Recipe: Lobster Ravioli in a Vodka Cream Sauce

I got the chance to spend this past week with Sara, my best friend from college—she found a reasonably-priced flight and flew up to my home in Pennsylvania for a visit. We spent time in Pittsburgh, visiting museums and eating some fantastic meals, and we also spent time at home, watching movies (including a guilty pleasure, You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks) and even doing a little cooking. I showed her some basics, like mincing garlic and cutting basil in chiffonade, and hopefully didn’t drive her nuts by hovering over her while she performed said basics. One thing she said she really wanted to try was making homemade pasta with my pasta rolling machine, so I got the bright idea to make ravioli, because that’s the one attachment (for raviolini, actually) on the pasta machine that I hadn’t tried out yet. That idea turned into Lobster Ravioli in a Vodka Cream Sauce (with a little inspiration from here and here) that took at least three hours to make and resulted in some not-so-attractive but oh-so-tasty raviolini (basically, miniature ravioli). Now, if you want to go the easy route, buy pre-made lobster ravioli and skip ahead to the vodka cream sauce part of the recipe. If you want to go for the glory and make the ravioli by hand, I recommend looking up methods for cutting them by hand, because I’ve tried that way before and I’m betting it’s a lot faster and less messy than the machine (though, keep in mind, this was our first time using this attachment, so it was bound to take a little longer than if I’d tried to do it before).

By the time we finally finished cooking, I was too hungry to go find my “plating” plate, so the “Poppies in Blue” will have to do

Serves: 4-6 (depends on the size and amount of ravioli/raviolini)
Prep. time: 10 minutes for the sauce; anywhere from 1-3 hours to make the ravioli (dough comes together in 10 minutes, and 30 minutes to rest, then the ravioli will take at least an hour to roll out and form)
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes for the sauce; 5 minutes for each batch of ravioli
Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients
For the sauce

  • Extra virgin olive oil, enough to lightly coat the bottom of a pan
  • Approx. 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 shallots, minced
  • 1 cup vodka (you don’t need to use the good stuff, since you’re cooking it)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28-32 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh basil, chiffonade cut, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Italian seasoning, to taste

For the ravioli

  • 1/2 stick (2 oz.) unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. shallots, minced
  • Approx. 16 oz. pre-cooked lobster meat (I used frozen, pre-cooked langostino lobster)
  • 4 oz. cooked crab meat (I used the crab meat you can find on the same shelf as canned tuna)
  • 2 oz. Cognac 
  • 1/2-1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tbsp. chives, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pasta dough, double batch, rested for 30 minutes (see recipe here; double the recipe)

Directions
Heat the butter for the ravioli in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant. Add the lobster, crab meat, and chives and cook for a few minutes, then add the Cognac and cook until it’s been reduced by about 1/2 to 3/4 (you only want a little liquid in the pan). Pour the mixture into a food processor and pulse to chop the mixture (only pulse a few times—you just want to break up the pieces of lobster, but you don’t want to turn the mixture into a puree). Pour the mixture back into the bowl and set aside to cool. Once cool, add in the desired amount of ricotta and season with salt and pepper. Now, the tricky part…if you’re using a pasta machine with a ravioli attachment, follow the instructions for use (it’ll likely involve threading dough into the attachment, adding filling, rolling out sheets of ravioli, then pulling apart the ravioli sheets into squares). If you’re cutting them by hand, look up instructions (they’ll likely say to lay out rolled-out dough on a flat surface, place a dollop of filling a few inches apart in straight lines down the dough, then lay a sheet of dough on top, press around each filling mound, and cut into ravioli shapes). Either way, you will need to make sure you have large, rolled out pieces of dough before you start forming and cutting. (I apologize for not offering more information, but I was using a machine and followed its instructions to make my ravioli). Once the ravioli are formed and cut, spread them out on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with a clean towel to keep them from getting dried out.
In a large, deep pan, heat the olive oil and butter for the vodka sauce over medium heat. Add in garlic and shallots and cook for a few minutes, until lightly fragrant. Add the vodka and cook until it’s been reduced by half, then add the chicken stock and tomatoes. Turn up the heat and cook until it just starts to boil, then reduce heat to low. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream, and continue to keep the sauce warm.
Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot. Cook the ravioli in batches, for 5 minutes each. Rather than drain the pot, refill, and wait for it to boil all over again, just pull the ravioli out with a slotted spoon and continue to use the same batch of boiling water. Transfer the cooked ravioli from the spoon into the sauce. Once all of the ravioli is cooked and added to the sauce, it’s finished. Serve with grated Italian cheese and a sprinkling of fresh basil.

Despite being labor-intensive (if you make the ravioli from scratch), this really is a delicious and surprisingly light dish. The ravioli are flavorful little pouches of meaty lobster and creamy ricotta and the vodka sauce, with the fresh taste of tomatoes and just a hint of the vodka, is the perfect choice for the pasta.

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