat.
- Plate the ravioli on a large serving platter, or onto individual plates or shallow bowls, distributing the spinach/arugula and sauce evenly over top of each. Serve at once while hot, with hard cheese to grate at the table, if desired. Buon appetito!
To make ahead for storage in the freezer: Transfer ravioli to a baking tray, uncovered, and freeze until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer these then to a large freezer-safe zip-top bag or airtight container, and return to the freezer. Keeps frozen for several months.
+ Omit the mint and lemon zest in the filling, and add a pinch of grated nutmeg instead. In lieu of fresh mint in the sauce, try sage leaves for a more classic Italian combination with the spinach and ricotta.
+ Sweet corn kernels, finely chopped asparagus, finely chopped string beans (green, purple or yellow), or shelled fava beans would be wonderful in place of the peas. You could also replace the 1 cup of peas with more spinach or arugula.
+ No ricotta? Use a fork or small food processor to blend up the same amount of cottage cheese.
+ Make it dairy-free by replacing the ricotta in equal amounts with soft tofu, using all extra virgin olive oil in the sauce (no butter), and omitting the grated cheese garnish (try a sprinkle of nutritional yeast or finely grate some Brazil nut with a microplane over top instead).
An HGN original recipe.
*The recommendations for those on blood-thinners, such as Coumadin (or generic warfarin), is to be consistent with the amount of vitamin K eaten from day to day, as the two interact with one another. If you take any of these types of medications, be aware of the high vitamin K content found in peas, parsley, spinach and other leafy greens.
+ + + +
p.s. I love hearing from you! Check back if you ask a question, because I’ll answer it here.
And if you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing. Thanks!