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    • Randy Graham

    • December 2, 2013 in Columnists

    The Pheasant Club and Fried Ravioli

    Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

    In the mid-80s, I consulted, on weekends, for a couple of older Irish gentlemen whose names shall be changed to protect the dearly departed. I’ll call them Jim and Graham. I set up, configured and maintained an IBM personal computer that was used in their business. For the nine months I worked with them, I was invited to meet on Saturdays for drinks and fried ravioli at the Pheasant Club Restaurant in West Sacramento.

    My Irish friends had a reserved table and I would meet them in the early afternoon. After a few Saturdays, I would walk into the restaurant and the hostess would say, “Hi Randy. Your mentors await. Shall I get you the usual?”

    The usual was Bombay gin over, with a twist. It wasn’t my usual. In fact, I had never tried gin until I met Jim and Graham. But it was their usual and I grew to enjoy having this pre-lunch cocktail (or two) with my friends while listening to stories of their mischievous boyhood pursuits.

    Just as we finished sipping our Bombay gin, plates of fried ravioli would magically appear. No one ordered them. They just appeared. There were two plates of fried meat ravioli for Jim and Graham and a plate of cheese ravioli for me. My plate included a side of marinara sauce. Their plates came with meat sauce “over.” Graham would tease me about the ravioli saying, “I really do think the cook got our orders mixed up this time. Be careful you don’t bite into any meat.”

    Those were fun times. Today I try to stay away from fried foods, but back then, when I was 35 and still invincible, the gin and fried ravioli were wonderful.

    Here’s a wonderful baked ravioli recipe that satisfies my need for the fried ravioli I remember from the Pheasant Club. I like Trader Joe’s Gorgonzola ravioli, but whatever you prefer will work just fine. The recipe is easy to make and feeds a boatload of people (4-6 as an entrée).

    If it’s just two of you, cut the recipe in half and it will turn out OK. Me? I make the entire recipe and then refrigerate the leftover ravioli. Sometimes they taste even better the next day!

    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 medium onion (chopped)
    3 cloves garlic (minced)
    Salt and ground pepper (to taste)
    2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
    1 tablespoon fresh basil (chopped)
    1 teaspoon sugar (to offset acid in tomatoes)
    1 28-ounce can whole fire roasted tomatoes
    1 28-ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
    2 pounds store-bought frozen cheese ravioli
    1 ½ cups whole milk mozzarella (coarsely grated)
    ½ cup Parmesan cheese (grated)

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

    Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add oregano, basil, sugar and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Break up tomatoes with spoon and simmer for 20 minutes or until sauce is thickened and reduced.

    While the sauce is simmering, cook the ravioli in a large pot of boiling water not according to package directions but just until they float to the top (pasta will continue to cook in oven). Drain pasta and return to pot.

    Toss sauce with pasta. Pour pasta into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or pan and sprinkle with cheeses. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 to 7 minutes. Serve with a garden fresh salad, bread sticks and your favorite Chianti.

    Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian


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