OK, first of all, of course this is wonderful tasting stuff. Pasta and potatoes, leeks, cheese, bacon, and then, as if all of that was not enough, a sauce of melted butter. You can't go wrong with that sort of a combination. (Unless you're worried about issues of weight or cardiac health, but let's not even consider these things right now; it would spoil the mood. I don't want anything to disturb my present carbohydrate induced euphoria.)
The recipe comes from Lidia's Family Table. It's the first time I've used this cookboook in a while and in looking through it I am once again struck by the fact that Lidia Bastianich is first and foremost a teacher. She has pages of directions for making pasta and making ravioli. Her books are tremendously detailed and her recipes contain all sorts of information and cautions that other books assume the reader knows or simply leave out.
There are cookbook which are only a collection of recipes -- in fact, many of my favorite cookbooks are nothing more than a recipe collection. But there are also cookbooks which are every bit as much about teaching technique as they are about sharing recipes. Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking is one of these, and Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible is another. Lidia Bastianich's books also fall into this category.
Plus, her recipes are interesting, appealing, and cover a lot of ground. For instance, Lidia's Family Table has recipes for egg pasta and spinach pasta, but also buckwheat and barley pasta. There are recipes for simple tomato sauces and more esoteric things like poached veal tongue.
I am not a regular watcher of her television show on PBS, but of all the cooking shows I'm familliar with, I enjoy hers the most. She's the antithesis of what's on the Food Network these days -- first of all, she actually cooks, now a rarity on the Food Network. In her television show, Lidia comes across as genuine and authentic. If you were one of those people who didn't learn to cook at the side of your grandmother or mother, Lidia makes an excellent subsitute Italian mother/grandmother. And as if all that weren't enough, she's a renowned chef who creates sensational food.
Lidia Bastianich's Potato, Leek, and Bacon Ravioli
3/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (3 small potatoes)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 oz bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips
1 1/2 cups finely chopped leeks (about two medium leeks)
salt & pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fresh Pasta made using this recipe
1 egg, beaten
8 to 12 tablespoons butter
20 sage leaves, washed and patted dry
1. Put the whole, unpeeled potatoes in a pot of UNSALTED (Lidia's emphasis but if Lidia says so, I'm down with it) water, bring to a boil and cook until just cooked through. When the potatoes are cooked, put them aside to cool, then peel and and slice.
2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in the olive oil over medium heat until the bacon has rendered much of its fat. Stir in the leeks and cook until they're soft and wilted. Spread the potato slices in the pan, season with salt and pepper, and toss with the bacon and leeks.
3. Cook for 8 minutes or more over medium-high heat, breaking up the potatoes. Spread and press the filling flat in the pan and let caramelize for a couple of minutes. Turn the pieces, press and fry, then repeat. When the filling is thoroughly cooked and has started to color, scrape it into a mixing bowl. Cool briefly then crush the potatoes some more with a fork, then add 1/2 cup Parmesan, and salt and pepper, to taste.
4. Roll out the pasta in sections. I divide the dough into 5 or 6 sections, and roll out and fill one section at a time while keeping the rest covered in plastic wrap. After I finish rolling out a section using a pasta machine, I cut it into sections about twice as long as they are wide, then paint the beaten egg around the edges of the pasta. To fill the ravioli, place a tablespoon-full of filling in the middle of one side of a section, press the filling into a round shape. Fold the other side of the pasta over the filling, then press the pasta pieces together starting at the outside of the filling and working towards the edge. As you finish each ravioli put it on a piece of parchment paper that's been dusted with flour, or a kitchen towel that's been dusted with flour.
5. Melt butter, then add the sage leaves. Cook until sage leaves are crisp.
6. Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Salt, using about a tablespoon of salt. Gently add the ravioli being careful not to crowd them to make sure they don't stick to each other. (You may want to do this in two batches.) When the water comes back to a boil, cook for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes.
7. Fold a clean kitchen towel in half and put it on a dinner plate. Remove the ravioli with a slotted spoon, place on the towel, then tip into the pan with the butter and sage leaves. Toss gently with the butter and sage leaves and then serve, drizzling butter and sage leaves over the ravioli.
More Recipes from Lidia Bastianich:
Some more information on making ravioli.