Sweet Pea Ravioli with Crispy Lemon Verbena and Almonds

This dish has now been declared by my family as one of their all-time favorites. The inspiration? Fresh lemon verbena my neighbor kindly brought over from her herb garden. I had never cooked with lemon verbena before. I think I’ve used a lotion or bar of soap made from it but that’s all. But as soon as my neighbor handed me the bag and I breathed in the gorgeous aroma, I was in love.

When I googled it I learned it has a versatile set of uses in the kitchen. It can be added to soup stock, stuffed inside vegetables, mixed with oil and vinegar as a dressing or even steeped for a pot of tea. When I looked at it I immediately thought “crispy” over ravioli, much like the common pairing you see of butternut squash ravioli with crispy sage. I wondered if it would cook to crispy like sage and what kind of ravioli filling would be the right complement for its bold, tangy flavor. I happily settled on sweet peas.

Considering this dish is made entirely from scratch (I made my own pasta dough, pureed the peas, cut the raviolis, etc.), it is relatively quick and definitely simple to make. I’m sure most Italian chefs would cringe at my ravioli-making technique but to a hungry husband, a sassy 6-year-old, a feisty 4-year-old and a giggly 19-month-old, this ravioli was top of the line fantastico.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1.5 cups frozen peas
  • 3 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan butter
  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus flour for rolling
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup WARM water
  • 5 tbsp Earth Balance
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp agave
  • handful of fresh lemon verbena
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Start by pureeing the peas. Take the peas and steam them (this can also be done by putting them in a microwave-safe dish, covering them with plastic wrap and nuking them for 2 minutes or so), and then pulse them in a food processor with the 3 tbsp of Earth Balance until smooth. Then leave them to cool.

Next up is the ravioli dough. Sift together the flour and salt in a bowl. Slowly stir in the warm water, kneading constantly, until it’s smooth and workable. You can knead on a floured surface if that’s easier than inside the bowl. Cover with a towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.Here’s a photo of my adorable hunk of dough.

Using a well-floured surface, I rolled the dough out into two even sections (for the tops and bottoms of the raviolis) and cut squares (about 2″ x 2″) using a scalloped pastry cutter. You can use a ravioli cutter if you have one or you can even use a regular knife and just cut straight lines. Then I placed a spoonful of the pureed peas onto the center of each square like so.

After this step, lay the other half of the rolled dough on top and cut along the lines to close up each ravioli. Then pinch the edges closed to seal. They do not need to be perfect. Mine certainly weren’t. I was definitely channeling my Chinese dumpling-making skills rather than my Italian pasta-making skills but like I said, they don’t have to be perfect. They just need to have a top and bottom with some peas in-between. And they need to be sealed well so the filling doesn’t pop out while cooking. Here’s what my filled raviolis looked like:

I made these in the afternoon so I froze them for a few hours before cooking. You can do the same or even refrigerate them if you plan to cook them later that day. I placed mine in a freezer-safe bag in one single layer. When you’re ready to cook them, set a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. In a large saucepan, begin to make the sauce. Over medium-high heat, place the 5 tbsp Earth Balance stick and while it melts, add in the fresh juice of the lemon (or use 1-2 tbsp of bottled lemon juice). Mix well. Then add in the agave and mix together. Lay in the fresh lemon verbena leaves and cook until crispy and sizzling. At that point, throw in your sliced almonds and allow to brown in the sauce. Reduce heat to simmer.

When the water has boiled, add in the raviolis and cook — stirring often so they don’t stick together — until they rise to the surface. Drain and then place the raviolis into the saucepan with the sauce in a single layer, allowing them to turn golden on each side. I used rubberized tongs to gently flip them.

These raviolis are fairly hearty so 3-5 of them per adult is probably sufficient. My kids each ate two. Plate them nicely by pouring some of the sauce onto the plate and laying some of the lemon verbena leaves and almonds on top.

Happy eating!