Seafood Ravioli

Simply defined, ravioli is stuffed or filled pasta. Genoa, Italy, lays claim to the ravioli. Their dialect word “rabiole,” which means “something of small value,” derives from the idea that centuries ago on long voyages Genoese sailors would stuff various leftovers between sheets of pasta.

Square is the traditional shape for ravioli, but round and half-moon shapes seem to be gaining in popularity. For the record, “raviolini” is the word for small ravioli, and “raviolo” is the singular. Every region in Italy has some type of ravioli.

Genoese (veal, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, chard), Romagna (cheese, beef), San Giuseppe (marziapan), Capri style ( cheese filled), on and on it goes.

What types of seafood should be considered if you are thinking about making your own ravioli? Crab, shrimp and lobster work quite well. Also, any flaky white-fleshed fish (whitefish, cod, Pollock, flounder).

I will warn you upfront that making your own seafood ravioli is tricky and labor intensive. Also, controlling the consistency can be troublesome unless you stay on top of it. It is possible to purchase seafood ravioli (check with your local distributor), and it will likely come in frozen, so there is a good shelf life.

On the other hand, just one or two really great seafood ravioli dishes can make your restaurant popular. And a unique pasta dish of this kind is the stuff that newspaper food sections thrive upon, so free publicity could be just a ravioli away. The key in either case (buying the ravioli ready to go, or making your own) is to pair the ravioli with a dynamite sauce.

In addition to pairing the ravioli with a great sauce, another important consideration is the seasoning of the seafood itself. Some seasonings take to ravioli like (excuse the expression) a duck to water, and once the customer’s fork gets beyond the pasta covering the stuffing, you need to make a tasty impression.

Let’s look at some of those considerations. Crabmeat ravioli would be a good place to start. You have a choice of buying fresh crabmeat, or canned crabmeat. I would opt for the canned version (probably more expensive than the fresh crabmeat), simply for purposes of handling and shelf life. Then, to enhance the flavor profile, I would pair the crabmeat ravioli with a crabmeat sauce.

Another example would be ravioli with whitefish. Try this test-recipe.

Pasta Dough for Ravioli *

3 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons milk

4 large eggs

1. Combine the flour, milk, and eggs in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the dough forms a ball. Cut the ball of dough into four equal pieces.

2. Roll out a sheet of dough that is about 12 inches wide by 20 inches long. Cut the sheet into two pieces that are about 6 inches by 20 inches. Roll out the remaining dough in the same manner. Keep the sheets of dough covered with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out.

3. Spoon the filling onto one sheet of the dough in heaping tablespoonfuls about 1 inch from the edge and spacing centers of the filling about 2 inches apart. (Inexpensive ravioli forms can be purchased, and that makes that part of the process go a lot smoother.)

4. Moisten the dough around mounds lightly with water. Loosely drape the second sheet of dough over the mounds of filling. Seal between the rows, lengthwise and crosswise, by pressing down on the dough with the tips of your fingers, forcing out any air. Press and seal completely. Using a ravioli cutter or a fluted pastry wheel, cut the dough into 2-inch squares between and around the filling. You should have 24 ravioli, each about 2 1/2 inches square.

* You can use this recipe for any type of seafood (or non-seafood) ravioli.

Filling

12 ounces whitefish or cod fillets

1/4 pound ricotta cheese

1/4 pound grated Parmesan

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

1. Poach the fish in lightly simmering water for about 4 minutes. Drain. Pat dry with paper towels. Mince the fish and combine with the remaining ingredients.

2. Make the ravioli as instructed in steps 3 and 4 above.

3. Cook the ravioli in gently simmering, salted water, until al dente. Serve with sauce.

Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1/4 pound whitefish or cod fillets

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 cups canned plum tomatoes, drained, crushed

1. Put the oil in a sauté pan set over medium high heat. Add the onion and parsley. Cook for about 2 minutes to soften the onions. Add the fish. Pour in the wine and raise the heat to cook off the wine. Add the tomatoes. Cook the sauce for 25-30 minutes over medium-high heat to reduce, stirring occasionally. The fish will disintegrate, giving body to the sauce.

You can expand the repertoire of seafood ravioli simply by changing the stuffing and the sauce. Some examples would be:

1. Use sea scallops instead of whitefish as a stuffing. Serve with a crabmeat sauce made with onions, garlic, thyme, clam juice, and plum tomatoes.

2. Use lobster meat as a stuffing. Serve with a lobster sauce made with olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, clam juice, and plum tomatoes.

3. Use shrimp as a stuffing. Saute peeled and deveined shrimp in olive oil, onion, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the shrimp turn pink. Cool and chop (or pulse in food processor). Season the shrimp with thyme, Parmesan cheese, and cayenne pepper. Serve with a spicy sauce (the same sauce used with the lobster above).

3. A more contemporary application would be open-faced raviolo (one large per order). Cut the sheeted pasta dough (or use lasagne noodles) into squares that are about 5 inches by 5 inches. Cook the squares in boiling salted water. Drain. Pat dry. To order, lay one of the cooked squares on a lightly buttered, oven-proof, single-serving dish. Place the filling on the pasta. Lay another square of pasta over the filling (do not seal). Sauce and bake the ravioli until the filling is heated through and the sauce is hot.