Shrimp Ravioli in Tomato Veloute Sauce

You know my frequent, hand-wringing column, "Foodie Dreams, Kitchen Nightmares"? You know, those moments when I have a hankering for something delicious, visualize it in my mind, can almost taste the blend of flavors, and then just completely crash and burn in the execution? As terrible as those moments are--the blackened pots and pans, the empty stomach, roommates curiously wondering what insanity has posessed me--when the opposite happens, when I create something beautiful and delicious and fantastic, it can be simply bliss.

Witness my dinner last night: a sweet, creamy tomato sauce enveloping fresh-made ravioli stuffed with sauteed shrimp and ricotta. Granted, it wasn't perfect--my sauce was lumpy, my ravioli sprung a leak--but in taste and execution I was remarkably pleased. Although the dish was an adaptation of something I had in a restaurant (Basso56's lobster crepes in a tomato-chive veloute), without a recipe and only a dim idea of what I'd need I came up with something quite delicious and rather simple (took about an hour in total to make).

Let me walk you through the process.

Like I said before, I was blown away by the rich flavor of my dinner at Basso several weeks ago and dreamed about recreating it (the restaurant itself being too fancy and far away for a mid-week pop-in). Luckily, since it has a menu online, I could see the basic ingredients and structure. This was helpful, but brought up a few problems: 1) where could I buy lobster?, 2) how do I make crepes?, and 3) what the f is "veloute sauce"?

My little neighborhood does not stock lobster, for whatever reason, so I skipped that ingredient and went instead for shrimp, which I tend to swap in for lobster in various recipes. I've been wanting to make crepes for ages, but without a reason--or 15 people to help me eat the leftovers--the dream has mostly died. Instead of crepes I decided to go with ravioli, since I could easily get wonton wrappers and got the added bonus of stuffing myself with ricotta and parmesan (I bought 4 different kinds of cheeses yesterday... it was nuts...).

Finally I confronted the riddle of veloute sauce. A Google search told me it was defined as one of the four "mother sauces" by chef Antonin Careme in the 19th century (which, hello, told me nothing). A little more research and I discovered that despite the French (Dave was like "What are you making?!"), veloute sauce is quite simple, being mostly flour, butter, and light stock (such as chicken, veal, or fish). I knew I wanted tomato veloute (also called Aurora sauce, which really sounds quite lovely), so I also picked up some plain canned tomato sauce and, just in case, a 1/2 pint of cream.

With a little help from the Reluctant Gourmet, I prepared the veloute sauce by browning the butter and flour and slowly adding the chicken stock (I am not ballers enough to make my own stock, although I want to try. Sigh. Someday...). It got lumpy, which was a problem, and the next time I think I would strain before adding the tomato sauce. Pour in a little sauce, taste, pour in a little more, taste, and finally I figured that since cream makes everything better, it probably couldn't hurt to add a little of that, either. The result was astounding: almost sweet in its smoothness, it was creamy and flavorful, and thick without being heavy. I looooved this sauce and would happily drown every meal in it, but paired with my ravioli, it was truly sublime.

Because I wanted a clean feel to the shrimp, I just sauteed them in a little butter without any seasoning (a white wine reduction also could have worked well). As soon as they were pink, I removed them from the pan and cut them into tiny pieces. Mixed with a little ricotta, parmesan, pepper, and nutmeg, the ravioi filling was meaty and spicy and cheesy in all the right measures (also, can I get a what what for ricotta? I love this stuff, and love how a simple spoonful is so magically cool and light). I wrapped everything in jumbo wonton wrappers, dropped it in boiling water, removed, and enjoyed. It was just so so so good. A Kitchen Dream, for sure.

This recipe makes 3-4 jumbo ravioli, enough for one big or two smallish servings.

1 dozen medium-sized shrimp
1 cup ricotta
1 tablespoon grated parmesan
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons nutmeg
6-8 large wonton or eggroll wrappers
4 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup light stock (chicken, veal, or fish)
1 cup tomato sauce (unseasoned)
2 tablespoons cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, set the stock to simmer
In a larger saucepan, simmer 2 tablespoons melted butter over medium heat, taking care not to burn it
Add 3 tablespoons flour and lower heat
Mix butter and flour until well toasted
Slowly add light stock and stir well
Simmer for 10-15 minutes (a skin may appear on the sauce. Either skim off or mix in)
Add 1 cup tomato sauce and stir well
Add 2 tablespoons cream and stir well
Let sauce simmer, covered, over very low heat
Peel and devein shrimp and sautee in remaining butter over medium-low heat
When pink, remove from heat and chop finely
Set a large pot of water to boil
Add ricotta, pepper, and nutmeg to shrimp, stirring well
Wet one side of a single wonton wrapper and lay on top of another
Place a spoonful of the shrimp-ricotta mixture in the center.
Using a brush or your finger, wet down the edges of the wrapper and fold over both wrappers (so you have an extra-thick ravioli)
Crimp the folded edges with a fork
Drop ravioli in boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes
Repeat until mixture is finished, pour sauce over ravioli, and top with grated parmesan

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