When I told Hubby I had decided to embark on this food project, and that the first food on the list would be mushrooms, he was very excited.
You see, he is not a picky eater, at all. Which, on the one hand, is a very good thing because he eats anything I make and genuinely likes it. On the other hand, he eats anything I make, and genuinely likes it! Which leaves me to wonder how accurate of a food critic he is at times. Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat at night wondering if my cooking is any good after all, or if I just live in a world of remarkably un-fussy eaters and I’ve been horribly misled. What if I were to feed my cooking to a world of unrelenting food critics, and they didn’t like it?!? Aack! My cooking stinks!
These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night.
In any case, Hubby was thrilled at the idea that his food choices would no longer be limited by my food choices and he immediately offered to make me mushroom ravioli. My hubby is an expert ravioli maker. But when he dug out his old recipe –the one he used to make for masses of appreciative friends before he met and married me and I promptly squashed all his mushroom-ravioli-making dreams–he found that the recipe wasn’t for ravioli at all. It was for a mushroom-olive pasta sauce. Well, we haven’t reached olives on the project yet, so mushroom-olive pasta sauce was out. For now.
But I wanted ravioli, and I wanted ravioli made by my hubby! So, I set about making my own recipe for a tasty mushroom and sausage filling and left the pasta making to his capable hands. This filling is delicious–rich, and savory with a meaty flavor from Italian sausage and an earthy goodness from some mushrooms.
(Don’t tell anyone, but I might actually be developing a fondness for mushrooms. Ssshhhhhh.)
I began with about a pound of sweet Italian turkey sausage. You could use pork…turkey was convenient. If you use links, make a cut lengthwise down the casing and remove it. Then throw the sausage in a hot skillet and break it down!
I used a potato masher to really break down the chunks of sausage into little bits (wish I could take credit for that trick, but I’m afraid I have to admit I stole it from Rachael Ray…). You want everything to be pretty fine so it doesn’t make lumpy ravioli.
While the sausage browns, finely dice a large shallot (or half a small onion…whatever ya got on hand) and mince up a pound of mushrooms. Throw ’em in a food processor and pulse (or if you are like me and don’t have a food processor throw them in your blender and pulse on “chop.” If you use a blender, do it in batches or you will have mushroom smoothie. My new-found fondness for mushrooms notwithstanding, a mushroom smoothie does not sound appealing.)
Shove the sausage to one side of the pan, add a little oil, and throw in the mushrooms and shallots.
When all the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated and things are beginning to brown up, throw in a generous spoonful of minced garlic (about 4 cloves) and a good sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg. Or the pre-grated stuff. Use what you have…but I really love freshly grated nutmeg. Nnnnooomm. At this point, also add salt to taste.
Turn the heat off under the skillet and let cool completely. Taste as often as you like, really, since this recipe makes enough filling for about 200 large ravioli and you will be sick of making them after about 50. You can eat it by the spoonful! By the bowlful! You can completely ruin your appetite because you are a grown up and there is no one around to tell you not to!
When the mushroom/sausage mixture is completely cool, mix in some ricotta. I used one 16 oz. container of whole milk ricotta. You could use the skim variety, but why would you want to?!?
Ok, in all honesty, my hips would really benefit from a little more skim milk based dairy products. Maybe next time. Maybe.
And don’t be fooled by the picture below. It looks like I used only half the container–but I added the rest after I took the picture! Believe me. It needed it.
Next, grate up some cheese. Parmesan, mozzarella, Pecorino….whatever sounds good to you. Just make sure to grate up a lot of it!
I mean, really a lot of it.
Then switch bowls because the one you are using was clearly not large enough to contain all that cheese.
That was about 2 cups of mozzarella and 1 1/2 cups of parmesan. Lightly beat up a couple of eggs and throw them in too. Or you could just use egg whites. I just figured, I used the whole milk ricotta, why bother pulling out the yolks? I love fat. Fat is delicious. My butt also loves fat. Once it gets ahold of some it never lets it go!
Mix it all up.
Cover the filling and let it chill in the fridge for a couple of hours so the flavors can really get to know eachother and start to plan their next block party.
While it’s chilling, ask your hubby to make some pasta dough.
Pasta dough is generally pretty simple: Semolina flour, eggs, water, and olive oil. Knead, knead, knead. Let it rest. Then roll it out into thin sheets!
If you are very, very patient you can roll it out with a rolling pin. I am not very patient, and anyways Hubby has a pasta machine!
Roll the pasta dough into very thin sheets, brush the whole surface of one side of one sheet with egg wash, then plop evenly spaced tablespoonfuls of the filling on top. Place another sheet of dough on top, and press gently around the filling to seal. Try to press all the air out so the centers don’t fill with steam and burst! Cut the pasta between the filling.
We melted some butter with a smashed garlic clove and chopped sage for a simple, quick sauce. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and more cheese. Eat and be happy!
(Then ask your hubby to take a photo of the uneaten ravioli so you can use it for your blog. Then agonize over whether or not to use said photo because it is so good it makes all your other photos look awful! Then decide to go ahead and use it because it is just so durn purty and it would be a shame to deprive the world of it!)
You could also use the filling to fill pre-cooked pasta shells or manicotti shells and bake them up with your favorite tomato sauce. And with the amount of filling you will likely have leftover, you’ll probably want to.
Here’s the recipe for the filling. Pasta comes later!
Phobicfoodie’s and Hubby’s New Favorite Mushroom Sausage Filling:
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage (turkey or pork)
1 lb. mushrooms (baby bellas again today, or your choice)
1 large shallot
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 16 oz. container Ricotta
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
If you are using link sausage, cut down the length of the casing and remove it. Brown the sausage in a skillet, making sure to break down any large chunks. You can add a little oil to the skillet before you add the sausage, just to help it get started. You may want to drain some of the fat after the sausage has cooked down though, if is very greasy.
While the sausage cooks, mince up the shallot and mushrooms.
Add to the skillet and cook until all the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and everything begins to brown. Turn off the heat and stir in the minced garlic and the nutmeg. Put your face over the pan and inhale deeply. Aaahhh… Season to taste with salt and pepper. Taste as much as you want, using generous spoonfuls of the mixture. Then let it cool completely.
Put the mushroom sausage mixture in a large bowl and stir in all remaining ingredients. For the best flavor, put the bowl in the fridge and chill for a couple of hours, or overnight.
Use to stuff some homemade ravioli, or use it to fill some pre-cooked pasta shells (pull the shells out of the water when they are about half done if you are going to bake them with sauce.)
Eat and be happy!
Makes enough to fill about a million ravioli (ok, really maybe about 200 large ones). We still haven’t used up all the filling. You may want to make only half of this recipe, unless you are cooking for a convention of ravenous wolves. It is also delicious scrambled with eggs in the morning!