MasterChef Guest Post – Matt Orsini’s Spinach Pine Nut Ravioli in Brown Butter Sauce

Today’s post is the third in a series of MasterChef guest posts. (See Carrie Peterson’s Whoopie Pies, and Ben Starr’s AMAZING post on watching the premiere here!).

Matt Orsini was another of my favourite people from the show. It bugs me to no end that his time in LA was cut down to about 2 seconds on screen (if that- it was a flash across the screen, at best!). He was one of the most friendly, passionate cooks there, and I was NOT alone in just assuming that he’d make it through the first round.

Whoops. Coming back from my forced grocery trip to find that he had gotten eliminated – not even being able to say goodbye! – was rough.

A few months after we went home, though, Matt was able to come visit me in Minneapolis, and we spent a fun day cooking, videotaping the cooking, drinking wine, and generally catching up. It was great – and the video we made of him making this dish is embedded at the end of this post!

Be sure to follow Matt on his blog, Italy to Dallas, and on Twitter: @ItalyToDallas.

Here’s Matt!

Ravioli is a dish that I cook quite regularly. It brings me back to the flavors and aromas of Italy that I love so much. My great grandparents are from Italy and I just love what the Italian family is all about, food.

While making pasta from scratch may seem daunting at first it is actually very simple, and here is a little secret you don’t need any equipment to make it from scratch. All you need are your hands and the mind to really get in there. Don’t be afraid to get dirty.

Spinach Pine Nut Ravioli in Brown Butter Sauce

¼ cup of whole milk ricotta cheese strained in a cheese cloth (will explain later)
Olive oil
One onion finely chopped
Olive oil
Black pepper
One clove crushed garlic
Either 1/4- ½ tsp of ground nutmeg or one half of a nutmeg finely grated
One bag of fresh spinach, washed and drained
Juice of two lemons
Salt
Zest of one lemon
One small bag of pine nuts
¼ cup grated Parmesan

1/4 cup of semolina flour
1 ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
Three eggs, beaten

One egg beaten

One stick of butter
Honey
8 sage leaves finally chopped

About a 1/3 cup of fresh grated Parmesan

The first thing I always do is have all my ingredients separated out.

Take the ¼ cup of ricotta cheese and wrap it in a cheese cloth. Tie it over the sink and let strain.

Once you have all these ingredients separated out you will want to go ahead and turn the heat up to medium on one pan lightly coated in olive oil. Once it has heated a bit, add the chopped onion. You will want to make sure the onions are fully caramelized before you pull them.

Go ahead and heat up another pan on the side. Check your onions and stir. The onions should be caramelized by now, so you will want to pull them and set aside.

Add a little olive oil, black pepper, the crushed garlic, and grated nutmeg to the other heated up pan. Once the garlic begins to caramelize add in the spinach and half of the squeezed lemon juice Grind some fresh salt over and stir to incorporate.

Sautee the spinach fully and add a little more nutmeg, the lemon zest, and black pepper on top of the spinach. Remember the most important thing is to TASTE AND TASTE! Always adjust as needed. If it needs salt add more. Go ahead and remove the spinach from the pan and fully strain. Set aside to cool.

Toast your pine nuts in a small pan until they have reached a golden light brown color. Pine nuts overcook easily so remember to keep an eye on them. Pull them and set aside.

Finely chop your cooled spinach and add in your onions and pine nuts. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Set aside to cool. Place in a bowl, cover and cool in the refrigerator until ready for use.

I love to use a kitchen aid for the next step, however it is not necessary. You will want to mix about 2 teaspoons of salt with the flours in the bowl of your stand mixer – or just a regular mixing bowl, if not using a stand mixer.

If using a kitchen aid with the paddle attachment, set the speed to a two and add in your beaten eggs slowly. If you are doing this by hand create a well and work the eggs with a fork from the inside out, until the ready to work with your hands. Wait until the flour and eggs have fully incorporated. If it is too dry add a little warm water and on the other end if it is too wet add more flour. You will want it to be just wet enough that you can knead it and roll it into a ball.

Once you are done mixing the dough place it on a floured cutting board to bring together by hand. Pasta does not like cold surfaces and a cutting board works great. Knead the dough out using the palm of your hand working it from inward/out. Work into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge until ready for use. Go ahead and set up the pasta attachment on the kitchen aid, if that’s what you’re using.

Remove the ricotta cheese from the cheese cloth and add in the 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese to it. Incorporate the spinach mix and stir and taste. Cover and set back in fridge.

To assemble the pasta:

Remove the dough from the fridge, working it out by hand until it’s soft enough to place through the pasta machine. Starting on the thickest setting, roll it, fold it; roll it again, etc…, until it gets as thin as possible. Right now you are activating the gluten.

After you have repeated this step about 7 times on a setting one you will send it through each other setting once time through until you have rolled it out at the thinnest.

Halfway through the stretching process you will probably want to cut it in half since your sheet of pasta will be extremely long. You are looking to have nice clean silky sheets. Cut each sheet in half.

Place the ricotta mix in a pastry bag and squeeze a little bit of the mix about an inch apart on a pasta sheet. Take a pastry brush and brush your other beaten egg lightly around the ricotta mix. Fold the other half of the sheet over and press all the air out. This is very important as you will want to make sure there is no possibility the ravioli can explode in the water. Cut your ravioli and set on a floured surface.

Start a pot of salted water to boil, and make your brown butter sauce:

Heat the butter and a little olive oil over medium high heat, in a separate pan. Once it starts to brown add in the other half of the lemon juice for acidity and a little honey for sweetness. Toss in your sage leaves to crisp up. Once you hear that popping sound your sauce has fully browned. Turn the heat slightly down.

Once your pot of water reaches a boil, carefully add in your ravioli. These will cook in about 1 ½ to 2 minutes as they are fresh. Remove the ravioli, drain well, and place in your sauce to sauté. The ravioli will start to brown a little so remove once fully sautéed.

This dish is amazing. You will get that crispy outside texture on the ravioli with the creamy burst of flavors on the inside. The honey adds a little sweetness to a normally savory dish. Enjoy and Ciao!

Now, remember when Matt visited me a couple months ago? When we got on the wine and made a couple cooking videos?

Here is the first one from that day – I only watched and edited it yesterday. DAMN. We had some fun there!

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