So, I’m still housesitting for my deliriously happy honeymooning friends – and while I was being supremely lazy on their fancy couch, drinking their beer and watching cricket on their criminally enormous flatscreen TV, I had an idea.
Sometimes (I assume) people get ideas in this completely random way – you don’t know it comes from, you don’t know how exactly it arrived in your head – but you’re incredibly glad you had it, because it just goes to show that your brain is still on the job, and not…you know, running an interior-decorating business on the side.
This was one of those moments, which was gratifying. Alas it was about ravioli. Which was not.
Ravioli is a fiendishly labour-intensive business, one of those things I always start off with naïve enthusiasm and then end up wondering what the fuck was I thinking, mostly drunk on the wine that should be gently reducing with some tomato in a heavy-based saucepan and cursing through my tears at whichever sniveling Italian prick first thought that little stuffed pockets of pasta was a good idea. This is a cycle, however which I’m doomed to repeat, because like most difficult things, the end result is worth it no matter how much one likes to whine about it afterwards.
I think, like a lot of slightly more involved foods, pasta is one of those things that a lot of people will try and convince you is a marvelous thing to make at home from scratch – but this is mostly so that they can sell you pasta-makers that you’ll use once and then forget on the top shelf of your store-room, like novelty socks with individualized places for your toes.
But, like a persistent woman with a low-cut neckline, the idea wouldn’t go away.
And so – my mind started to tinker with the notion of ravioli as a base for something rather than as a focus. I prefer my pasta-sauces on the dry side of things rather than swimming in sauce (foodnerdspeak alert, apologies) – it allows the flavour of the pasta itself to also have a chance of playing on the swings like a big boy. So, if you use a simple tomato ravioli as the base of a topping that’s more about ingredients rather than ‘how much cream and cheese can I pack into this bowl’, each bite should release just enough liquid to make it awesome. Well, this was the theory at any rate…
Ravioli with Broccoli, White Wine and Capers
Ingredients (serves 4)
Before I get into the rest of this, I wasn’t going to mess about with making my ravioli from scratch as well as a sauce – and so I got decent quality dried tomato-filled ravioli from the Italian supermarket around the corner from my house (it’s in the second story of an office block, hiding behind a dried-up pot plant – it’s the bizarrest thing), but if you want, most delis will also sell freshly made vacuum-packed ravioli that’s usually pretty good, if a bit more expensive.
Half a head of broccoli, broken into florets
2 chicken breasts
a small handful of capers, soaked in water
a medium-sized red onion, finely chopped
2 small brinjals (or Eggplant if you’re American)
4 goodish stalks of rosemary, stripped of leaves and finely chopped
1 full glass of white wine
What to do
First up, slice up the brinjal into discs and then into strips, put them into a colander, sprinkle with a decent amount of salt and then leave them for about half an hour. A fair amount of juice will hopefully drain away – which is a good thing, because it’s a bitter as a horse-riding aunt.
Slice the chicken breasts into roughish chunks, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a teaspoon of paprika and set that aside as well.
Once the brinjals have been drained of their bitter juices, dry them off with paper towel and then cover them with a decent handful of flour, salt and pepper until they’re nicely coated. Get a good lug of olive oil smoking hot in a pan then add the brinjals and fry until they’re golden brown. Get them out of the pan and onto a plate layered with more paper towel so that the oil can be soaked up.
In the same pan (there should be a bit of olive oil left over) add the onions, rosemary, capers (taken out of their soaking water) and broccoli. Toss it about so that all get to know each other and get coated with the oil and crumbs from the pan. Once everything’s softened up and the onions are starting to brown, add half the white wine and let it reduce until there is almost no liquid left, at which point add the rest of the wine. Once that has also almost boiled away, add the chicken, and once that’s started to cook through add the fried brinjals.
Turn the heat down and let it all simmer gently for about 15 minutes.
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the ravioli and cook it until done (usually about 20 minutes or so, but taste one when you think it’s done – if it’s nice and al dente (wanky-speak for just done) you’re golden), drain most of the liquid, but keep half a cup of it around, adding a bit of it to the simmering broccoli/chicken/brinjal extravaganza, and then give it a good stir.
Add the ravioli to the sauce, and serve with a bit of grated pecorino. Yee. Ha.