April in Minnesota can be quite unpredictable. Sunny and 70 degrees one day, snowing and gusty winds the next. Like the day we left for Aruba and it snowed 8 inches. Talk about perfect timing. But either way, we know warmer, brighter days are ahead, believing in the promises of asparagus, ramps, pea shoots and rhubarb. This gluten-free ravioli stuffed with ground goat from Singing Hills and ricotta in a simple lemon dill butter sauce, was my grasp for spring’s nearness.
A few weeks ago I made a batch of fresh gluten-free pasta from Robin Asbell’s new cookbook, so wonderfully soft and supple, a dream come true. With the remaining half of dough I was dying to make ravioli. I wanted to make a special filling (but not complicated), matching the handmade sheets that would hold it. That meant using a “new to me” meat: goat.
It might surprise you that I would eat goat, not only because it is a bit hard to find, but also because most people know me as a passionate animal lover. It’s true that when I can’t fall asleep, I pin all sorts of cuteness to my Animal Friends board. My dream is to have a hobby farm with chickens, sheep, cats, a miniature horse, more cats, and LOTS of goats. I am completely enamored with how they frolic without abandon. Their adorable faces steal my heart every time.
I would wake up everyday with the biggest smile……. feeding them, loving them, playing with them.
But also respecting them for the food they would nourish my body with.
Despite my love for animals, I am not a vegetarian, but more a “flexitarian”, meaning I eat mostly plant-based along with a small amount of meat. I thoroughly enjoy the taste of meat, but it is extremely important to me to know the story of the farmers who have raised the animals, ensuring that they were treated humanely and with love, just as I would do if they were my own.
It can sometimes be difficult to find meat or eggs that I trust, as well as a little more expensive, but that just means those meals are valued and savored even more.
Last year when I met Lynne Reeck and Kathryn Wall of Singing Hills Dairy at the Mill City Farmers Market, I could just hear the passion they had for their goats, raising them with the utmost care and respect. They are free to roam the pastures, and given top top quality feed to ensure their lives are healthy. “We don’t use anything on them that we wouldn’t use on us,” Lynne says. Singing Hills makes some of the creamiest, richest goat cheese I’ve ever tasted, along with their to-die-for dilly cheese curds. And after this first try with their goat meat, I will surely be incorporating it into my cooking more often.
When I know those things, that they were happy goats (or whatever it may be), I believe that enjoying the food they provide us with is just another part of the cycle.
A little about this recipe: When cooking with meats like lamb or goat, stronger herbs help mellow some of the gaminess, which is why I used ground fennel and basil. I found the fennel to be particularly complimenting, adding just a hint of sweetness. The sauce was a hodgepodge of what I had sitting in my fridge that I ended up loving! Just fresh lemon juice, butter, dill, and a few stray kale leaves sliced very thinly. Simple, refreshing, and light enough to let the ravioli stuffing shine. I rolled my sheets of pasta by hand, but as Robin suggests in her book, it can also be done with a rolling pin.
serves 3 to 4
1/2 batch of this gluten-free pasta dough from “Gluten-Free Pasta”
1/2 pound of ground lamb, goat, or beef
1 T minced basil
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Fresh ricotta cheese
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
juice of one lemon + zest
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 leaves of kale, sliced thinly chiffonade style
salt to taste
Heat non-stick saute pan over medium heat and add ground meat, fennel, salt, and pepper. Use wooden spoon or spatula to stir and break up the meat, making it crumble, until cooked through. Stir in basil, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Remove meat with slotted spoon, place in a bowl, and set aside.
Make dough using these instructions, stopping at the point when you have long, flat sheets of pasta. Dust your work space with any gluten free flour and spread the sheets across. Using a ruler, cut the sheets into even squares, mine being about 2×3 inches. In the middle of one square, place about 2 heaping teaspoons of both ricotta and lamb, then brush cool water on the pasta around the filling. Place another square on top and carefully press the dough around the filling. Press firmly to seal, using a little more water if needed. Use the tines of a fork to create indentations around the edges. Use a metal spatula to transfer the finished ravioli to a sheet pan (they shouldn’t touch) and put plastic wrap over the top. Finish making additional squares of ravioli. It can be kept covered on the sheet in the refrigerator for 2 days tightly wrapped.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then drop several ravioli into the boiling water and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the ravioli, and place in a colander and drizzle with a little olive oil to coat so they don’t stick. Repeat until all ravioli is boiled, then toss sliced kale into hot water for a minute to soften and drain. Add ravioli and kale to sauce pan with butter sauce and stir gently to coat. Serve with a garnish of fresh lemon zest.