This was one of those meals that fell together as I was raiding my fridge in search of quick, non-cereal dinner option. I had been out of town on a week-long East coast road trip and was too busy (read: lazy) to go to the grocery store to replenish my barren refrigerator, and eating out again was the last thing I wanted to do. You know how it is, after a road trip sometimes you just want “real food,” that is cooked in a house, and has to be eaten with a fork. It’s only natural after a week of trail mix, apples, donuts, Swedish Fish, and Coke, right?
So as I stared deeply into the refrigerator, noticing all of the things that I probably should have thrown away prior to said trip, I saw some Trader Joe’s ravioli perched on top of a two week old birthday cake. Seeing this as a solid start to my meal I grabbed it and noticed that it was a fancier version of ravioli than I typically buy. This was a lemon ricotta flavor. Intrigued and excited about this new flavor I began to think about what I could pair with it. Obviously you can’t go dump regular old tomato sauce on the delicate flavors of a lemon and ricotta, so the jar of pasta sauce was out. Next I thought about making a light cream sauce, but quickly realized I had no cream or milk in the fridge. Bah! And then out of the corner of my eye I saw my little ole basil plant sitting in the living room. I moved it into the living room so it could get more sun and have a fighting chance at survival in this “black thumb” household. And you know what? It was still alive! (Largely in part due to the graciousness of my awesome roommate that watered it for me while I was out of town, so thanks Em).
The little grocery store basil plant was actually flourishing and needed to be harvested. Perfect! Lemon and basil are a perfect combo. I decided to keep the sauce light so the light, fresh flavors of the basil and lemon could shine through and used a little garlic olive oil (side note: are you using flavored olive oils?? If not, do it! They are game changers, for sure), sea salt, cracked pepper, and some Pecorino Romano cheese that I had laying in the fridge. Pecorino is a hard sheep’s cheese with a great salty flavor. I’m a sucker for the fancy cheese station at any grocery store and love trying new flavors and types of cheeses. One thing that is awesome about buying those little fancy blocks (as opposed to the generic pre-shredded cheeses) is that they seriously last forever. Obviously it depends on the cheese, but I’ve had this Pecorino Romano block for over 6 months and it’s still flavorful and mold-free. Just sayin… Also, the Pioneer Woman says to never buy pre-shredded cheese. Always buy the block and shred it yourself. Your taste buds will thank you, I promise.
Ok, so moral of the story is…
- Randomness and creativity pay off in the kitchen
- Flavored olive oils—go try ‘em
- Fancy cheese last forever and can snazz up any plain-jane meal
- When it comes to cheese buy the block and shred yourself
Enough chatter, let me give you the deets for this super simple, super easy, super quick meal.
- 1 package (or two if you’ve got a large crew) of Trader Joe’s Lemon Ricotta Ravioli
- 1-2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced or shredded (if you’re looking to add a little more substance to the meal, I didn’t this time)
- 4- 5 fresh basil leaves, cut into long, thin strips
- 2 teaspoons garlic olive oil
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (you can do all garlic olive oil if you want a real punch of flavor)
- 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (or parmesan, mozzarella, whatever you like), use shavings or grated ( I prefer larger pieces of cheese so that you get a nice bite of flavor)
- Salt and cracked pepper, to taste
- Bring pot of salted water to boiling. Once water is boiling add ravioli from package, keeping the heat high enough to allow a rolling boil to continue.
- Cook pasta for 3-4 minutes until al dente. Keep your eyes on the prize here and don’t get distracted. Three minutes is not enough time to multi-task and do something else, I promise. Mushy ravioli is THE WORST. The pasta will get soggy, it will tear easily, and before you know it the delicious filling is bursting out and you have goulash instead of ravioli. And let’s be real, nobody wants to eat that.
- Once pasta is cooked, place in colander, drain and shake off excess water, and place in serving bowl.
- Add the three teaspoons of olive oil and gently stir until ravioli is well coated. Depending on preference you may want to add a little more or a little less. Just follow your heart on this one. You want the pasta to be lightly coated so it doesn’t stick together and so it has some great flavor from the garlic olive oil.
- Add cut or shredded chicken (if desired). Note: If you decide to add chicken you will likely need to use a little more olive to coat the chicken as well.
- Add cheese, basil, and lightly toss with ravioli to mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Note: if you are using a salty hard cheese like a pecorino or a parmesan you will likely need less salt than if you use a mozzarella.