This time it’s not about the meat but instead homemade Italian Bianco and Marinara sauces to go with fresh cheese ravioli. Is it a leap of faith to center a menu on something other than a roast, fillet or breast? Not with this menu.
Bianco sauce is one of my absolute favorites. Inspired by the Seattle restaurant Saleh Al Lago – a well loved and mourned Seattle favorite – the first time I tasted it I was hooked. I ate it pretty much every time I dined there in the many years to follow. It was that good. Surprisingly easy to prepare with a complexly rich flavor, I am not sure whether the Italian Bianco sauce was named for its light color or the Southern Italian town. Cooking the garlic over low heat releases its flavor into the butter and olive oil removing the raw taste. Browning the garlic will ruin the flavor of the sauce so low heat is your friend. Finely chopped Italian parsley, which I prefer over its curly cousin for its stronger, fresher flavor, gives bits of clean, crisp flavor to compliment the garlic and butter.
Now at the other end of the flavor spectrum is the tomato based marinara sauce that speaks to those who want something a bit more sharp while still not spicy. Contrary to what jarred pasta sauce producers want you to think it’s quite simple to make and uses only five ingredients. Choose the highest quality canned tomatoes – the ones you think taste the best – preferably organic as their flavor will be the basis of the sauce. I add a touch of sugar to take away a bit of the acidy tomato taste and fragrant oregano. Whether the herb is fresh or dried herb is up to you.
Rounding out the menu is the herb garlic butter spread down long split halves of baguette then broiled until bubbling and lightly browned. It’s heavenly flavor is addictive I dare you to eat just one slice.
All parts of my menu can be made ahead, except for cooking the ravioli which is best left to the last few minutes before eating. Heat the dinner plates to keep the pasta warm for any guests sipping on their last bit of cocktail and slowly straggling to the table.
Toppings such as olives, sliced sun dried tomatoes, capers, Marcona sliced almonds, crumbled Gorgonzola and grated Pecorino cheese piled in small bowls offer guests a little something to personalize their plate of ravioli.
And if in the end you want it to be just a little bit about the meat, grill or saute Italian chicken or pork sausages (Isernios are my favorite) and pile them on a platter for a meat option in addition to their fabulous ravioli.
Happy New Year – wishing you peace and joy in the coming year.
Suggested New Years Eve menu:
Bianco and Marinara sauces for fresh cheese ravioli
Herb Garlic Baguette Bread
Green leafy salad with a vinaigrette dressing
Grilled or sautéed Italian sausages on the side
Crumbled Gorgonzola, grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheeses
olives, capers, sun dried tomatoes, Marcona almonds
- Bianco Sauce:
- 4 oz butter (1 stick)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
- pinch kosher salt
- Marina Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup finely chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
- 28 oz strained or chopped canned tomatoes (I prefer Pomi brand in the carton)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1-1/2 lb Fresh cheese ravioli
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Optional toppings: olives, sun dried tomatoes, capers, Marcona almonds, etc.
- For the Bianco sauce, melt butter with olive oil and garlic over low heat in a small pan and cook just until garlic is translucent and to release flavor, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley; season with salt and pepper.
- For the marinara sauce, heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet; add onion and cook and stir until translucent, about 3-5 minutes; add garlic and cook to release flavor, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, oregano and sugar; bring to a simmer, adjust heat to low and cook just until sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- For the ravioli, bring water and a large pinch of salt to boil in a stockpot; add ravioli and cook according to package directions; drain, return to pot and gently stir in olive oil.
- Transfer ravioli to two servings platters or low sided bowls. Ladle Bianco and Marinara sauces over each platter of ravioli.
- Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and bowls of assorted toppings if desired.
- 4 oz butter, softened (1 stick)
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
- pinch kosher salt
- pinch fresh ground black pepper
- 1 baguette
- Stir together butter, Parmesan, butter, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Slice baguette in half, widthwise, into two long halves. Spread each half with herb garlic butter.
- Preheat broiler. Broil baguette just until butter is melted and bread is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Slice into pieces.