Pretty Cerasuolo And Ugly Halibut Ravioli


HalibutIt is apparently fine to drink pretty wine with ugly food.  Combining **** $30 2008 Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria with home made halibut ravioli proved that out.  Just back from Alaska with sixty pounds of halibut and lingcod fillets in tow, the flavorful white fish has been figuring into meal after meal.  As deliciously addictive as fish tacos and cold beer can be, the inevitable attempt to wrap home made pasta around flaky halibut flesh loomed.

I make heavenly flavored, yet hideous looking raviolis.  I just don’t have the right tools nor patience to roll them out in symmetrical form.  For consolation, I have convinced myself that they appear more “hand crafted” this way. While they would get me kicked off the line in any top Italian kitchen, my guests and family devour them appreciatively.


Ugly Ravioli

Making these ugly ethereal pasta concoctions always begins with four cups of flour, a touch of oil, four eggs, serious kneading, and a KitchenAid pasta roller attachment.  Silky, light, and thin home made pasta is not even remotely related to the dried packaged renditions.

Fresh Pasta

Turning the ugly delicious also involves the right filling.  With the non negotiable halibut as centerpiece, I remembered how my mother made fish cakes back in Brooklyn in the 1960’s using a mashed potato to add mass and texture to cooked fish flesh.  It helped the cakes hold shape while they fried.  I had two other ingredients I was set on using.  Long stem garlic from my friend’s local Massachusetts farm,

Long Stem Garlic

and fresh picked marjoram.


The halibut was cut and sauteed in olive oil and garlic until it started coming apart.

Sauteed Halibut and GarlicThe mashed potato, fish, and marjoram was combined and then table spoon sized clumps were haphazardly placed in between layers of pasta to be cut in squares and then misshapenly closed up into malformed raviolis. Five or so minutes in boiling water and then topped with my favorite tomato sauce recipe, we relished in an eating celebration that reminded me of a southern Italian feast.

tomato sauce2008 Cos CerasuoloThe southern Italian 2008 Cos Cerasuolo, frappato and nero d’avola fruit blended and fermented in concrete, is a celebration of fruit purity, liveliness, and appropriate acidity to allow a completely middle weight velvet mouthfeel to dominate the drinking experience.  The wine is only $30 and crafted by the accomplished and notable Giusto Occhipinti.  It is an amazing value, and a totally reasonable pick on restaurant lists at $60 or less.  Lately, I have been thinking that if I could only take a dozen wines to be stranded on a deserted island forever with, that this 2008 Cerasuolo would be one of them.  Sadly, while the 2008 we drank with ugly ravioli was a wine that will last in my palate memory forever, I tasted the 2009 a few nights later and was disappointed.  It was tight and less accessible with tannins and acidity dominating and overshadowing the fruit.  Still a fine wine, possibly more appreciated with five years in the cellar and distanced from the memory of the 2008 that stood so vivid in my mind, it is inferior in comparison to the 2008.  It is worth finding the 2008 if at all possible, and the wine appears available through the Wine Searcher link in the first paragraph.

The Cerasuolo combined with the light red tomato sauce and marjoram-garlic fish/potato filling as a classic pairing.  The velvet fruit and silky pasta textures walked hand in hand.  The pairing propped my confidence preparing and plating a poor excuse for pretty ravioli.  The Cos was as pretty as you could imagine.  It successfully camouflaged the overly apparent, malformed (hand crafted?) pasta ugliness that nobody seemed to notice but me.

  • Jason Phelps

    The beauty in food isn’t just in how it looks. I often wonder why people put SO MUCH focus on how food looks. When out dining there is an air of pageantry so presentation is going to get some attention. There are definitely limits though. At home, and even when I am cooking for others, I try not to focus too much on the way the food looks. I want it to taste good so it’s fate isn’t derailed. It will actually be the pairing with the people and the conversation that will decide whether the food worked anyway.

    That said, the beauty in your food is obvious when you channel stories from your past about the dish you are making.


  • awjapko

    Jason, I totally agree with all this-mainly because I am a hamstrung visual chef. There’s soooo much more good about food than appearance, but a nod to the impeccably prepared food by so many great chefs knowing how to rock eyeballs.