By Nancy Olah
Although I love to make dinner from scratch almost every night, I’ve had some very busy days in my law practice lately. And since I’m determined to get back my bitchin’ beach bod by our scuba diving trip in June, I’m hitting the gym with our son Nick six nights a week.
So, if you don’t start thinking about making dinner until 7:30 pm when you get home from the Y, your options are going to be pretty darn limited!
That’s why I try to stock my freezer with some dishes that my husband and son enjoy – like ravioli! Although I’ve made my own handmade pasta before, I’ve never mastered the art of making ravioli.
Which is why I’ve become pals with the guy at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market who sells Rio Bertolini’s Gourmet Handmade Pasta. Rio Bertolini is based in Charleston, South Carolina and their Butternut Squash Ravioli has always been a favorite of ours. However, since it has dairy in it, I wanted to try it against a vegan alternative. Since my local purveyor didn’t stock Rio Bertolini’s Vegan Butternut Squash Ravioli, I had to look for another option.
Whole Foods carries Candle Cafe Vegan Butternut Squash Ravioli with Tofu, Sage and Nutmeg. Since Candle Cafe is a famous organic vegan restaurant in the Big Apple, I figured they would probably make a decent Butternut Squash Ravioli.
Testing Rio Bertolini’s non-vegan version against Candle Cafe’s vegan version was interesting. I did two separate sauces – sage brown butter sauce with shallots and a little balsamic vinegar for the vegetarian ravioli and a similar sauce made with Earth Balance Organic Vegan Buttery Spread for the vegan version.
We plated the two kinds of ravioli with some phenomenally fresh asparagus from Carrigan Farms, up in Mooresville that is delicious steamed or roasted with a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon.
And while I didn’t tell my two carnivore testers which ravioli was the vegan version and which had dairy . . . they had no problem guessing which was which. The Candle Cafe vegan ravioli just couldn’t hold a candle (pun intended) next to the Rio Bertolini ravioli with dairy. The lush richness of the ricotta and cheese was so much better than the tofu version, that we simply weren’t fooled.
Can you tell which was which from the photo? The vegan version in on the right and the version with dairy is on the left.
I think that the problem is trying to simulate diary with the tofu filling. Perhaps a better vegan option would be the Rio Bertolini vegan butternut squash ravioli which is simply made with butternut squash, brown sugar, sage brown butter, and honey. In other words, eliminate the attempt to mimic dairy (which is super hard to do) by just focusing on the other ingredients.
Alas, until I have a reason to order a 120 count case from the Rio Bertolini website, I’m going to have to pray that the guy from the farmer’s market will be willing to bring a couple of boxes of the vegan version to try one Saturday!