Sheri Castle is an award-winning author, cook and teacher who lives in Fearrington Village. She teaches classes in the newly refurbished The Cottage at Fearrington each month. See Sheri’s website for schedule.
This beautiful dinner is quick and easy for weeknights. The key is strategic shopping, ensuring you begin with the tastiest asparagus and mushrooms and your favorite ready-to-use mushroom ravioli. With ingredients on hand, this meal is ready to impress in fewer than 20 minutes.
Asparagus has become a year-round grocery item, but locally grown and impeccably fresh varieties – the tastiest of all – remain a springtime delicacy. Look for firm spears with tightly closed, purplish tips – a better sign of freshness and tenderness than stalk size. It’s best to use asparagus the day it’s purchased, but to keep it on hand longer, treat it like a bouquet of fresh flowers: Remove any twist ties or rubber bands, and stand the stalks upright in a tall jar holding only enough water in the bottom to keep their ends moist. Store in the fridge.
I’ve been reading recently how mushrooms have surged in popularity and varieties, so there’s no need to settle for bland and boring white buttons. I like the flavor and appearance of shiitake mushrooms in this dish, but go with whatever looks best in the market. Cremini or a wild blend are good substitutes. Local farmers markets are a wonderful source for freshly harvested mushrooms, but you’ll find more varieties in a grocery store than you might expect.
The only thing tastier than butter is browned butter, which serves as the sauce for this pasta dish. It’s easy to do, but be patient. It looks as though nothing is happening in the pan for the first minute or so, and then suddenly, the large bubbles will cook away and the melted butter will be covered in small foam that looks like a freshly poured Diet Coke. A few seconds later, that foam will begin to turn brown. Lift the pan from the heat and gently swirl to ensure the butter browns evenly. As soon as it smells like buttered toast, it’s ready.
Mushroom Ravioli with Asparagus, Shiitakes and Browned Butter
- 1 bunch asparagus
(roughly 10 oz.)
- 5 Tbsp. butter, divided
- 1½ cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 5 oz.)
- 12 to 16 oz. mushroom ravioli
- ¼ cup walnut pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground
- ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Snap off and discard the tough ends of asparagus. Cut spears into bite-size pieces.
Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms, and stir to coat. Cook until browned and tender, about 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Transfer to a plate and spread into single layer.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Add asparagus to boiling water; cook only until crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the size of stalks. With a slotted spoon, immediately transfer asparagus to ice water to stop the cooking and set color. Drain well.
Return pan of water to a boil and cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain and return to the still-warm pot, off heat. Add asparagus and mushrooms. Cover to keep warm.
Cook remaining butter in a skillet over medium heat without stirring until it stops bubbling, foams, turns golden brown and smells nutty – usually about 2 minutes total – gently swirling pan as needed for even cooking. Add walnuts, and stir to scrape browned butter bits from bottom of skillet.
Add ravioli mixture to skillet and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide among serving plates. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve at once.