Sunday, January 18, 2009

100th Post! Back to Cooking and a Giveaway for YOU!

Let me start by saying "HAPPY NEW YEAR" to all of you. Hopefully you missed me in my absence. I do apologize for being MIA for so long. To keep it short and simple... let's just say life got in the way. I have missed blogging and sharing with all of you. And I hope to devote more time to cooking, blogging, recipes and expanding my menus in 2009. But family will always come first.

Now I find it fitting that this very first post of 2009 coincide with my 100th post! So in that honor, I am sharing with you my first attempt at homemade raviolis and a giveaway as well.

The dish I am sharing is from a cookbook I really enjoy as the meals always come out great and it has the most beautiful photos. The book is "Great Recipes for Great Weekends" published by Food & Wine Magazine in 1989, the year I graduated from college. I think it was a graduation gift. I have always admired the photo of their Potato, Onion and Cheese Ravioli in Cheese Béchamel but had not tried it to date. I have always wanted to try my hand at homemade pasta as well. So it was perfect.

Making the pasta dough was a snap. Very easy. Very quick. Turning it into the little raviolis? Well that was not so easy. The main problem is I do not have a pasta machine and could not roll the dough out thin enough. So my raviolis were VERY thick! I also do not have a pasta cutter or ravioli mold so it was all done by hand and some of the raviolis opened a bit in the cooking process. But it did not do too badly.

You can see my raw raviolis here. I cut the edge scraps of dough into pasta ribbons instead of creating more raviolis and in case my kids would prefer the simpler pasta as opposed to the filled pasta.

The filling was with potato, onion and cheese and was so simple, easy, slightly different and delicious! I also think the mixture could be used in lasagna or other Italian dishes. The only substitutions I made in the dish was substituting ricotta for the farmer's cheese as I could not find the latter at the market. The sauce... Well how can you go wrong with Béchamel and cheese???? YUUUUMMMMYYY! This is definitely one I would try again.

Potato, Onion and Cheese Ravioli in Cheese Béchamel

Egg Pasta:
About 2 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
3 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. olive oil
pinch of salt

Potato, Onion and Cheese Filling:
2 medium baking potatoes (about 8 ounces each) peeled and quartered
1 Tbls. olive oil
2 medium onions chopped
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces farmer's cheese (I used ricotta)
1 egg
1 1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Béchamel Sauce with Cheese:
2 cups milk
Bouquet Garni: 5 sprigs parsley, 1/4 tsp. dried thyme and 1/2 bay leaf tied in a double thickness of cheesecloth
2 Tbls. unsalted butter
3 Tbls. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Additional freshly grated Parmesan, for broiling (optional)

Make the egg pasta: Place 2 1/2 cups of flour in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add the whole eggs, egg yolk, oil and salt. Using your fingers or a fork, mix the wet ingredients, gradually incorporating the flour, until the mixture is blended and begins to mass together. The dough should be soft, pliable and sticky. If the dough is too dry and stiff or will not absorb the flour, add up to 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon at a time. If it is too wet and sticky, add extra flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball, dust lightly with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for at least 1 hour before rolling out.

Meanwhile, make the Potato, Onion and Cheese Filling: In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the potatoes until tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain; put through a ricer or the medium disk of a food mill.

While the potatoes cook, heat the oil in a medium skillet over moderate heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Puree the onions in a food processor.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onions, Parmesan, farmer's cheese, egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix until well blended.

Make and fill the ravioli: Divide the disk of dough into sixths. Pat out each piece of dough into a rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds. Pass the dough through a pasta machine with the rollers set at the widest setting. Continue rolling the pasta into a sheet, reducing the space between the rollers by one number each time, until the pasta has run through at the thinnest setting. Roll out the remaining pieces of dough in the same fashion.

Cut each long sheet of dough into 2 shorter lengths (each one will be at least 12 inches long).

To make free-form ravioli without a mold, place a sheet of dough on a flat surface. Spoon or pipe mounds of filling onto the dough, leaving space between the mounds. Paint the exposed areas with water. Drape a second sheet of pasta over the first. Press down around the mounds of filling to remove the air and to shape the ravioli with your fingers. Press well to seal the edges. Cut out the ravioli with a pastry wheel or ravioli stamp.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.

Cook the ravioli, 12 at a time, in a large pot of boiling salted water for 6 to 7 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. The filling will be hot and cooked through. Do not overcrowd or the ravioli might stick together. Drain well.

Make the Béchamel Sauce: In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the milk and bouquet garni and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in another heavy medium saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes without browning to make a roux.

Whisking constantly, strain the boiling milk into the roux. Return to a boil and cook, whisking, until the sauce is thickened and smooth, 3-4 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the cheese.

To serve: coat each portion of ravioli with some of the sauce. Sprinkle on additional Parmesan, if desired. Run under the broiler for 30 seconds, or until lightly browned and bubbly. Serve at once.

Try it. You'll like it!

NOW.... Onto the giveaway.

To celebrate my 100th post, the new year and new starts, I am giving away two boxes of note cards from my stationery line. For those of you who are not familiar with it, I own, design and illustrate invitations and note cards for my own line of stationery entitled: Miss 'N Nick Designs. You can see the entire collection at

Since this is a food blog, I am popping the cork and pouring you a glass of the good stuff. Wine is the perfect accompaniment to the raviolis above. The winner will receive my wine note cards. After the selection is completed, I will personalize the cards with your name, monogram or a short message of your choice.
AND I will give you the ever-so-popular cupcake note cards with pearl embellishments. These too can be personalized with your name, monogram or a very short message (ex: Thank You).

You have until Midnight (PST) on Wednesday January 21st to leave a comment on this post. Anything will do. Just say hello if you wish. Of course anything rude or disrespectful WILL be thrown out. The winner will be drawn at random and announced sometime by Friday the 23 (I hope).

Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I truly appreciate all of you who have not lost hope in my return and continue to visit and share food and recipes. Happy 2009! May it be a year in which we can all find great satisfaction and joy.


Celeste said...

I would love to win!

contact me at:

Gloria said...

Count me in!

Chloe said...

I would love to win - cute cards.

Kim in the Kitchen said...

Hi Nicole! I'm glad you're back:) I've been wanting to make homemade ravioli too, but I would also have to roll it out by hand. I did get a little pastry wheel for Christmas to cut them out though. Maybe I will try your recipe! I was also looking through your archives for your pizza dough recipe and I couldn't find it ...can you help me out with a link? Thanks!

Genevieve said...

Those raviolis look so good. I got a pasta maker for Christmas, I really need to get on the ball and make some raviolis!

foodbin said...

congratulation on your 100th blog-nice ravioli

Michelle said...

Congratulations on your 100th blog and glad to see you are back. I have been checking in once in a while - looking forward to reading your new posts again. Those cards are adorable!

Joie de vivre said...

I'm so glad you're back! I'd love to get in on the giveaway! Congratulations on 100 posts!

The Road Less Traveled said...

The ravioli looks great! Thanks for the post.

Theresa N. said...

think you did a great job on your Ravioli. Please sign me up for your giveaway.
Theresa N

Robin Sue said...

You're ravs turned out great! They are alot of work aren't they? Glad you are back. Happy New Year!

A World in a PAN said...

Welcome back and congratulations on your 100th post!

melissa said...

But family will always come first.

As well it should. I have a hard time balancing at times, as do other bloggers I know. I'm glad to see you back around though, I must say.

And I am floored that you made homemade pasta for the first time and you had no rollers or cutters. Wow. You are a brave woman. Nice, nice job.

Congrats on your 100 Nicole!

Nicole said...

Celeste- Welcome to my site! And best of luck. Do come back again.

Gloria- Thank you for visiting. Good luck.

Cloe- Thank you. Please visit again soon.

Kim- How are you? Rolling out the dough is a pain but it is fun to try. I try all sorts of different recipes for pizza dough as I have not found the PERFECT one yet. Here is one I want to try but haven’t yet as it takes more time:
I also really like everything Peter make and his pizza dough is good:
I have used Amy’s before too:
This one was pretty good too:
I hope to mix and match some ideas and post something soon.

Genevieve- So glad you came to visit. Do try making raviolis soon. It is fun. And great to do with kids. I gave mine a little extra dough to “work” with and play.

Foodbin- Thank you for visiting. Come again soon.

Michelle- I am so glad you have been checking back on me. ;-) I hope I can keep up with posting more again.

Joie de vivre- Thank you sweetie! Wishing you luck.

The Road Less Traveled- Thank YOU for coming by and commenting. Welcome!

Theresa N.- Your name is in the pot! Welcome to my blog.

Robin- Yes. The raviolis ARE so much work. But sauce... that is easy. I love making sauce the most. So good to be back.

Laura- Thank you! I missed all of you.

Melissa- Yes family and daily obligations have to come first. I felt guilty for not blogging but as it was there was so much to do and my body was so tired, I kept catching every bug that came my way. Which is so unlike me. I am never sick. Thanks for not forgetting about me. And as to brave... well I usually jump in head first. That way you don’t know how crazy you are until you are already too involved to care.

elly said...

Congrats on the 100th post! The ravioli looks amazing. Of course, I could probably gnaw on my arm if it had bechamel, lol. I can't believe you did all that without pasta tools! I have been wanting to make homemade pasta for so long but I don't have a roller/cutter. I might have to be brave and give it a try.

Erin said...

Welcome back! You have been missed! I understand the feeling of being MIA in the blog world... my blog has slowed down a lot since I started my new job about 4 months ago. Take care of life, and update us on your cooking when you get a chance :)

The ravioli looks great, especially since you did it by hand!

cpullum said...

Count me in this is a nice giveaway! nice recipe I love recipe cooking!

Melissa said...

Since I love your blog... I've left this award for you. Pick it up here...

... and thanks.

That Girl said...

Happy 100th! Love the ravioli. With the potato they're almost like a cross between gnocchi and pierogi!

PaniniKathy said...

What a terrific prize - I love the designs!

Kudos to you for attempting homemade pasta. The two times I've tried have resulted in my having to open the Barilla so we could have something edible. :-)

Lori Lynn said...

Hi Nicole- missed you. Thanks for your nice comment on my blog. Congrats on your 100th post!

Nicole said...

Elly- Oh try it! The only hard part is getting it thin. You are such a good cook. I am sure it will come out great.

Erin- Thank you. It is important to take care of life first. This is fun. It is a hobby. But real people in the real world are more important.

Carla- Welcome to my blog. Do come visit again soon.

Melissa- Welcome and Thank you so much! I am flattered. I will go check out your blog.

Kate- Yes.. it is a sort of cross between in a way. But it tasted nothing like gnocchi.

Panini Kathy- Thank you. Good luck.

Lori Lynn- Thank you so much. It is nice to be missed.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Nicole, Congratulations on your
100th post!! Your ravioli's turned out great, they sound good too. I checked out your website. You are so multi talented girl!

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Your ravioli sounds great, especially with the toasty cheese and bechamel on top!

Emily said...

Happy 100th!!! I certainly have missed you. I hope your holidays were good and that you had fun with your family. The ravioli looks yummy yummy yummy! I will have to convince my mum to let me make this some day.

Peter M said...

Welcome back Nicole...the ravioli sounds rib-stickin' good!

Don't laze around so much next time and make it easy on everyone...PICK ME!

taste memory said...

woo hoo! that pasta making looks like soooo much fun!

Happy 100th post - fantastic!

Nicole said...

Marie- Thank you. You are so sweet.

Marc- Thanks for dropping by. You can't beat cheese and bechamel can you.

Emily- Maybe you and your mom can make them together. It would be fun.

Peter- Yes... these will stick to your ribs! Maybe your thighs and other unwanted areas as well... Unfortunately.

Taste Memory- Thank you! So glad to see your face again.

Erin said...

You cards are so lovely. :) Enter me, please!

Sherry said...

Happy 2009 to you, too. Thanks for stopping by and visiting me again. Your cards are so fun. Keep on posting your adventures in food.

Nicole said...

Erin and Sherry- Thank you so much. Hope your year is starting off well.