I was walking down by my neighborhood river the other day and was thinking about how we never do anything just for fun anymore. Everything in our lives is always such a chore. Everything has a purpose.
We choose jobs based on how much they pay, or if we get medical or dental. We cook because our family has to eat. We run because it’s healthy.
It seems rare that we do something purely for the simple enjoyment it brings. Our lives seem to be focused more on getting the job done, rather than enjoying, and living, the life we have.
What if we lived our lives with an eye more toward the things that make us happy than the things that get us by? Sure that fancy new job pays more, but does it make you feel good? Does it give you a purpose in life beyond 9-5? Are you happy to go to work in the morning?
Sure we just got off work; we’re tired and the kids are hungry. What if, instead of throwing some frozen chicken nuggets in the oven, we make some simple chicken salad, or stuffed peppers, or easy ravioli?
The other day, I threw on my tennis shoes, tuned my iPod to Joy the Baker, warned the cat to not have too much fun while I was out, and made my way down to the river that runs through my neighborhood. And it was wonderful. I walked just because it was a lovely day, the geese were out, and I had nothing else going on. I walked for an hour, enjoying the fresh air and neighborhood waterfowl. And while it was technically exercise, it didn’t feel like exercise; it was fun, it was invigorating.
And that’s what life should be.
Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with Brown Butter and Whole Grain Mustard Sauce
Makes 10 ravioli
1 recipe homemade noodles, rolled on the thinnest setting into one large sheet
1/2 cup ricotta
1/3 cup chopped, cooked spinach, water squeezed out
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh, chopped thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh, chopped rosemary
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
Begin by mixing the ricotta, spinach, garlic, thyme, rosemary, squeeze fresh lemon, and salt and pepper together in a bowl. Taste and adjust any seasonings.
Lay out your long sheet of noodle on your work surface and cut it in half vertically, set one half aside and cover with a damp towel. On the remaining half, spoon the ricotta-spinach filling, in approximately 1 Tablespoon sized dollops, lengthwise down the middle of the noodle sheet, leaving 2 inches between each. Using your finger or a pastry brush, lightly circle the ricotta-spinach mounds with water this step is to ensure that the two pasta sheets stick to each other well.
Remove the towel from the clean noodle sheet and lightly lay it over the ricotta-spinach dollops. Carefully press the clean sheet on top of each mound to work out any air bubbles by gently working from the filling away to the edges of the pasta. Be careful not to press so hard that you tear the noodle.
Using a knife (or if you want round shapes, a cookie cutter), cut the ravioli into equal squares.
Cook in batches in well salted water for 3-4 minutes, or until al dente. Remove them to the serving plate(s).
After all the pasta is cooked, pour out the water and return the pan to the stove. Turn the heat to medium and add the butter. Let the butter cook until it is a nice amber brown, watching closely as it will go from browned butter to burnt butter quickly. As it’s browning, the butter will foam up a bit and then the foam will subside and it will begin to brown. When the butter is lightly brown and nutty smelling, remove it from the heat and whisk in the whole grain Dijon mustard. At this point, my sauce foamed up like crazy (which is why I’m recommending you cook it in the same pot that you cooked the ravioli in – you want lots of room for it to foam). Whisk continuously to combine the two. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and stir to combine.
Pour, or spoon, over the ravioli and serve hot.