Four Cheese Ravioli

When I was growing up, ravioli was one of the things that we got as a treat on special occasions. My mom would get one of the giant cans from Chef Boyardee, add some cheese, and bake it in the oven. When I got older, I realized how unhealthy that stuff was, and what was more, how slimy the pasta was, and stopped eating it altogether. Then while reading a book called Cook This, Not That I found a recipe for ravioli and realized how easy it would be to make my own. This recipe is loosely based on that recipe.

1 package round wonton wrappers
16 oz ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated mozzarella
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 egg white
1 Tlbs milk

In a bowl mix the ricotta, mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan, and garlic powder together. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white and milk together. Take one of the wonton wrappers and put a small amount of the cheese mixture on one half of the wrapper. Make sure to leave 1/2" or so of free space around the edge of the wrapper. It takes some practice to get the amount right. I would say 2 tsp or so of the mixture, or an amount no larger than the size of a small super ball. Form it to make a half circle shape within your wonton wrapper. Then, using a small paintbrush, paint the edge of the wonton wrapper with the egg white mixture and fold over the wrapper so that you now have a closed half circle. Press the two edges together, using the egg white mixture as the "glue" that holds the two halves together. Make sure to press firmly and seal it completely from end to end. Then repeat until either your cheese mixture or your wonton wrappers are gone.

This is the perfect recipe to make and freeze. There is a bit of work that goes into assembling the ravioli, but to make it from frozen takes me exactly 5 minutes from freezer to plate. To freeze the ravioli, spray a cookie sheet with olive oil and lay the finished ravioli on the pan as you make them. Freeze them for half an hour, then lift them off the sheet, throw them into a ziploc bag, and put them in the freezer. To cook them, slide the desired amount into boiling water for about 2 minutes, then top with your desired sauce. Including the time to boil the water, it takes no more than 5 minutes. Perfect. It is important not to overcook the ravioli or the edges will come unsealed and then you have a mess, so keep a close eye on them. I would say between 1.5 and 2 minutes at the outside, if you put them into boiling water.

Although I haven't yet done it, I think this would be a great recipe to easily modify. It would be really easy to disguise steamed cauliflower (which I hate) or mushrooms (ew) or even good stuff like broccoli in these babies and no one would be the wiser. I do wish I could find whole wheat wonton wrappers, but this is still so much healthier and delicious than the canned version that I really don't mind.

Rating: 4/5
Why? This is a time-consuming recipe to put together. It takes about an hour or so, depending on how fast you are, to make an entire batch. However, when you are done, you have a large amount of ravioli that will last for months in the freezer, and if you keep the pasta sauce on hand, you have a dinner that takes less time than ordering a pizza and is far healthier. I think 4-5 of these would make one serving, topped with 1 cup or so of the tomato pasta sauce.


Cheese and Corn Lasagna

I think lasagna is one of the most comforting of comfort foods. And living in Washington, it can get pretty cold and dreary, one of the main causes of needing comfort foods in the first place. Being a teacher provides the rest of the motivation. =) This recipe is my own, very loosely based on what my mom used to make when I was little.

This is the recipe for an 8x8 or 9x9 pan

6 whole wheat lasagna noodles
8 oz low fat ricotta cheese
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated low-fat mozzarella cheese
1.5 cups fresh or frozen corn
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp basil
2 tsp parsley
1/8 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper

Prepare the noodles according to the directions on the package. Make the sauce by combining the tomato sauce, basil, parsley, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper. If desired, you can do this over medium heat for 15 minutes or so. Spray the pan with olive oil. Spread 2 of the noodles with the ricotta cheese and lay them in the pan. There should be some extra of each of the noodles, cut it off and use it for the third row in your pan. Spread a thin layer of the sauce on top of the noodles, then 1/3 of the cheddar cheese. On top of that, put 1/2 cup of corn, then 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat the process twice more, for three total layers. On top of the last layer, sprinkle the parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.

I love this recipe but have to be careful not to eat the entire pan in one sitting. =) I have tried to clean it up with the whole wheat noodles, corn and low-fat cheeses, but it is not entirely healthy even so. I do not use the pre-cooked noodles for this reason, even though they are easier, they are not nearly as healthy as the whole wheat ones. I also make my own sauce to cut down on the not-so-great stuff, but you could use jarred pasta sauce if you wanted to. It would also be easy to add ground turkey, steamed broccoli, or other additions if you wanted to do so.

Rating: 5/5
Why? It's the perfect comfort food. 'Nuff said.