My Adventures in Italian Cooking

Everybody has a different “cooking personality”: some are rigid, by-the-recipe people, others are rebellious free-form experimenters who have never cracked open a cookbook in their life.  I’m definitely more of a “Hmmm… interesting idea.  Now let’s improvise!” type of cook, which led to an adventurous experience in a recent attempt to make raviolli.

The whole thing is documented in this video, but for those of you who don’t watch video, let me share the story.

Somewhere not too long ago, I read about using no-boil lasagna sheets to make manicotti, the Italian stuffed pasta tubes baked in tomato sauce somewhat like a rolled lasagna.  According to the article, instead of making your own pasta, you just soak the lasagna sheets in warm water for a few minutes and they become pliable enough to roll into manicotti tubes.

Hmmm… interesting idea.  Now let’s improvise!  If the sheets get flexible enough to be rolled, surely they could be folded in half to form raviolli, right?

What sounded like a good idea didn’t work so well in practice.  The pasta sheets are simply too thick and even after ten minutes in very hot water, attemps at making raviolli with the sheets were failing badly. 

Never one to be fearful of switching the proverbial horses mid-stream, I retreated to making manicott, albeit without a recipe.  I will say this, though: the improvised white bean and spinach stuffing was to die for. 

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Above, White bean and spinach manicotti with fresh green salad.

Just to make sure the meal turned out okay, I threw together an apple crisp.  This is always a safe end to a meal, though even here I stepped out on a limb for a bit more improvisation and tried some maple syrup instead of sugar to sweeten the apples.  Along with a few handfulls of chopped pecans, the crisp was a perfect end to the raviolli – er, manicotti – meal.

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Above, a scoop of maple-pecan-apple crisp to finish the meal.

 

0 thoughts on “My Adventures in Italian Cooking

  1. It all looks good. I never make apple crisp because my husband claims the oatmeal makes his ears itch. Now I’m thinking I should make some for the rest of us since yours looked so yummy.

  2. Plan B looks super delicious!  I would cook strictly by the book and still mess up.  It takes an experienced chef like you to be able to create recipe on the fly.  This is better than some of the Food Channel TV shows!  Nice job, Chris! 

  3. @TheCheshireGrins – Sometimes I scale up or down depending on how large a dish, but for 5-6 apples I use 3/4 c flour, 1/3 c packed brown sugar, 1/4 t ground cinnamon, 1/4 t salt.  Mix together dry ingredients and cut in 6 T chilled, cubed butter.  I then use my fingers to work the butter into the dry mixture until it forms fine crumbs.  Finally, if you like, you can stir in about 1/4 c coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts.  After the apple mixture into a dish and covering it with the topping, I like to put another 1 T of cubed butter on top, spreading the cubes around so they melt into the dish during baking.

  4. @joburgboy – Tom, how have you been?  You’re in Germany now?  I’ve bookmarked your blog so I can keep up with events.  Hope all is well.
    @Dezinerdreams – WARNING: You should eat before reading, just like you should eat before grocery shopping.  =)
    @stebow – With your mother’s great lasagna, it would be a challenge to want to try anything else!
    @minhaners – Pecans are the ingredient of the day, it seems.
    @moptoplop – The humble nature of a crisp belies its delicate complexity and importance.
    @lcfu – Glad you liked it.
    @murisopsis – Really?  Can oatmeal make someone’s ears itch?  Maybe he shouldn’t put the oatmeal in his years?
    @stevew918 – Thanks for the kind words, but I wouldn’t chalk it up to experience.  I’m just confident because I know that any dish that is topped with tomato sauce and cheese, then baked, will turn out tasty.
    @agmhkg – We need to see some pictures of those experiments… (hint, hint)
    @Fongster8 – Too busy to cook or another reason keeping you away from it?  When will you start again?

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