I used to hate cooking, absolutely, positively HATED it!
I was not good at cooking, I used to burn everything, I could never get the flavours right and in my earlier relationships I was expected to cook, clean and act like a servant. I despised everything about that life, especially the cooking and cleaning. It was also rather challenging to make anything delicious or healthy when you had no money and no ingredients. There is only so much you can do with a packet of 2 minute noodles, some cheese and a bottle of sauce. I could not find anything therapeutic, enjoyable or wonderful about the process of cooking.
I never saw the value or found any joy in cooking for others nor for myself, sure I would often cook meals and deliver them to people who were sick or out of action or whatever but I really struggled to cook well for my family. I just cooked for the sake of cooking. I really think a huge part of it was due to the relationship(s) I was in because I despised the way I was treated and that it was demanded I have a meal on the plate at the same time every evening, or else! It was nothing more than a daily, laborious chore that needed to be done. Of course as my illness progressed and I was more and more incapable of cooking, my children stepped up to the plate and cooked for us instead. I used to watch them in complete awe at how much they both enjoyed cooking. They attended classes and entered into competitions and my eldest even won the local Junior Master Chef Competition. I just didn’t understand why they loved it so much. I know now that they were cooking out of pure, innocent love. They saw their beloved Mum so sick and incapable of doing much of anything, so they poured their hearts out through cooking. My children have taught me so very much about love and life and of course cooking.
Now that my health is constantly improving, I am in a loving, healthy relationship with a beautiful man, I often sit back and ask myself how I can support him each day when he goes off to work and does his share of contributing to the relationship. One of the things I can do to support him is cook us both healthy, nutritious and delicious meals and that is what I try to do. I actually caught myself enjoying cooking recently and the fact that he comments on my cooking, EVERY single time, praises me, thanks me and always goes back for more, it really makes a difference. To feel appreciated and valued is such a huge act of love, even when as simple as “That was delicious Honey, Thank You!” I want to cook for him. I never thought I would say that, or experience it. I could never understand why people would willingly WANT to cook, clean, wash etc for their partner. I didn’t get it. I honestly felt as though they were being treated like slaves, that I had been treated like a slave previously, that there was this stupid, sexist stereotype about women belonging in the kitchen, but now I get it. Now I understand why people do whatever they can to support and love the significant other in their lives.
Now we have gotten that out-of-the-way, let’s move towards this recipe, which is currently one of my family’s favourites.
I learned the basics of this recipe when I attended a series of classes recently where we were taught some really great tips like how to make our food go further, how to prepare and store foods, making healthier meal choices, reducing waste and much more. I was actually fascinated in these simple, helpful tips and learning new techniques and recipes along the way. Gee, I’m turning into a regular Martha Stewart.
I learned so many useful things throughout this course and some of them come to mind right now however, one that sticks out for me today is utilising vegetable scraps for stocks and broths. I keep a large freeze-able container and each time I use any carrot, celery, onion or garlic, I throw the scraps into the container. I keep the peel and ends of the carrot, the celery tops, leaves and base, the onion and garlic ends and throw them all into the freezer.
I just keep adding these things to this container until I have enough to make a vegetable or beef bone broth.
Vegetarians and vegans PLEASE avert your eyes.
I have embellished this recipe a little to suit my family’s tastes and whenever I serve this meal, I always receive rave reviews.
There are a couple of downsides to this recipe however, 1. It is VERY time-consuming, especially the prep involved but I am a VERY slow and meticulous cook too and 2. You will not be able to stop enjoying the delicious flavours that roll over your tongue, going back for more until you feel as though you are going to pop.
To cut down a little on prep time, I use wonton wrappers instead of making my own pasta at the moment. I am hoping to spend a day soon where I am able to do a whole heap of meal prep, including pasta so it can be frozen or dried for later.
When I make these ravioli now, I will make up a huge batch so I can freeze some for later. As my daughter and I were given some fresh spinach yesterday, I decided it was a great time to utilise this recipe once again.
Now, I am going to find this a little challenging as I don’t often measure portions, so whenever I am asked for a recipe, I cringe because my measured portions sizes are “a bit of this, a splash of that, about that much of that!”
Last night, I used the following portions, 3 large bunches of spinach which I remove the stems and spines from and finely sliced the green parts of the spinach. (The spines are usually sliced up finely as well and fed to the worms in the worm farm). I use my large electric frying pan, pour in some garlic infused olive oil, about a dessertspoonful and put all of the spinach on top to sweat. I usually find I need to put some water in to help the process. Last night we ended up putting in 2 cups of water at a time until it had all evaporated and then added more water as needed until the spinach had wilted and cooked. Once cooked and thoroughly wilted, cool your spinach.
Into a large mixing bowl, I placed an entire 1kg of La Casa Del Formaggio Traditional Ricotta Cheese and finely grated an entire block of parmesan cheese. No particular reason that I use this brand of ricotta except that it is the largest and most affordable quantity I can easily obtain and it cooks well and tastes good. Last night we used 250gm Mil Lel Parmesan Cheese and only this brand this time because it was on special at about 40% off. Then add your cooled spinach and mix well. This is also the time to season well with salt and pepper. Once you have mixed all ingredients well, do a taste test to ensure the seasonings are right for your liking. Cover and set aside.
With your wonton or gow gee wrappers, lay some out on the bench and place a small amount of your ricotta and spinach in the centre. I probably have a bit too much in these shown below. I would aim for about a teaspoon full.
With the amounts we cooked up last night, we used just under 4 x wonton and gow gee wrappers which totalled 160 tortellini.
Once you have placed you filling on your wrappers, wet 2 x adjoining sides, fold the wrapper in half and seal well, ensuring you squeeze out any pockets of air from inside the wrapper including around the filling. Air pockets will expand in the boiling water when you cook them and will in turn blow the side of the wonton wrapper out and you will loose all of your filling. You can then turn the triangles into gold ingots as below as taught to me by my beautiful Chinese friend, Angel.
Here is a link to a YouTube tutorial on how to fold wonton ingots
I fold the gow gee wrappers in the same way.
As I am folding the wrappers into tortellini, I place them onto a tray that will fit into my freezer and freeze some as I go. Once I have a tray full, I place them in the freezer to freeze until I fill another tray. By the time the next tray is filled, the current tray in the freezer is frozen. I remove the frozen tortellini from the tray and place them into freezer bags to return to the freezer to preserve for future meals.
When you are ready to cook your tortellini, you will need a large pot of water to bring to the boil with a generous pinch of salt. Once the water has come to the boil, leave it to boil vigorously and drop in your tortellini, reduce heat to simmer so you can see when they are cooked. Remove them with a slotted spoon when they rise to the surface and bob on the top.
Now to make the tomato sauce, you want to get about 5 or 6 cloves of garlic and crush or mince to form a paste. Add a little salt to help with the crushing, I usually just use the back of my kitchen knife on the chopping board to mince my garlic, dragging it and squashing the garlic across the board. alternatively, you can also finely chop or even slice your garlic.
I used 6 packets of 200gm tomato medley punnets and cut small crosses in the bottoms of each tomato. I bought a large pot of water to the boil and had a large bowl of ice water sitting on the bench beside the stove. Once I had crossed all of the tomatoes, I dropped them all into the boiling water, turned the heat off and within about 60 seconds, scooped all of the tomatoes out and dropped them into the ice water. Then it is time to peel the skins off all of the tomatoes. It comes off very easily once they have been blanched like this.
Back to our large electric frying pan and again, add some garlic infused olive oil to a clean pan and your garlic cloves before adding your peeled, whole tomatoes. Add a very generous amount of fresh thyme as well and then add 2 cups of chicken stock, 2 cartons of thickened cream and a carton of double cream. Reduce the sauce until it thickens.
Once your sauce has thickened, you can plate it up. Place some of your tortellini in a bowl and top with tomato sauce. You can sprinkle some grated parmesan, thyme and parsley on top if you wish or just eat it as we do.
Decadent Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Tomato Cream Sauce
Prep time: Approx 3 hrs
Cook time: Approx 30 mins
Total time: 3hrs 30 mins
- 1 Tbsp Garlic Infused Olive Oil
- 1.5kg (or 3 bunches) Fresh Spinach (Stems Removed) & Finely Sliced
- 500gm Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1 kg Ricotta Cheese
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 Tbsp Garlic Infused Olive Oil Additional
- 5 Cloves Garlic
- 6 x 200gm Punnets Tiny Tomato Medley
- 5 – 10 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 2 Cups Chicken Stock
- 2 Cartons Thickened Cream
- 1 Carton Double or Heavy Cream
- Salt and Pepper
- 4 Packets Wonton Wrappers
- Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large electric frying pan. Add the finely sliced spinach with stems removed. Add a cup of water if necessary to help the spinach wilt and cover, approx. 15 minutes. Turn spinach regularly to ensure it wilts evenly.
- Continue to cook the spinach with the lid removed now to evaporate all liquid. About 5 – 10 minutes, ensuring the spinach doesn’t burn or dry out.
- Once spinach is cooked and wilted, removed from heat and cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, add ricotta cheese, 500gms finely grated parmesan, cooled spinach and salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients until well combined. Taste the mixture to ensure the seasoning is correct.
- Lay out wonton wrappers on your chopping board and place a teaspoon of the ricotta mixture in the centre of each wrapper. Wet 2 adjoining sides of the wrapper, fold wrapper in half forming a triangle, and press sides together to seal, ensuring you remove all air from the wrapper. Fold points of wonton wrapper into the centre and press together forming a golden ingot shape.
- Once you have made enough tortellini with your wonton wrappers, drop them into a pot of salted, boiling water. Reduce the heat of the water to simmering so you can watch the tortellini float to the surface when they cooked. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and serve into serving bowls.
- With the large amounts I have used in this recipe, I was able to freeze excess tortellini for future meals to cut down on prep time. As tortellini were being wrapped, I placed them onto a tray that would fit in my freezer and froze a tray at a time, while continuing to wrap tortellini. Once the next tray was ready to freeze, the first tray was frozen. I then store them in the freezer in portion sized bags.
- Get all of your small, coloured tomatoes and cut small crosses in the bases. Once you have cut small crosses in your tomatoes, drop them into a large pot of boiling salted water. Turn heat off and within about 60 seconds, use a slotted spoon to scoop tomatoes out of the water and drop them into the bowl of ice water you have beside the stove. Peel the skins from the tomatoes and discard the skins.
- Heat olive oil in electric frying pan once again over a medium heat. add garlic and peeled tomatoes. Cook covered for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes soften.
- Add stock and thyme to the tomatoes and bring to the boil. Cook uncovered until about half of the liquid evaporates. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
- Add cream and double cream to the tomato mixture, return to a low heat and mix well to combine.
- Add seasoning to taste and serve over tortellini.
- You can sprinkle some grated parmesan, thyme and parsley over the top if you wish.
I have done some experimenting with freezing and preserving both the tortellini and the sauce.
As I mentioned earlier, I froze the tortellini on trays initially then packaged into bags. I have worked out for our family, 6 x tortellini each person is a rather generous serve so I have made individual serves of 6 per packet for freezing.
As for the tomato sauce, I have discovered that 3 x Tablespoons into a plastic bag and frozen flat, is more than enough per person.
To cook the tortellini, bring a large pot of water to the boil, with a generous pinch of salt added. Once boiling vigorously, drop your frozen tortellini into the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Keep an eye on the tortellini and as soon as it raises to the surface and bobs on top, it is cooked. Drain.
For the sauce, place it in a saucepan while still frozen and warm over a gentle heat. Add a good Tablespoon of milk to your sauce while it is re-heating. Keep a close eye on this and warm it slowly so it does not burn. Ensure that your tomatoes are warmed through. If the sauce thickens too much, add another Tablespoon of milk.
As mentioned earlier, you can sprinkle some finely grated parmesan over and some freshly chopped parsley and/or thyme as well.
What is your family’s favourite meal or dish at the moment? Please feel welcome to share in the comments below.
Love and light.