I guess its my German heritage that gives that love for anything that resembles a dumpling. Whether sweet or savory doesn’t seem to matter, filling between two thin layers of pasta or dough is just plain good to me.
Around the world, Italian ravioli has many culinary ‘sisters’ in other cultures. Kreplach, in Jewish cuisine, is a pocket of meat filling covered with pasta. In India, the dish Gujiya, has a sweet filling, rather than savory. There are many similarities between Italian ravioli and certain Chinese dumplings as well.
Although ravioli can come in many shapes, including circular and semi-circular, the traditional form is a square. The word ‘ravioli’ comes from the Italian riavvolgere, which means ‘to wrap’.
Not being someone who enjoys to eat ‘out’, its a rare occasion (when we do), for me to be really happy with my meal. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I cooked a lot of ‘commercial’ meals in the food service industry years back. I guess I just got ‘burn out’ to that kind of cooking you might say.
Nevertheless, whenever we have chosen to go to the Olive Garden Restaurant, there is a meal I really do enjoy. It’s called ‘Ravioli di Portobello’. Today, I am re-creating those flavors in a casserole and adding some ground chicken to make it a little more interesting from Brion’s perspective.
Ravioli di Portobello Casserole
Portobello Mushroom Filling
Portobello Mushroom Filling
In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onion until soft. Add mushrooms & saute for two minutes. Reduce heat & let simmer for 5 minutes or until liquid has evaporated & the mushrooms are fully cooked. Add seasonings. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients with eggs. Add water a little at a time, while stirring, until it forms a soft dough. Dough should be soft but not sticky. Roll out the dough, on a floured surface, into a rectangle that is 1/4-inch thickness. Place 1 teaspoon of filling about an inch apart in even columns & rows to cover half of your dough rectangle.
Before adding the top layer of pasta to the ravioli, moisten the dough around the filling dollops. Carefully fold the dough (without any filling on it) over the half with the filling dollops. Using the side of your hand, press the dough together between the dollops, accentuating the pockets of filling in each ravioli. This is very important step to ensure your ravioli will not leak while cooking.
Using a pastry cutter (or a pizza cutter), cut straight lines through the pressed down sections between the filling dollops. In a large kettle of boiling water, drop ravioli in a few at a time, being careful that they do do touch the kettle. When the raviolis float to the top, boil for one minute & then remove them with a slotted spoon. Keep warm in a covered dish, drizzling a tiny bit of butter or oil over them to prevent sticking until you are ready for them.
Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
In a skillet, melt butter & saute garlic, seasonings, sun-dried tomatoes for a few minutes. Add chicken broth & half & half; bring to a boil & continue to stir until thickened & creamy about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside until ready to use in casserole.
In a skillet, brown ground chicken until no longer pink; drain & place in a bowl. Add salt, garlic powder & pepper. In the skillet, melt butter, add onion & zucchini; saute until tender crisp. Stir in sun-dried tomato sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a buttered 9 X 13-inch baking dish, spread 1/4 of sauce, layer 1/2 of the ravioli, another 1/4 of the sauce, half of the chicken & half of the cheese.
Repeat again except OMIT cheese. Cover & bake for 35 minutes. Uncover & sprinkle with remaining cheese. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. If you wish to garnish, chopped green onion & diced tomato are nice.
It goes without saying, eggplant is beloved in many cuisines. It has been considered the ‘queen of the garden’ with it’s almost purple-black, glossy skin and cap-like crown.
Eggplants are bitter when raw but develop a savory and complex flavor when cooked. The texture of the flesh is meaty and easily absorbs sauces and cooking liquids.
Native to the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayan area, they have been cultivated in Southeast Asia since prehistoric times. Cultivars in the 18th century were white to pale yellow in color and resembled hen’s eggs which explains the reason this fruit is called ‘eggplant’. There are dozens of eggplant subspecies grown throughout the world in many shapes and sizes.
The most popular one we see here in North America is the dark purple ‘globe’ eggplant which ranges in weight from 1-5 pounds. When buying them, look for ones with smooth, firm, unwrinkled skin and a fresh looking green stalk or cap. Eggplant is commonly used in ratatouille, pasta dishes, spreads, dips, moussaka or stuffed and roasted.
Today, I’m making a stuffed version with an interesting fresh basil-chicken filling.
Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise; carefully hollow out each half. Roughly chop the removed flesh.
In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil & saute onion until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until eggplant is tender, about 7-8 minutes. Add ground chicken, oregano, salt & pepper. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
Stir in in roasted red peppers, cooked rice & fresh basil; remove skillet from the heat. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish & fill with chicken/rice mixture. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds; drizzle with remaining olive oil & bake 30-35 minutes until tender.
Remove eggplant from oven & top with grated cheeses.
Chia — the little seed with the huge nutritional profile. Known as a great source of healthy omega-3 fats and fiber as well as positive health effects such as boosting energy, stabilizing blood sugar, aiding digestion and lowering cholesterol.
In the early eighties, when the terracotta ‘Chia Pet’ figurines were first marketed, I really didn’t pay much attention to them. I just thought they were a cute way to grow a ‘houseplant’ never checking out their true potential.
Chia seeds have a fascinating and long history of use in several cultures. The word chia means ‘strength’ in the Mayan language. The Aztecs, Mayans and Incas, supposedly all used chia as a staple of their diets as well as an energy food.
There seem to be endless ways to use these naturally gluten free little seeds. Just to name a few would be, as an egg substitute, in puddings, as a thickener in soups and gravy, in meatballs, sprouted in salads or for breading fish or chicken.
One of the recipes I have featured in my ebook is Chia Chicken Meatballs served with a fresh zucchini sauce over linguine pasta.
My husband, Brion is all about anything that promotes good health so this meal works for him. The chia seeds definitely give these little chicken meatballs some extra ‘pizzazz’. Hope you enjoy.
Chia Chicken Meatballs with Linguine
In a small bowl, combine chia seeds with water; let stand for about 20 minutes.
In a large bowl, use your hands to evenly combine the chia gel with the remaining meatball ingredients. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil; coat lightly with baking spray. Scoop meatball mixture into 50 servings onto baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes; remove from oven. Cool half of the meatballs & freeze for another meal.
Fresh Zucchini Sauce
In a saucepan, melt margarine; saute zucchini & green onion until tender. Sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Add milk/broth & cook, stirring until slightly thickened. Fold in baked chicken balls.
Cook linguine about 14 minutes in salted boiling water to which 1 Tbsp of olive oil has been added. Drain & combine with meatball/sauce mixture.