Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Midweek Food Musings: Ravioli with Shrimp, Basil, Tomato, Cream Sauce (a.k.a. a deal-sealing meal!)

We all have memories of special meals. (Maybe this is why I love to cook so much!) This one, a favorite of my husband's, is also called "The Meal that Sealed the Heian Deal!" I'll explain.

Many, many moons ago (in the early 90s!), I had the pleasure of first meeting Curtis Kelly at a TESOL conference in Vancouver, Canada. Curtis was (and is still!) living in Kyoto, Japan, and at that time was a professor at Heian Junior College. I had my beautiful 2 year-old daughter at home,  and was teaching ESL at Concordia College in Bronxville, New York. Anyway, we started talking about the possibility of doing a kind of exchange, whereby he would bring a bunch of students from his college to spend some time studying/visiting New York. The students would stay at Concordia for their English classes, but would have also the opportunity to "experience" New York City.

Well, after preliminary discussions, calls, and faxes (ahno email yet! Yikes!), Curtis came for a visit to the States. They were, if I remember correctly, considering a couple of schools.  He saw Concordia, but then came to our apartment for dinner (I always like to give visitors the home-cooking experience!).

And because it was this meal that I prepared, and also because the decision to have Concordia be the host for his 30 nineteen year-old female students for 3 weeks, my husband started calling this dish, "The Meal that Sealed the Heian Deal!" and it stuck... In fact, we went on to have the Heian program at Concordia for the next three summers.  (And Curtis and I went on to write the English as a Second Language textbooks, the Writing From Within series...which last year came out in a second edition! Yay!) So you see what this dish started?!

Where did I get this recipe? I found the original version in  365 Ways to Cook Pasta. (Maybe you remember this one—or this series? They also had Cook Chicken, Vegetarian, and probably many more!) Anyway, 21 years later, I'm still making it, though it's changed a bit. Here I'm sharing my "updated" version, which has evolved over the years.  I prepared it for a small (and lovely!) crowd on Friday night, along with roasted vegetables, sautéed cauliflower, leafy-green salad, warm bread, and more! 

Hope you like it and hmmm...maybe it will help you seal a deal, too! 

Ravioli with Shrimp, Basil, and Tomato-Cream Sauce

Serves 12 to 15 

Olive oil 
3 small red onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced 
red wine 
2 1/2 to 3 pounds small tomatoes (or your favorite!), halved or diced (or you can use canned, diced tomatoes) 
2 cups light cream (you can also use half and half—or use some heavy with some light)
2 pounds medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 18 fresh basil leaves, coarsely torn.
3 pounds fresh or frozen cheese-filled ravioli 

Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onions, and sauté until the onions soften. Add about 1/2 cup of red wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat the cream. Bring it to a boil but don't let it boil over! Stir as needed. Continue cooking until it's reduced by about half (about 10 minutes). Add the hot cream to the tomato sauce and mix well. Then stir in the shrimp. Bring to a simmer and cook, over low heat, stirring frequently, until the shrimp is cooked (but be careful not to overcook it!), about 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add most of the basil and stir. 

There were two plates of the ravioli, a large dish of roasted veggies, assorted sauteed cauliflower, and salad! 
Bring a pot full of waterenough to cook the raviolito a boil. Cook the ravioli until tender. Drain. Add the sauce to the ravioli and mix, without breaking them! (You can also plate the ravioli and add the sauce on top, but you'll have to put some sauce in initially so it doesn't stick.) Top with fresh basil just before serving. 

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