Date Night!

For Easter Scott and I received gift cards for a local grocery store from both my parents and his. Hmm, do you think someone knows I like cooking? Needless to say we were thrilled as it meant our grocery budget was out the window with these precious cards in our hands and a "fancy," and thus romantic, meal was in the works! First item on our grocery list: goat cheese. I don't know why, but this is always so with us. For Christmas we received a similar gift card from Scott's youngest brother and immediately both of us thought "let's get goat cheese." Is it silly that we automatically go for an item that's not really terribly expensive, though still off-limits on our normal budget, when we could go all out and get lamb or some other expensive meat instead? Maybe it is, but goat cheese is just so good, and it's hold on us isn't weakening--especially after the dynamite meal we made last Sunday night. 

Goat Cheese and Eggplant Ravioli with a Tomato Basil Sauce. My mouth is watering right now thinking about it, wishing I could have just one bite more! Scott had suggested that we use the goat cheese to make a goat cheese ravioli (he had it once at one of our favorite restaurants in Iowa City) and make a "date night" out of it by preparing the meal together and eating it by candlelight, so that is exactly what we did! The rich, strong flavors of the goat cheese were displayed at their best with the backdrop of the mellow, earthy eggplant. The homemade tomato basil sauce that topped the dish made it come alive with its freshness. Oh so good! I'd better get on with the recipe though because writing about it makes me long for it, and alas, the last bit was long gone on Monday for my lunch. But first, some pictures recapping the night.

Check it out! My husband (a self proclaimed "disaster in the kitchen") discovered he can crack eggs with one hand! Seriously, he can. Who knew?

Scott was in charge of making the pasta and rolling out the dough while I made the filling and the sauce. Since we don't have a pasta maker, Scott was out to prove how thin he could get the pasta. He did good didn't he? He was quite proud of his work so if you see him, make sure you tell him great job on the pasta dough!

The mood is set and it's time to eat!

If you decide to do this as a date I would request that you do not do the dishes that night, instead pretend like your at a restaurant, relax, take your time eating, and enjoy each other's company. So grab your sweetheart, or best cooking pal, and get in the kitchen!

Goat Cheese and Eggplant Ravioli with a Tomato Basil Sauce
Adapted from Emeril's recipe

For the filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
4 oz. goat cheese,
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigianno-Reggiano, plus more for serving, optional
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (All I had was the "fresh" basil that comes in a squeeze tube and this worked fine)
1 recipe fresh pasta (see below for recipe) thinly rolled out or 1/2 package wonton wrappers, defrosted--they will taste more "eggy" than normal pasta but still good
For the sauce:
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1 teaspoons minced garlic
2 1/2 cups peeled, chopped, and seeded tomatoes **
1 sprig thyme or 1/4 tsp dried
Kosher Salt
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Sprigs of fresh basil, for garnishing
Lightly toasted pine nuts, for garnishing, optional

For the filling:
In a large skillet or saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the eggplant and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is tender and lightly golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until the shallots are soft, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer the eggplant mixture to a food processor and set aside to cool before proceeding.
If you can handle two things at once start the sauce now, if not, wait until you finish the ravioli.
When the eggplant has cooled, add the goat cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, chopped basil, and pulse until combined and mixed thoroughly. If you do not have a food processor just mix the ingredients well my hand.
Cut the pasta sheets into 4-inch (2x2 in.) squares. Place mounds of the eggplant mixture, about 2 tablespoons each, in the center of each square, then brush the edges with water. Top each square with another square of pasta, easing the sides over the mound of filling and trying to seal the filling with as little air as possible. Press the edges to adhere firmly with fingers or a fork. Transfer to a "waiting station" next to boiling water and repeat with the remaining pasta and filling. (You should be able to make 14 ravioli using about 1 1/2 tablespoons filling for each. If you opt to use wonton wrappers, your yield may vary.) If you need to make the sauce now, set aside, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate, while you make the sauce. (Alternately, the ravioli may be made in advance and frozen for about 2 months until ready to use. Defrost before proceeding.)

For the sauce:
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and thyme. Season with salt and crushed red pepper, and cook until the tomatoes give up their liquid, about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the chicken broth and tomato paste, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by 1/3 in volume. Add the cream and cook until reduced by 1/3 in volume, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Add the butter and basil and stir to combine. Remove the thyme sprigs. If you have an immersion blender, you can puree the sauce in the pan, or do as we did and puree it in the food processor. Taste and adjust the seasoning and consistency if necessary. Return to the saucepan and keep warm while you cook the ravioli.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the ravioli, in batches, until they float, 3 to 4 minutes. *I often find that they start to float before the allotted cooking time is done, if you take the ravioli out then the pasta will be tough so make sure you wait the 3-4 minutes! Remove using a slotted spoon and transfer to shallow serving bowls. Serve the sauce ladled over the cooked ravioli and garnish with fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, and more Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired.

Fresh Pasta

1 cup semolina (can substitute all purpose flour)
1 cup all purpose flour
pinch salt
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Mix dry ingredients together in a food processor. Add eggs and olive oil and mix again until a ball of dough forms. Take the dough out of the food processor and knead with your hands for 8-12 minutes on a well floured surface until dough is smooth and supple. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap, or cover with a damp towel, and allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. At the end of the rest period roll out the dough using a pasta maker or a rolling pin to desired thickness. If using a rolling pin get the dough as thin as possible making sure to use plenty of flour often so the dough does not stick. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the pasta.  If you have extra pasta cut it into long strands, let dry, and use as linguine.

**To peel and seed tomatoes simply slit the skin on the bottom in the shape of an "x" and take out the core on top of the tomato. Like this:

Then dump them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon, and place them in a large bowl filled with cool water. Remove from cool water and starting at the "x" peel the tomato, the skin should come right off, if it does not return to boiling water for 30 seconds more. When peeled cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze them with the cut side down to get all of the seeds and juice out so you are only left with the meaty part of the tomato.


  1. your husband? wow you're so grown-up! :) hehe. seriously, congratulate scott for me on mastering a kitchen must-know skill. the ravioli photos look delicious!!! did i tell you one of my favorite restaurants in hk has a pumpkin ravioli dish? they make it savory but slightly sweet - perhaps some kind of brown sugar glaze? i'm sure there's a recipe online somewhere; maybe we'll have to have a ravioli party when i get back!


    ps. i forwarded your blog to some foodies at work!

    love, Dasha