"Stuffed pasta is always a treat, especially when it's homemade, but these ravioli are something else."
For as long as I've been eating at Frankies Spuntino I've been trying to figure out what makes their Sweet Potato Ravioli in Cheese Broth so incredible. It's the one dish I order without fail, and I've been trying to uncover what sets these ravioli apart, aside from the fact that they use wonton wrappers instead of a more traditional (and labor-intensive) pasta dough.
It was the first recipe I searched for when getting my hands on a copy of The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual by Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo. A quick glance at the list of ingredients list gave away the secret ingredient: Chinese five-spice powder.
Incorporating these Asian elements into an otherwise Italian-American menu might seem a bit strange but when you consider that Frank Falcinelli was cooking new American-Asian fare at Moomba before Frankies, it makes a little more sense. And when you taste it, the dish will wipe out any remaining doubts that you might have.
Using pre-made wonton wrappers takes the pressure off the pasta-maker phobics out there, not to mention cuts the prep time. The wrappers are much more forgiving than fresh pasta dough and for some reason sealed quicker and tighter than any egg-based pasta dough I've ever made, virtually eliminating the fall-apart threat during the cooking process.
The ravioli are finished in cheese broth, a thing of beauty in its own right. The Franks take the hard rinds of the cheeses used in the restaurant and simmer it with water so all the flavors from the otherwise unusable rinds infuse into the cooking water.
A little butter and sage are added to the broth with the ravioli, then topped with julienned scallions. Stuffed pasta is always a treat, especially when it's homemade, but these ravioli are something else. They tread the line between sweet and savory—I could eat about a million of them.
I'm pretty sure I'll be forever indebted to the The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual for turning one of my favorite Frankies' dishes into something I can make all by myself.
Win The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual to give away this week.
- 3 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed
- A negligible amount of olive oil
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 48 round wonton wrappers
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 or 6 sage leaves
- 8 cups Cheese Broth (recipe follows)
- 4 scallions, white and very light green parts only, cut into long, fine julienne
Heat the oven to 350°F. Slick the potatoes with oil, sprinkle with salt and white pepper and wrap individually in aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour, or until very tender.
Halve the sweet potatoes and scoop the flesh into a mixing bowl. Add the honey, five-spice powder, and a large pinch of salt. Stir to combine, then taste and adjust as needed. Let it cool down a little.
Prep your pasta-making station: the bowl of ravioli filling, the pile of wonton wrappers, a cutting board to work on, a small bowl of water (to seal the ravioli), and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Put a teaspoon of filling into the center of a wonton skin, dip your finger in the bowl of water and use it to wet the rim of the wonton skin, then fold the wrapper closed, pinching the edges to seal. Lay the ravioli on the baking sheet and repeat until they are all stuffed. The ravioli can be used right away or frozen on the baking sheet. (Once they have frozen solid, transfer them to a freezer bag or other container and store for up to a month.)
Melt the butter in a wide saucepan over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and cook them for a minute or so, just until aromatic. Add the cheese broth, season it with a pinch of salt and a few turns of white pepper, and bring to a simmer.
Drop the ravioli into the pot of salted water; they should bob to the surface of the pot in about 3 minutes. Remove the ravioli from the water and divide among the serving bowls. Ladle a cup or so of the broth into each bowl and garnish with a scattering of scallions.
- makes 1 quart -
Combine the rind of (the dry outer half inch of or so of a hard cheese) for a good-sized chunk of Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan or any grating cheese) with a quart of water and simmer for 2 hours, or as long as you can. Strain and use, or store it&mdash:up to a week in the fridge or for months in the freezer.