Chef Goffredo’s Crabmeat Ravioli
La Riviera was among the best Italian restaurants ever to open in New Orleans. Chef Goffredo Fraccaro created it in 1972 after a few years cheffing a too-grand, unsuccessful Italian restaurant in the French Quarter. His new place was much more ambitious than most local Italian places, and once people got used to the idea of eating an Italian dinner that might not include red sauce and anise-flavored sausage, it became a long-running favorite. It lasted until Hurricane Katrina, after which Goffredo–then in his eighties–retired.
This dish was his most famous, and triggered imitators all over town. It won the 1980 International Crabmeat Olympics in San Francisco. For most of Goffredo’s customers, a dinner at La Riviera wouldn’t have been complete without a starter of this fantastic dish.
It’s best made with homemade pasta dough, which requires a pasta machine. The Atlas machine is the best–an inexpensive, manual gizmo that rolls out pasta to the ideal thinness. You could do it with a roller by hand, but not as well as the machine does. The pasta dough recipe here doesn’t use eggs–Goffredo never did for this, saying the lack of eggs made the pasta lighter. You could buy fresh pasta sheets at the supermarket if you’re not inclined to make your own. One thing you will need is a ravioli form. It’s inexpensive, from a restaurant supply or cookware stores. It makes the assembly much easier and keeps the ravioli size uniform, which makes the final boiling more exact.
- Pasta dough:
- 1 cup semolina flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. clarified butter
- Crabmeat stuffing:
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 6 Tbs. softened butter
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. white pepper
- 1 lb. lump or white crabmeat
- 1/4 cup very thinly snipped green onion, tender green parts only
- 1/2 cup cracker crumbs (from unsalted crackers, ground fine in a food processor)
- 1/4 cup finely (and freshly) grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Pinch of cayenne
- 1/8 tsp. white pepper
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1. The easiest way to make the pasta dough is to use a big mixer with a dough hook, but it can also be made by hand. Combine all the pasta ingredients in a bowl and stir to blend. Add 1/2 cup of water and stir until all the flour is wet. If necessary, add no more than one Tbs. more water.
2. If using a mixer, mix the dough using the dough hook until it’s uniformly smooth and damp. It should not be even a little sticky. If making the dough by hand, knead the dough on a clean countertop until smooth. Let the dough rest for about an hour.
3. Pull off a piece of dough about the size of a tennis ball. Run it through the pasta machine a couple of times at about the #6 thickness. Then go down to #3 for a couple of passes, and finally down to #2 once followed by one pass at #1–the thinnest. Dust the rolled pasta sheets with all-purpose flour and set aside, covered with a clean, damp cloth. Repeat until all the pasta is rolled. Extra pasta can be separated with plastic wrap, packed in a food storage bag, and either refrigerated or frozen.
4. To make the sauce, bring the whipping cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Reduce it by about a third. Keep an eye on that pan! Cream can foam up like crazy!
5. Reserve a tablespoon of the butter, and whisk the rest into the reduced cream. Remove the pan from the heat and add the crabmeat. Stir very gently to mix the crabmeat with the cream sauce.
6. Heat the reserved tablespoon of butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat until the butter bubbles. Add the green onions and cook until limp. Remove from the heat.
7. Add the crabmeat mixture, the cracker crumbs, and parmesan cheese to the skillet, and stir lightly with a spoon until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
8. Move the crabmeat mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until distinctly cool.
9. To make the ravioli, place the bottom (metal) part of the ravioli form over a sheet of pasta, and with a knife cut all the way around. Make twelve sheets this way.
10. Turn over the bottom ravioli form, and fit a sheet of pasta into it. Use the top (plastic) part to push the pasta sheet down to form pockets. Put about a tablespoon of the crabmeat mixture into each pocket. Brush the exposed pasta lightly with water.
11. Place another sheet of pasta over the first one. Turn the plastic part of the form over (depressions pointing down), and use it to press the top pasta sheet onto the bottom. Push down hard.
12. With a knife, slice the individual ravioli apart. Cover with a clean damp cloth while finishing the rest of the ravioli.
13. To make the sauce, bring the whipping cream to a simmer in a saucepan and reduce by half. Make sure it doesn’t foam over. When reduced, add the butter, salt, cayenne, and white pepper. Whisk to combine and remove from heat, but keep warm.
14. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop in the ravioli and cook for five minutes. Drain, then toss with the cream sauce. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.
Serves 12 appetizers or six entrees.