Asparagus ravioli

A classic spring vegetable, asparagus has finally started popping up in my local farmer’s markets.  Native to western Europe, asparagus is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world.  It is a perennial that, if properly cared for, can be productive for over a decade.  I wouldn’t recommend growing asparagus at home, however, unless you really, REALLY love it and want an entire garden full of it (or if you have an enviably large yard).  It is rich in nutrients and I think we’re all familiar with its diuretic properties.

Asparagus has its devoted fans, but it is no doubt an acquired taste, and, I’m not gonna lie, it’s one I’m still working on acquiring myself.  The bitter flavor is just not my favorite.  But as an avowed vegetable lover, it seemed like a sacrilege to dislike it, as one of the first to usher in the growing season.  So like I said.  I’m working on it :).

Luckily, I’ve discovered this recipe below — the flavors of the butter and the cheeses seem to meld perfectly with the asparagus, mellowing its bitterness and bringing out its subtle flavors.  And though the thought of ravioli from scratch sounds daunting, this recipe uses a cheat — wonton wrappers!

So you have no excuse not to give it a try.  I don’t normally post the recipes here that don’t turn out, so I know I say I love everything I write about on this blog — but seriously, this time, I REALLY mean it — this recipe is freaking amazing.

Asparagus ravioli with brown butter sauce
Adapted from the Fine Cooking version

Ingredients
1 lb. asparagus
6 tablespoons mascarpone
1/3 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan; more for serving
2-3 garlic cloves (enough for 1/2 t minced)
Pinch cayenne
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
36 wonton wrappers
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds

Method

Take your pound of asparagus and snap off the woody ends.  Chop off the tips and set aside.  Coarsely chop the stems into approximately 1 inch pieces.

In a pot of boiling, salted water, blanch the asparagus tips until bright green, about 2 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon, drop in a bowl of ice water, and then place on a towel to dry.  Repeat with the chopped stems, keeping them separate from the tips.

In a food processor, mince the garlic and the 1.5 cups of the chopped asparagus stems (you can also do this by hand if you have the patience).  Save any remaining asparagus with the tips set aside earlier for garnish later.

Combine the minced garlic and asparagus with the mascarpone, ricotta, parmesan and cayenne.  Salt to taste, about 1/4 t.

Set out 18 wonton wrappers on your work surface.  Place 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each wrapper.  Dampen the edges of the wrapper and place another on top, pressing the edges together.  (Note:  this obviously resulted in very, very large raviolis.  You may want to experiment using only one wrapper at a time and folding in half into a triangle to make the ravioli).

To make the sauce, simply heat the butter, coarsely ground black pepper and almonds in a skillet until butter has browned, about 5-6 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and gently drop raviolis into the pot, cooking until they float to the top, about one minute.  Remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate and drizzle with the butter sauce.  Garnish with additional parmesan and the remaining asparagus tips you had set aside.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

A perfect spring dinner for a perfect spring evening.  Give it a try!

-R

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