Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Recipe: Cheese Ravioli with Pumpkin-Sage Sauce

Sometimes students in my online classes post the question, "How do I get from understanding how to change up a recipe to actually doing it?" In part, the answer to that question is that experience is the best teacher!

That said, there are times when I consciously make decisions about recipes. Recently I ran across a recipe for Cheese Ravioli with Pumpkin-Sage Sauce in a facebook post. I was immediately intrigued: How often, aside from making Thanksgiving stuffing, do you get to use sage? I love pumpkin, and I'm always on the lookout for new pumpkin recipes. And, as many of you know, I adore smooth-and-creamy sauces, especially when they're lowered-fat and loaded with phytochemicals.

So, I prepared the recipe, with a few alterations: I switched from one finely-chopped shallot to 1/2 white onion, halved and thinly sliced. Also, I eliminated the purchased Alfredo sauce, and replaced it with my own recipe for Tofredo sauce (Alfredo sauce made from tofu, rather than cream).

Unfortunately, I was disappointed in the final product. Although I enjoy recipes that balance sweet and savory flavors, this recipe leaned too far in the direction of sweet, even for me. The chopped walnuts suggested as a garnish were essential for helping balance the flavors. My family ate it, but didn't like it, and were reassured when I promised to change it up next time.

What to do? I made two changes that completely changed the balance of flavors. Because the recipe was too sweet, I first increased the onion to one whole onion, rather than one-half. Second, I added in even more savory flavor by including a tablespoon of garlic. (I also added in the ground sage with the onion and garlic, rather than adding it at the end, so it had both oil and time in which to release its essential oils more effectively.)

I'm happy to report that my family loved the updated version of this recipe. I'm a huge fan of it, too: It's smooth and creamy, reasonably healthy, and definitely lightning-quick and easy to prepare. As a side note, it's amazingly good with broccoli, and because the recipe makes a generous amount of sauce, we found that we really didn't need butter or oil on the broccoli. So, without further ado:

Cheese Ravioli with Pumpkin-Sage Sauce


1 (24-ounce) package frozen cheese ravioli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons ground sage
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic (or 3 large garlic cloves, minced)
12 ounces silken tofu (I prefer Mori-Nu, but House is an acceptable brand as well)
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup strongly-flavored fresh shredded Italian cheese, such as Asiago
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground peppercorn mix
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 dashes ground cayenne
1 (14-ounce) can pumpkin puree
Chopped walnuts (optional)
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)


Prepare ravioli according to manufacturer's directions. Drain, set aside, and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook onions, garlic, and sage in olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until onions are tender. Reduce heat to low.

Meanwhile, combine tofu, milk, cheeses, peppercorn mix, nutmeg, and cayenne in blender or food processor, and puree until smooth. Add tofu puree and pumpkin mixture to onion mixture and combine. Do not bring sauce to a boil. Add ravioli to pan and combine. Serve immediately.

Garnish with chopped walnuts and chopped fresh parsley, if desired.