Four Cheese & Cremini Free-Form Ravioli with Asparagus, Ramp, Morel & Cremini Ragoût

Currently, we are just leaving ramp, fiddlehead, and morel season. Let it be known through-out the land. Actually I’ve just been told we are officially out of ramps season now. See, that’s how quick seasons pass. If you don’t grab foods when they’re fresh, you are out of luck—flavour-wise, and what other “-wise” is there? I tend to stumble into each season, wandering through a market I’ll spot, say, ramps, and immediately know I have to rush about trying to find out where they hid the morels and other vegetables that arrive at the same time. When I was young I was blissfully unaware that all foods had a season. Being city-raised as far as I knew, we had sweet corn simply because we were at the cottage. It was Fenelon Falls food, Hickory Beach food, like the green beans eaten fresh along the rows of the Harrison’s farm where we ran. We were on holiday and the food was just there. Now I know that my family cottaged at the end of July and August, the time that green beans and corn were ripest. I try to be more aware of the seasons as they arrive and look forward to June’s strawberries, lettuces in July, and sweet corn in August.

While digging through my fridge I noticed that I still had ramps, asparagus, morels and a few other things that really needed to be made into something. When seasons for some of these veggies are so short, it is a sin to waste them. I checked through my cookbooks and Tom Colicchio came through again. My recipe is very, very roughly based on his recipe of roughly the same name. The changes all came in the quantities and substitutions I made during it's making. The whole point, though, was to use the seasonal ramps and morels.

Before we get to the recipe let’s look at this seasons gems:

I’ve only discovered ramps within the last few years. Long and thin with two or three bright green leaves with the small white bulb attached by a purplish stem, they resemble scallions somewhat. The aroma is quite a strong mix of onion and garlic. The word ramp itself comes from rams, or ramson, old Elizabethan for wild garlic. I didn’t realize how powerful that smell is until I had cleaned and trimmed about a half a pound one afternoon and the house smelt as if I had rubbed the walls with garlic for a day. They are sometimes called wild leeks but according to Wild Harvest’s website, although they are the same plant there is a difference—ramps are harvested earlier.

To prepare the ramp for cooking just remove the loose skin and dirt from the bulb and trim off the roots. Depending on the condition of the leaves, you can trim stock leaving about a ¼ inch of green.

Morels are conical, honey-combed mushrooms that have a wonderful earthy aroma to them. The flavour is rich and intense. They are usually found after forest fires or around trees like ash, sycamore, yellow-poplar, fallen elms, and old apple trees (remnants of orchards). When you buy them they should be almost dry to the touch. Avoid morels that are soft or mushy or that crumble when rubbed: they are too old and wormy. Keep your eye open for tiny white worms, morels occasionally contain insect larvae that drop out during the drying process. Is this gross? No, this is nature. Pick out the little guys and toss them in the back yard or in the compost. This year I went through a lot of morels and had only two appear.

To clean the mushrooms try not to wash, even brief soaking diminishes their flavour. Just use a brush to gently remove dirt, trim off the stems, and I cut the larger ones in half. They are hollow, so look inside the main body and the chambers to make sure no other critters are tucked up inside. There, you are ready to go.

Although I’m not using fiddleheads in the following recipe, it is the season. Fiddleheads are the young coiled fern leaves of the Ostrich fern. They appear in the early spring, during April and May, and are harvested as soon as they stretch up to about an inch or two of the ground. When buying look for a tight coil about an inch to an inch and a half in diameter and only an inch or two of stem hanging. There might be a brown papery skin, or chaff, that surrounds the fiddlehead on the plant. This is sometimes removed before reaching the store but I find there is always a bit left.

To clean, carefully brush out and remove the brown skin and then wash the fiddleheads in several changes of cold water to remove any dirt or grit. Drain the them completely. Cook the “heads” in a small amount of lightly salted boiling water for ten minutes, or steam for 20 minutes.


¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
100g morels & cremini mushrooms
50g ramps, cleaned and trimmed
150g asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2- to 3- inch pieces
1 tbsp chopped fresh chervil (or fresh tarragon)
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

1. First we make a basic beurre fondue (which is just a fancy way of saying butter melted in water). Bring about a ½ inch of water to a simmer in a small saucepan.

2. Start adding butter, about a tablespoon at a time, whisking to melt. As the beurre fondue reaches a gentle simmer, you may notice small oil droplets starting to form. This happens when the water begins to evaporate, so add a small amount of warm water to compensate.

3. Keep adding the butter until you have incorporated a ¾ cup into the sauce, slowly now, so as not to lower the temperature in the pot and cause the sauce to solidify. OK if it isn’t solid, it’s done.

4. For the ragoût, transfer your beurre fondue to a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Add the morels first, a few at a time, then reduce the heat to low. They tend to take the longest to lose their toughness. Add salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the morels begin to soften, around 5-10 minutes. Add the ramps and continue to simmer gently until the morels are completely soft and the ramps are nice and tender, say about 5 minutes more.

5. Meanwhile, cook the asparagus in a pot of boiling salted water until they are tender, usually 3-5 minutes. Drain them and add them to the ragoût. Stir together. Season with kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper. Add the chervil and chives and serve garnished with additional herbs if desired.

1 or 2 fresh large, thin pasta sheets (around 10 x 10 inches), per person (make your own if you can) 1 pound ricotta cheese
¾ + ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ cup grated Gruyère
½ cup grated Mozzarella
¼ Cremini mushrooms, diced up small
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil (or fresh chevril)
1 batch Ragout of Asparagus, Ramps, Morels and Cremini (recipe above)
¼ cup chives (or a mix of fresh herbs such as chervil, chives, basil, flat-leaf parsley, and tarragon)
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 350F / Gas Mark 5 / 200C. Mix the ricotta, ¾ cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, all the Gruyère and Mozzarella, the mushrooms and the olive oil together in a medium saucepan. Add kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper and warm the cheese mixture, stirring occasionally, over low heat.

2. Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then drain, rinse under cold water, and pat dry. Set the pasta aside in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with plastic wrap.

3. Mix the basil into the cheese & mushroom mixture. Place a heaping spoonful of the mixture in the center of a pasta square, then fold the pasta around the cheese, creating a little bundle. Gently place the ravioli, folded-side down, in an oiled baking dish. Repeat the process until you have filled all the squares. How you do the filling and folding is entirely up to you, I like the look of a rough bundle, all you need to remember is to not over-fill the bundle.

4. Sprinkle the tops of the ravioli with the remaining ¼ cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and bake until the pasta is golden and slightly puffed, about 20 minutes.

5. Now break out that warm ragoût you made earlier and place it in shallow bowls, topped with one or two little ravioli bundles (it all depends on how large you made the bundles and how hungry you are). Serve with a sprinkling of finely chopped chives or fresh herbs.