Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Try an on-the-fly pasta stir-fry

April 4, 2007


Think how much faster pasta would be to prepare if you didn't have to boil it.

If it's fresh pasta, you don't.

With a bit of creative stir-frying, this pasta and a hearty ragu-like sauce can be prepared at the same time and in the same pan.

Here's how it works. The dish begins with a bit of hot oil and some red pepper flakes in a deep skillet. To that, fresh ravioli are added and fried until lightly browned. This takes all of about 4 minutes and results in deliciously tender-crisp pasta.

After that, improvisation rules. Some diced pickled peppers, ground beef and white wine made for a fantastic sauce that took little time or effort. For a more traditional take, the wine could be swapped with a 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes.

Or keep the cheese ravioli and replace the wine with an equal amount of chicken broth and add a tablespoon of curry powder for an Indian version. For an Asian adaptation, replace the olive oil with sesame seed oil (toasted sesame oil is especially nice) and swap half of the wine white with mirin (Japanese cooking wine).

Whatever the approach, the dish welcomes plenty of vegetables, such as sliced white button mushrooms, diced bell peppers, peeled and cubed eggplant, diced onion, peas, even small broccoli florets. Heartier vegetables can be added at the same time as the pickled peppers. More tender ones, such as mushrooms and peas, can go in with the wine.

Or use the simple version set out in this recipe, but just before serving add 4 cups of fresh baby spinach and 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese and toss until the greens wilt and the cheese melts.

While any fresh pasta (the sort sold in deli cases) can work with this method, ravioli are the easiest to move around the pan for even cooking and browning. While a wooden spoon is fine, tongs are best for turning the ravioli.

Stir-fry ravioli

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

9-ounce package fresh cheese ravioli

1/2 cup pickled mild peppers (such as Peppadew, banana peppers or a mix), chopped

1 1/4 pounds lean (91 percent lean) ground beef

1/2 cup white wine

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil and pepper flakes in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ravioli and saute, using tongs to move them about the pan, until lightly browned in spots, about 4 minutes.

Add the peppers and saute another 30 seconds. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up and moving it around with the tongs, until browned and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the wine, then cover and cook until the wine has reduced by at least half, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves four.


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