Day 97: Ricotta Ravioli, Peas & Mint
inspired by Luca
I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But what about judging a restaurant based on how it looks?
I love the look of Luca. It’s an Italian restaurant using a mix of seasonal Italian and British ingredients in Clerkenwell. The food, from what I’ve read and heard, is absolutely amazing.
But you see, I’ve never eaten there. This is another of those restaurants that’s ended up on a mental list of places I must remember to go to.
And the reason it’s on those lists is nothing to do with what I’ve heard about the food.
It’s entirely based on how it looks.
Luca has a dark green exterior, of both painted wood and tiles. It has a sheer curtain running across the window so you can try to peer in, but won’t invade the privacy of the diners inside. I’ve walked past it many times, seeing their low lightings, polished wood tables and cosy leather banquettes.
In fact the more I think about it maybe that curtain is there purely to stop people like me standing outside and gazing in to admire the beautiful interior. And looking like a total idiot in the process.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Designer that I appreciate how gorgeous this restaurant looks. But I don’t think it’s just me that is charmed by it. The customers always look like they are having an amazing time too. Yes I know, I need to stop peeking through the window.
The people that have actually eaten there all probably look so happy because the food is so good. And I have to say the food is pretty damn beautiful too.
Look at this dish for example.
“Ravioli of Westcombe Ricotta, Italian Peas & Mint”
Doesn’t that look amazing??
So I’m having a go. My ricotta is Italian and my peas are British (and from the freezer), but never mind.
I’ve only ever made ravioli once before. Well, technically that’s a lie. I’ve tried to make ravioli once before. I don’t think you can claim to have actually made ravioli if you didn’t end up with any to eat.
This was a couple of years ago. I was attempting to make a meat ravioli with a tomato sauce. Except I got it horribly wrong. My meat filling was too wet. So even when I had made the ravioli, liquid would soak through the pasta making it stick to the plate.
I had dusted the plate with semolina. But then I had also tried to make the ravioli in advance. No amount of semolina was going to stop that liquid turning the pasta into glue. Not when I’d made them in the afternoon and then gone to the pub for a few hours.
When I got home, hungry and a bit tipsy, I couldn’t even get them off the plate, let along into a pan to cook.
When I told people I couldn’t make ravioli they all asked if they fell apart in the water. Nope, mine didn’t even make it that far.
I’ve made tortellini since. But the folding and wrapping round of the pasta somehow makes those shapes seem more secure. A ravioli, which is simply two super fine layers of pasta sandwiched together seems a lot more delicate. And therefore a lot more high risk.
But I simply couldn’t resist how gorgeous this plate of food looks. So I’m being brave and giving ravioli another try.
Making the pasta is straightforward enough. I’ve done this plenty of times during lockdown. Yes, I’m still using my oven door handles as pasta drying racks too. I’m sure all the top chefs do that, right?
Luca’s pasta seems quite yellow so I’m making mine with 100g of pasta flour, an egg and an extra egg yolk for richness. It makes it a little sticky to knead, but after it’s rested in the fridge it’s absolutely fine.
I roll it out as thinly as my pasta machine will go. Then in batches I cut out perfect circles using a cookie cutter.
I keep the filling simple. More importantly, I keep it dry.
I strain my ricotta in a sieve to get rid of any excess liquid. Then I simply add some salt, chopped mint, lemon zest and lots of black pepper.
A small teaspoon of this filling gets placed in the centre of one pasta round. I run a wet finger that’s been dipped in water around the edge and then place another pasta disc on top. Gently squeezing out the air (and sometimes some of the ricotta too, oops) and pressing the edges to make them as secure as I can.
Onto a plate. Dusted with copious amounts of flour this time, not semolina.
Each time I add another finished pasta parcel to the plate I gentle nudge every other ravioli. to make sure they are not sticking.
Because of the checking, the nudging, the fretting over the alignment of pasta circles this whole process takes forever.
Thankfully today this is just lunch for me. No one else getting hungry, expectantly waiting for food.
I am quite peckish now though.
I’ve already made my sauce. I want these ravioli to spend as little time trying to stick to that plate as possible so once the pasta water is on to boil all I have to do is reheat it ready for serving.
The pasta takes two minutes to cook. Miraculously they all made it off the plate. Even more amazingly they all make it out of the pan still in one piece.
Not a single pasta casualty.
I’m so gobsmacked I almost forget about eating them. Almost.
I add the sauce on top of the pasta.
The sauce was simple. I just added some frozen peas and mint leaves to some vegetable stock, brought it to the boil and simmered until the peas were cooked. A handful of peas went into ice water (to keep them nice and green) and the rest, including some of the stock, went into a food processor to make a puree.
What I should have done is pushed this through a sieve to create a perfectly smooth, silky sauce. But at the time, looking at it in the food processor, it looked smooth enough to me.
It was only when, after reheating and adding the whole peas back in, that I realised it didn’t look that smooth. In fact it looked decidedly like I was spooning mushy peas over my pasta parcels.
So there we are. A kind of Italian British fusion, just like the food at Luca. But I doubt ravioli with mushy peas will be gracing any restaurant tables any time soon.
Especially not one as stylish as Luca’s.