Rigatoni di Gregorio

Sometimes I’m a little hesitant to try recipes that are knock-offs of popular restaurant dishes.  I suppose I just don’t expect them to live up the the restaurant version.  Of course, the more of a foodie I become, the less I eat at the various chains that inspire these knock-offs in the first place.  This particular dish is based off of one by the same name at Maggiano’s, more commonly known as Rigatoni D.  We’ve been to Maggiano’s a few times and I may have even ordered this once, but I didn’t remember it that well so I don’t have much case for comparison.  That’s fine though, this can just stand alone as a great pasta dish.  It has grilled chicken, mushrooms and a light wine cream sauce (light in taste and texture, not calories – sorry!)  This is a lovely meal and, bonus!  Another use for that bottle of Marsala wine in the fridge besides chicken Marsala.  Ben particularly enjoyed this dinner.  I believe his exact words were, “Hey, cooking lady!  Outstanding.”  I guess we’ll be having it again 🙂

Rigatoni di Gregorio
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Yield: 3-4 servings

8 oz. rigatoni
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup chopped yellow onion
4 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. dry white wine
¼ cup Marsala wine
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream (or half-and-half)
2 tsp. minced fresh basil
2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. butter

Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken breasts to the pan and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.  If necessary, turn down the heat to medium-low so the outside doesn’t brown too quickly.  Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.  When cool enough to handle, cut into bite-size pieces.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan with the heat on medium-high.  Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and continue to cook until most of the liquid has been released and the onions are softened, about 5 minutes more.  Mix in the garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the wines, scraping with a spoon to deglaze the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Whisk in the chicken broth.  Return Bring to a simmer, lower the heat to medium and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half.  Stir in the cream and cook until heated through.  Add in the herbs, Parmesan and butter; mix until well blended and the butter is completely melted.

Add the cooked rigatoni to the pan and toss with the sauce.  Serve immediately with additional grated Parmesan as desired.

Source: adapted from Pennies on a Platter, originally from RecipeLink

Linguine with Clam Sauce

Foods can evoke memories in a major way.  Every single time I smell this dish cooking, I’m immediately transported back to our kitchen in my house growing up.  I can hear “All Things Considered” on NPR coming from the radio as my dad prepared dinner for us.  My mom died when I was 10, and my brothers were six and four.  Somehow my dad still cooked well balanced meals for us pretty much every night as we grew up.  Sure, sometimes it was semi-homemade things like Hamburger Helper but looking back with only one child of my own and an extremely helpful husband, I truly don’t know how he did it.  When Mom found out her illness was terminal, she started planning and preparing and doing things to help us after she wasn’t around anymore.  One of those things was to go through all our family cookbooks and put notes on the recipes that we kids liked.

This recipe comes from a now out of print cookbook that our family enjoyed.  It still has Mom’s post-it taped to the cover (as many of our cookbooks do).  The author hosted an old popular cooking show called The Frugal Gourmet that my mom found very amusing.  I remember watching it with her even though I had no interest in cooking at the time, and I thought it was funny too.  I had never considered sharing this recipe before because it didn’t seem blog-worthy.  I mean, it takes about 15 minutes and uses canned clams for Pete’s sake.  But, this is where I share all the recipes I love, easy and complex, fancy and decidedly not so, so I’m sharing it here.  We love this dinner in our household, it holds a special place in my heart, and that’s all that matters to me!

Linguine with Clam Sauce
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12 oz. linguine pasta
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (6.5 oz) cans minced clams, juices reserved
½ cup heavy cream (or half-and-half)
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions until al dente.  Drain well.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until the butter is completely melted.  Add the garlic to the pan and sauté until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the reserved clam juice to the pan, bring to a simmer, and reduce by about half.  With the heat on medium-low, stir in the clams and the heavy cream.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Portion the pasta into warmed serving bowls.  Spoon some of the sauce over the pasta and top with grated Parmesan, if desired.  Serve immediately.

Source: The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine by Jeff Smith

Fettuccine with Peas, Asparagus and Pancetta

This spring is the first time I came to truly appreciate asparagus.  I’ve made some great dishes with it before, but I think this risotto is what officially converted me.  When I saw this recipe on the cover of Bon Appétit for May, I mentally filed it as “need to make – soon!”  So, I did.  And you know what?  It was a lot like the spring green risotto, except as with pasta instead of rice and the addition of bacon.  The flavors are remarkably similar, which I consider a very good thing because I’m just a little bit in love with the risotto.  I can just imagine how much better it would have been with fresh peas from the farmers’ market, and you better believe I’ll be making it again just as soon as I can find them.

Fettuccine with Peas, Asparagus and Pancetta
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12 oz. pasta, such as fettuccine
3 oz. pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh peas (blanched 1 minute), or frozen peas
1 bunch green onions, sliced thinly, white and green parts separated
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. lemon zest
2-4 tbsp. fresh parsely, minced and divided
¼ cup fresh basil, minced and divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook the pasta just until al dente according to the package directions.  Drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.  Return the pasta to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook the pancetta or bacon just until crisp, and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate using a slotted spoon.  Pour off almost all of the grease from the pan.  Return the pan to the heat and add the asparagus.  Sauté for 3 minutes.  Add the peas, white parts of the green onions, and garlic to the pan; sauté until fragrant and just tender, about 2 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.

Transfer the vegetable mixture, ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water, green parts of the green onions, Parmesan cheese, cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, half of the parsley and basil to the pot with the cooked pasta.  Toss well until combine.  Add additional pasta water a tablespoon at a time, if necessary.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Transfer to a large serving bowl.  Sprinkle with the pancetta, remaining parsley and basil.  Serve immediately with additional grated Parmesan, if desired.

Source: adapted from Bon Appétit, May 2010

Pasta with Roasted Garlic, White Cheddar & Wine Sauce

Man, that’s a long recipe title right?  And it’s really still missing a few components like the grilled chicken and broccoli, but I didn’t think it needed a full paragraph for a title.  This is an old recipe from the archives that I recently rediscovered, and I enjoyed it so much I though it deserved a second go-round.  It’s easy enough to throw together pasta with some cheese, protein and veggies and get a pretty decent meal out of it.  I really love this meal though because all the components combine to make something really special.  The roasted garlic provides a ton of rich flavor to the sauce without making it heavy.  This meal is very adaptable – quick enough for a weeknight, but nice enough for company.  Just make sure to plan ahead and roast the garlic in advance!

Pasta with Roasted Garlic, White Cheddar & Wine Sauce
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8 oz. tube shaped pasta, such as penne
1½ tbsp. butter
¼ cup roasted garlic paste*
1½ tbsp. flour
¼ cup dry white wine
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets and blanched until crisp-tender
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, grilled and cut into bite size pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste

*To make roasted garlic paste, peel the outer papery skins off two heads of garlic, leaving the heads still intact.  Slice about a quarter off the top of each head so that all of the cloves are partly exposed.  Wrap the heads in foil and bake at 350˚ F for one hour.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Once cool enough to touch, squeeze the garlic cloves out of the peels and smash with a fork to make roasted garlic paste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook the pasta until al dente according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the roasted garlic paste and cook just until fragrant, 30-60 seconds.  Whisk the flour into the mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to turn golden brown, 1-2 minutes.  Stir the white wine and broth into the pan.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in the cheddar and stir until melted.  Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix in the broccoli florets and chicken pieces, and cook just until heated through.  Mix in the cooked pasta until evenly coated with the sauce. Serve warm.

Source: adapted from Good Things Catered

Fontina Mac and Cheese

Clearly, I have a thing for mac and cheese.  Really though, who doesn’t?  I’ve been having so much delicious fun trying all sorts of flavor variations and they have all been great, but Ben and I both agreed this one is the best we’ve tried yet and that’s saying a lot.  (I’m starting to wonder if this is a “love the one you’re with” mentality – it’s tough not to think that way while you’re eating mac and cheese.)  But really, this was outstanding.  It actually really surprised me because this recipe is far simpler than most mac and cheese recipes I have tried.  With very few ingredients and no roux or bechamel sauce required, this is most definitely the most low maintenance mac and cheese I’ve made.  Normally I like to use multiple cheeses and I wondered if this would be too one-dimensional, but not at all.  The Fontina was perfect and the sauce was so creamy.  I’m drooling just thinking about it now.  Must.make.more.

Other mac and cheese variations I’ve tried recently:
Shrimp and Feta Mac and Cheese
Mushroom Herb Mac and Cheese
Spicy Mac and Cheese

Fontina Mac and Cheese
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1 lb. small or medium pasta shells
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions just until 1-2 minutes shy of al dente.

Meanwhile, dice 4 tablespoons of the butter and place in a large mixing bowl.  Warm the cream in a small saucepan or the microwave.  Cover to keep warm.

Once the pasta is cooked, add to the bowl with the butter and toss to coat well.  Stir in the warm cream and the Fontina until the cheese starts to melt.  Mix in salt to taste, and add the nutmeg.

Pour the mixture into a buttered 2-quart casserole dish.  In a small bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.  Mix in the panko breadcrumbs and shredded Parmesan.  Toss with a fork to coat evenly with the butter.  Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the pasta in the baking dish.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Source: adapted from Ezra Pound Cake, originally from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop

Creamy Taco Mac

Some people are very opposed to convenience foods such as Hamburger Helper.  While I suppose in general I have turned into such a person, I do think that those types of products have their place.  Obviously they are convenient, but they can also be a starting point for someone who knows absolutely nothing about cooking to slowly learning that they are capable of making something edible.  I certainly ate my fair share of Hamburger Helper growing up and during college and you know, it really doesn’t taste all that bad.  My culinary interests clearly have grown far beyond the boxed food realm, but every once in a while I crave the old childhood favorite.  Now that I tend to avoid most processed foods though, I opt for this homemade version instead.  With multi-grain pasta, ground turkey and homemade taco seasoning, this is a much healthier copycat that tastes better than the boxed version.  I made a few minor changes to add a bit more flavor, and I also reduced the liquid a bit to thicken the sauce.  This is a great meal that is bound to be a crowd-pleaser.

Creamy Taco Mac
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1¼ lbs. ground turkey
8 oz. dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tbsp. taco seasoning
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat until no longer pink.  A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet.  Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.  Remove from the heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

Source: adapted from Delish

Shrimp, Feta and Fresh Herb Mac and Cheese

Ever since discovering my love of Greek food last year, I have been all about feta cheese.  I like it on salads, I love it with shrimp – I just think it’s great.  When I ran across this version of mac and cheese that featured feta, I was instantly a fan.  The combination of the shrimp, lemon zest, and fresh herbs made for a unique spin on mac and cheese that sounded just perfect.  This was just as good as I was expecting, and I think the flavors make it ideal for spring.

I made  a few small changes to suit my own preferences, including reducing the amount of milk to produce a cheesier sauce and chopping up the shrimp so there was some in almost every bite.  I also decreased the amount of lemon zest because zesting two whole lemons just seemed like overkill, and I thought the lemon was still quite prominent even with my change (but in a good way, not a pucker-your-lips way).  Delish!

Shrimp, Feta and Fresh Herb Mac and Cheese

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1 lb. pasta shapes
1 lb. raw shrimp (31-40 ct.), peeled and deveined, cut in half (if desired)
10 oz. feta cheese, crumbled and divided
Zest of 1 lemon, divided
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped, divided
5 tbsp. butter, divided
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook the pasta until al dente according to the package directions.  Drain well; set aside.  Add the raw shrimp to the warm pasta and toss together.  The heat from the pasta will partially cook the shrimp.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  In a small bowl, combine a handful of the feta, a pinch of the lemon zest, the panko, 2 teaspoons of the parsley and 1 tablespoon of the butter, melted.  Toss with a fork to combine; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour  to form a paste.  Cook 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, until light golden brown.  Whisk in the milk.  Continue to heat the mixture, stirring frequently, until it bubbles and thickens, about 5 minutes.  As soon as the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining feta, Gruyere, remaining parsley, remaining lemon zest, dill, salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture over the pasta and shrimp; toss well to coat.

Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased 2½ or 3-quart baking dish.  Sprinkle the breadcrumb-feta mixture evenly over the top.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbling.  Remove from the oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Source: adapted from The Perfect Pantry via the 30 Days, 30 Ways Mac and Cheese Blog

Mushroom Herb Mac and Cheese

Please, everyone – stop what you are doing and go make this.  I try not to say that about every recipe I post, even though I do feel that way about most of them – if I don’t love them, I don’t share them.  But if you like mushrooms and fresh herbs, you must try this.  This is the brilliant creation of my pal Chelle for the 30 Days, 30 Ways of Mac and Cheese we participated in earlier this year.  You may remember my contribution, the spicy mac and cheese.  This event has given me many fantastic reasons to keep eating mac and cheese weekly for quite a while (not that I even needed a reason.)  There are so many great variations and I’m planning to try several but this was a great one to start with.

With all the mac and cheese recipes I’ve been trying lately, I’ve found that I prefer to use less liquid in the cheese sauce that the recipe usually calls for.  This makes for a thicker, more gooey cheese sauce and I’m all for that!  Don’t be put off by the pound of mushrooms called for in the recipe.  It may seem like a lot and I was tempted to use less, but remember that mushrooms lose a ton of liquid when they cook.  It ended up being the perfect amount.  As for herbs, I used a combination of basil, thyme and rosemary because that was what my store had available that sounded good together.  I’m sure there are tons of other equally wonderful combos so feel free to experiment.

Mushroom Herb Mac and Cheese
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1 lb. pasta shapes
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 lb. cremini (baby bella mushrooms), roughly chopped
1 shallot, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. fresh basil, minced
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
2 cups whole milk
6 oz. (1½ cups) shredded Gruyere cheese, divided
6 oz. (1½ cups) shredded white cheddar cheese, divided
½ cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Grease a 9 x 13″ baking dish.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions, just until al dente.  Drain the pasta, return to the pot, and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped mushrooms and shallots to the pan and sauté until the mushrooms are tender and almost all of the liquid has evaporated from the pan, about 5-7 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and sauté about 1 minute more, just until fragrant.  Remove the pan from the heat, season the mixture with salt and pepper, and mix in the white wine vinegar.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat.  Once the butter is completely melted, whisk in the flour to form a paste.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden.  Stir in the fresh herbs and cook for 30 seconds, just until fragrant.  Whisk in the milk and cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the mixture simmers and begins to thicken.  Once the mixture has thickened, remove from the heat.  Whisk in the shredded Gruyere and cheddar cheeses until completely melted and smooth.

Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta.  Add the mushroom and shallot mixture to the pot as well.  Toss well to thoroughly combine.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.  In a small bowl combine the panko breadcrumbs with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, melted.  Toss with fork to coat the crumbs evenly.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the pasta in the baking dish.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned and bubbly.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Source: adapted from Brown Eyed Baker for 30 Days, 30 Ways Mac and Cheese

Shrimp Scampi

Aaahh, shrimp scampi.  One of my favorite go-to simple meals.  There are many reasons why I love it so much.  First, it tastes delicious – I think this goes without saying.  It’s a minimalist shrimp pasta dish with a lemony, garlicky light butter/olive oil sauce.  Yum!  But almost just as importantly, it is a very nice meal that can be thrown together in next to no time, with mostly ingredients I tend to have on hand.  Whenever I want a meal that requires little effort, this is where I turn.  Occasionally I add a splash of white wine to the sauce if I happen to be drinking some while making dinner.

Just a couple comments regarding the recipe.  I usually tend to omit the lemon slices but if you are a lemon enthusiast then by all means, add them!  You may want to increase the amount of butter and/or olive oil slightly if using a full pound of pasta, rather than the 12 ounces called for, just to make sure there is enough sauce to adequately coat everything.  If you were looking for a quick and tasty Friday night meal, here it is.  Enjoy!

Shrimp Scampi
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3/4 lb. linguine
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. pepper
3-4 tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
Zest of ½ a lemon
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ lemon, sliced thinly into half-rounds
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet or sauté pan, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, just until golden and fragrant.  Add the shrimp to the pan in an even layer and season with the salt and pepper.  As soon as the down-facing side of the shrimp turns pink, flip with tongs to cook the second side evenly.  As soon as the shrimp is pink and opaque, remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices and red pepper flakes.

As soon as the pasta is cooked and drained, return to the pot.  Add the sauce to the pot, and toss to combine.  Serve immediately in warmed bowls.

Source: adapted from Ina Garten via Food Network

Four Cheese Ravioli

Even though we are very much into the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we’re not so much into the going out for dinner and paying too much for a meal I could have made easily at home.  Plus, for me so much of the fun is in the planning and preparation of a nice meal.  I always look forward to coming up with a special meal to celebrate the occasion.  Homemade pasta is certainly an impressive entree that is not nearly as difficult as many people think.  Even filled and shaped pastas like this heart-shaped ravioli are easy and fun to make.  (On that note, are there readers that would be interested in a homemade pasta tutorial?)

I have been making this particular ravioli filling for quite a while, and it is always a winner at our house.  You could certainly use any combination of cheeses that appeals to you.  I’m of the opinion that four cheese anything is going to be delicious 🙂  Homemade pasta sauce is definitely the way to go here, but I haven’t found one I am completely in love with just yet.  I do have a couple of prime contenders that I plan to try soon, and I will share “the one” as soon as I find it.  The recipe below will yield quite a lot of ravioli (exact amount will vary just depending on the size you make them).  I halved it for our family of three.  Enjoy!

Four Cheese Ravioli
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½ cup part-skim ricotta
½ cup shredded mozzarella
½ cup shredded fontina
½ cup shredded parmesan
1 clove garlic, finely minced
¼ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. dried parsley
¼ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 batch fresh homemade pasta
Marinara sauce, for serving

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, fontina, parmesan, garlic, and spices.  Mix well to blend.  Roll out homemade pasta into long, thin sheets.  To make heart-shaped ravioli, use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out pasta shapes.  Place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the middle of  half of the heart shapes, leaving a clear edge around the perimeter.  Dip a finger in water and lightly brush around the edges of a heart topped with the filling.  Place one of the remaining pasta hearts on top and press the edges of the pasta shapes together to seal around the filling, being careful to press out any excess air.  Repeat with the remaining dough shapes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook the ravioli until al dente, about 5 minutes.  Serve in warmed bowls with marinara sauce.

Source: adapted from Good Things Catered