Every now and then I stumble on an ethereal recipe that melts on my tongue and makes me draw in deep, appreciative breaths between every bite. I post these recipes hastily and urge you all to run into your kitchens and get to mixing. I stamp little hearts next to their names on my Recipe Index. I bring them up in conversations with Mike long after the last morsel has been devoured. I even long to whip them up again — a significant sentiment, since I rarely make the same dish twice.
This is not one of those recipes.
Actually, this is one of those recipes where I, um, don’t post the recipe. Because I’m terrified someone will skip over all of these paragraphs where I reveal how awful it tasted and end up making it. I can only imagine the creative hate mail I’d receive after folks spent 3 or 4 hours in the kitchen prepping this disaster. It could get ugly.
Instead, I’ll just tell you the story. It all started at my desk at school, where I sat one day eating one of those low-calorie frozen meals. They’re typically flavorless concoctions of funky-textured “meat” and rubbery veggies, but at least they’re quick sustenance. This particular frozen meal was tasty, though: a slightly sweet pumpkin ravioli in a butter sage sauce with hunks of butternut squash and asparagus. I thought to myself (somewhat smugly), “I bet I could make this even better from scratch . . . .”
It turns out that I cannot make it better from scratch. It also turns out that I should not try risky, experimental recipes on Mike’s birthday. After hours of work (roasting the squash, making and kneading the pasta dough, rolling and filling the ravioli, cooking the asparagus, mixing the sauce and veggies and pasta, and photographing the whole thing), Mike and I took our first bites and made eye contact. In that one silent moment, our eyes said all there was to say. Mike’s eyes were panicking: “Oh crap, what can I say about this ravioli that isn’t insulting?!” and my eyes were remorseful: “Oh crap, I’ve ruined his birthday dinner, of all the dinners to ruin!”
What Mike actually said was, “It’s good,” while concentrating hard (a little too hard) on cutting the next bite. What I actually said was, “This stuff is disgusting. Maybe we should order pizza.” The sweet guy ended up eating every bite in his bowl (and, ahem, politely declining seconds) while I scarfed down the from-frozen garlic bread he had brought over. That’s right: the only edible part of the meal was the garlic bread I made MIKE buy on his way over for his own birthday dinner! Have I won the girlfriend of the year award yet?
In summary, do not make this pasta. The odd, bitter combination of pumpkin and parmesan in the filling was nauseating. The butter sage sauce was greasy and bland. The squash . . . well, okay, the squash was good. Go roast yourself a butternut squash and call it a day, y’all. I’m comforting myself with the fact that my homemade ravioli technique has improved (I rolled thinner, creating a better-textured pasta) and dessert was fantastic. Ah, dessert: a balm on dinner disaster wounds. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about it.
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