Hi friends! In my world, it is the 4th of July. I’m sitting at my mother-in-law’s house waiting for the rest of the family to arrive for the typical festivities. Brats. Burgers. Hot dogs. Pies. You name it. We are serving it.
That has me in a rare mood. So, instead of writing about a Cardinals team who hasn’t been very good (and might be getting bad news today about one of our favorite players), I’m going to write about something completely different.
How to host your own Cardinals-themed toasted ravioli party!
Don’t ask where this idea came from. I have no idea. I was just lying in bed last night thinking about nothing when this idea popped into my head!
And, no, I have never hosted a Cardinals-themed toasted ravioli party. Nor do I plan to. But I could. And so could you. If you follow the simple instructions that I’m going to provide below!
First, though, I have to tell you a pointless story. Because that’s how all food blogs and recipe posts start. You want instructions on how to bake a gluten-free pecan pie (something we did yesterday) and instead you get a 1000-word blog post dripping with sentimentality about how the author once ate pecan pie at his/her grandma’s house in the country 30 years ago and this is something like that recipe. Very touching.
Anyway, down the street from our house next to a gas station, someone got the crazy idea of building a restaurant. It was a Cajun place. Brand new building. No other restaurants were around. Just out there by itself. I still don’t understand the business model, but I always appreciate a new restaurant. We ate there. It was decent. It didn’t last. Probably because it was out there by itself next to a gas station.
Then, because the building was already built, a new restaurant went in. It was a toasted ravioli place, serving all kinds of strange and unique raviolis — sweet and savory, normal and bizarre. I mean, if you’re going to put in a very niche regional restaurant concept in a relatively small town, you might as well use a building built for a Cajun place next to a gas station that couldn’t make it.
We ate at the toasted ravioli place not long after the COVID shut down. It was pretty good! Very unique. A little better than the Cajun place. Several years in, “T-Ravs” in Jackson, MO is still around, still next to the Rhodes. Give me a shout-out if you’ve eaten there!
Anyway, eating at this toasted ravioli place got me wondering about what else you could stuff inside of sheet pasta, drench in bread crumbs, and fry in a deep fryer. The possibilities seem endless... and endlessly delicious!
(How’s that for a completely pointless recipe blog post! I think I nailed it.)
On to the recipes! Say it with me, those that know... “ravioli ravioli give me the formioli.” (10 VEB bucks to anyone who can give me the reference.)
How to Make Toasted Ravioli
First, you need to make your own ravioli. You can’t have your own custom Cardinals-themed toasted ravioli party by buying the frozen pre-packaged store brand stuff made in Toledo or Sheboygan or wherever. You need authentic Joe Garagiola from the Hill ravioli! There are a ton of examples of how to make your own ravioli on the internet and YouTube. We got a pretty cheap pasta dough roller on Amazon and have used it a half dozen times. It’s a lot of work and kind of a lot of fun. Once you get your pasta recipe and technique down, it’s not that hard to crank out (literally) better-than-store-bought pasta in 45 minutes.
To make ravioli, just follow the typical pasta rolling method, and then lay it out in sheets. Drop a spoonful of your ingredients of choice — we’ll get to that — onto the pasta sheets, leaving an inch and a half in between to cut and seal the ravioli. Brush the space in between with water, then cover with a second pasta sheet. Press down between the mounds of tasty stuff to seal the two sheets together. Cut with your choice of cutter — a pizza cutter will work. Or you can buy a special ravioli cutter, if you want to be a fancy pants.
With the ravioli made, you dip them in an egg wash, coat them with breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and basil/parsley. Then deep or pan fry until golden brown. Voila! Toasted ravioli.
That’s what you’ll do with every example below. Now to the controversial part. Ingredients! I’m going to base my ingredient suggestions on regions of Cardinals’ nation - a Cardinals-themed toasted ravioli party! You’ll see what I mean...
The St. Louis Standards
You’ve got two different options here for your party. Meat is the standard. Cheese - you know what kind - is a viable alternative. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to give you suggestions for both.
Meat: You probably need veal to do this right. So go head over to your butcher and nab some if you can. I can’t. So, I would use a combination of cooked ground beef and Italian sausage that is chopped into pretty finely ground chunks. Mix in some Italian seasonings — fresh basil would be great — and some parmesan cheese. Spoon into your ravioli and follow the instructions above.
Cheese: For the cheese alternative, grab some provel shredded pretty fine, parmesan, and maybe even some ricotta. Mix them together with Italian seasonings, and stuff that stuff inside your ravioli. I personally don’t like provel, but that’s what you have to use if you want to be somewhat authentic.
Dipping Sauce: Marinara. Don’t complicate this one.
The Springfield Specialty
Here is where we get weird. If you’re going to eat your toasted ravioli on the Hill, then you don’t want weird ingredients in them. For your custom Cardinals-themed toasted ravioli party? Anything goes!
So, I’m going back to my Southwest Missouri roots. Springfield Style Cashew Chicken!
Springfield stye cashew chicken is chicken pieces fried in a tempura batter, served with cashews, green onions, and smothered in a special sauce made from a combination of oyster and soy.
Can we turn this southwest Missouri staple into a toasted ravioli? Of course, we can! Here’s how I would do it:
Cook some white rice. Cut chicken breast into fine pieces. Coarsely chop cashews. Sauté the chicken with some salt and pepper and soy sauce. When they’re nearly cooked, throw in some chopped green onion and the cashews. Finish cooking, mix with the rice, and then spoon the mixture into the ravioli.
In this case, the ravioli itself will take the place of the tempura fried chicken. Fry it up as normal until golden brown.
Dipping Sauce: you can make the cashew chicken sauce by mixing oyster sauce and soy sauce in about equal portions, and about half as much sugar. Add pepper and maybe some salt to taste. Cook and thicken with corn starch.
Southeast Missouri BBQ
Southeast Missouri is influenced by both St Louis and Memphis cuisine. That means it has some pretty decent BBQ. Not KC good, but decent.
So, for this one I’m going with the StL classic pork steak. But we’re going to cook it a little different - dryer, more Memphis. A pork steak is nothing more than a thick slice of a pork butt — the same thing used to make pulled pork. Typically, pork steaks are smoked and/or grilled to about 180 degrees and smothered in BBQ sauce to give it that caramelized goodness. It’s not pull-apart done like pulled pork, but it’s tender enough and has a steak-like consistency.
You don’t really want that in your toasted ravioli. You also don’t want to mush pulled pork slathered in sauce in there either.
So, I would recommend seasoning and then slow smoking or grilling your pork steak to about 190 degrees. That’s not quite pulled pork temps, but it will be very close to falling apart. Leave off the sauce for now. Then chop it up, mix with a small amount of your favorite BBQ rub (I would recommend Strawberries - a SEMO favorite from Holcomb, MO) and a little sauce of your choice and then throw them back on the grill in a pan or even in the oven to finish them off. It’s this method that they use in KC to make “burnt ends” — cutting off the thinner end of the brisket early so it doesn’t burn and dry out. You get a little caramelization, a little buttery pulled pork, a lot of flavor, and a little seared pork steak. What’s not to love?
To make it truly SEMO authentic, spoon that pork up inside your ravioli and give it a dollop of pimento cheese. Seal. Deep fry. Enjoy.
Dipping Sauce: This is supposed to be a Cardinals’ themed toasted ravioli party, so I would go with the old StL standby: Maul’s BBQ sauce.
Sweet and Savory Options
You get the idea now. Ravioli is a wonderful conduit or deep-fried toasted goodness. Nothing is stopping us from getting even more crazy! Dessert ravioli? Seafood ravioli? Absolutely! But it has to be Cardinals (or at least Missouri) themed.
The Fast Eddie: ravioli stuffed with all the peel-and-eat shrimp you can eat. Cut and mix that boiled shrimp with some ricotta cheese to keep it together. Serve with cocktail sauce.
The Mizzou: go to Columbia (maybe you can get some in StL? I have never seen it) and get some tiger stripe ice cream! Drop it into the ravioli. Bread the ravioli. Then you probably want to chill this. Maybe even drop it back in the freezer for a bit. Deep fry. Serve with caramel, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. Not Cardinals, but Columbia loves the Redbirds.
The Gooey Butter Cake: make or buy a gooey butter cake. Spoon up into your ravioli. Chill. Maybe freeze, if you don’t want the cake to melt together. Deep fry. We all agreed that you probably don’t need sauce with this one. Just dust it with powdered sugar like that regular old gooey butter cake you grandma makes.
The Bootheel: make some kettle beef. For our purposes, it’s basically just roast beef and onion with a ton of brown gravy served over mashed potatoes. Mix your roast beef and onion with some mashed potatoes. Drop inside your ravioli. Deep Fry. The gravy is your dipping sauce.
The Friday Fish Fry: Grill up some catfish fillets. Cut into ravioli-sized chunks. Maybe add some finely chopped onion. Seal. Deep fry. Then serve with homemade tartar sauce. (Please make your tartar sauce yourself. It’s so simple and so much better.)
The Throwed Rolioli: A Lambert’s specialty in ravioli form! Fill your ravioli with apple butter. Deep fry. Toss them around the room during your party. Serve with sorghum (molasses would work) or just melted butter.