The title of this post might make you wonder if I’m writing about some strange Italian dessert, but let me explain. Hrishikesh loves sweet foods like I love pumpkins: with a passion. Both our families are from Kutch, a desert-like region in the very west of Gujarat, India. While Gujaratis are stereotypically known to make all their savory foods extra sweet, Kutchis have no such predilections assigned to their tastebuds. Kutchi food is very similar to Gujarati food minus the added sugar: simple and wholesome preparations of vegetables and lentils that tend to rely on a few key spices and ingredients (cumin, fennel, mustard seeds, asofetida, cilantro, ginger and turmeric); the full-bodied masalas and creams that characterize the popular North Indian food are mostly absent in Kutchi cuisine.
Much to my frustration, H.’s tastebuds are decidedly much more Guju than Kutchi, whereas my tastebuds- well, I’d diagnose them as craving balance. He’ll add a teaspoon of sugar to kadi (curry) when we’re eating the already semi-sweet soup for dinner, and he’s always figuring out reasons to add honey, jam, or sugar to recipes. Most of the time I just roll my eyes and ignore his sugary suggestions but once in a while my super sweet husband really gets it right, like the day he wanted to add honey to our sweet potato ravioli filling.
We chose this recipe, which we adapted from Mario Batali, for its extreme simplicity. Oh, and its sweetness, of course. After spending a couple hours on our feet mixing and kneading and rolling pasta dough for our ravioli, the last thing we wanted was a time consuming filling to make before we could sit down to eat our efforts. H. and I both love sweet potatoes, and we adapted Batali’s recipe for butternut squash tortelli to feed our sweet potato ravioli fantasies. All you have to do is boil sweet potatoes until they’re agreeably soft, peel and mash them, and then mix in a couple eggs, some salty Parmigiano, and a sprinkle of salt, pepper and nutmeg. After we tried this combination, we thought something was needed to bring together the flavors, so H. offered his ever-ready suggestion of honey, which added a deep, lovely undertone to the mixture. The other great feature of this ravioli is that its topping is so easy. As easy as grating a ginger cookie into a mound of fine, gingery crumbs, which we then sprinkled atop the melted butter and sage-tossed ravioli. The cookie topping- Batali used amaretti cookies for his butternut squash ravioli but we decided to use ginger for the sweet potato- is genius: the ginger crumbs have a wonderful sharp taste and crunchy contrast to the mild, soft sweet potato pouches.
Sweet Potato Ravioli with Grated Ginger Cookies and Sage
adapted from Molto Italiano
makes 4 servings
5-6 sweet potatoes (about 1 lb.)
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
1-2 tsp. of honey
Salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg, all to taste
4 ginger cookies
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 fresh sage leaves or 1 1/2 Tbsp. dried sage
1. Put the sweet potatoes in boiling water until tender (a fork should slide in the cooked potato easily, meeting no resistance). Remove the potatoes from water and set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel the skin from the potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl. Using a fork or the backside of a soup spoon, roughly mash the potato, breaking any big chunks.
2. In that same bowl, add the eggs, 1 cup Parmigiano, the honey, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix well.
3. Roll out ping pong sized balls of pasta dough into thin sheets. When you think the dough is at its thinnest, take a knife and lightly cut it into equal sized squares or rectangles. Put a teaspoon sized amount of the sweet potato filling a little above the middle of the piece. Dip a finger in some water and moisten three ajoining sides of the square further from the filling. Gently lift that side of the piece, pull it over the filling and press down on the opposite corners. Seal the the two edges of the pasta square together, pressing out any air pockets.
4. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 Tbsp. of salt.
5. In a 12-inch saute pan, heat the butter until it foams and then subsides. Keep warm over very low heat.
6. Submerge the ravioli in the boiling water for 2-4 minutes, until pasta is tender.
7. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup of the cooking water, and add the pasta to the pan with the butter. Add a splash of the pasta water and the sage leaves and toss over high heat for 1 minute to coat the pasta and emulsify the sauce.
8. Divide the pasta evenly among four plates, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano, and serve immediately. Grate a ginger cookie over each plate at the table.