Tonight’s dinner is coming straight from the freezer and the pantry. Except for the freshly-grated parmesan cheese (because there are no green cans of cheez allowed in my fridge), it’s all coming from jars, cans, or plastic bags. I enjoy cooking, but I really don’t consider this cooking. It’s more like heating up.
Of course, the jars and bags I’m using contain chopped prosciutto, pesto sauce, and pine nuts, and I’m going to sauté all of that with some olive oil for a quick and tasty sauce. For the grown-ups, that is; the boys prefer plain old butter and cheese. So maybe the “cooking” comes in when you can say, what can I throw together for dinner tonight from what’s already in my pantry, and come up with something other than popping open a jar of Ragu. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Ragu.)
As I’m putting the frozen ravioli into the pot of water, I check the package instructions to see how long it says to boil ‘em. Because in my mind, and maybe it’s just me, but there really isn’t a whole lot to cooking up some frozen ravioli. You get out your pot, you boil some water, you drop in the ravioli, and you boil ‘em till they’re done. Then you drain ‘em. How hard is that?
Well, apparently the good folks who make frozen ravioli are concerned that the potential for critical error exists at every turn. That’s why they helpfully included COOKING INSTRUCTIONS that have seven whole steps. I myself have parsed these instructions, and I am worried that despite their good intentions, the manufacturer may have left room for interpretation. In fact, seven steps may not be enough to prevent ravioli tragedies from occurring. That’s why, as a public service to my ravioli-challenged readers (and I mean no disrespect), I am providing additional explanation. I urge you to print this page and keep it handy near your stove so that next time you bust out a bag of ravioli, you will know exactly what to do.
1. DO NOT DEFROST. If Ravioli are stuck together, please do not try to separate. They will usually separate while cooking.
OK, so with the very first instruction they ARE YELLING AT YOU! Untold bad things may happen when you defrost. Immediately, they seem to regret having yelled at their consumer, for they throw in a polite “please” in the next sentence. Then they suggest that the Ravioli will “usually” separate while cooking, and are you with me when this makes me wonder, but what if they don’t? What if they all stick together? DO NOT ASK! JUST DO AS WE SAY!
2. Bring 3-4 quarts of water to a boil for every two servings (approximately 8 ) of Ravioli (salt optional).
Call me crazy, but I threw caution to the wind and eyeballed the water I put into my largest stock pot, and also? I failed to count the Ravioli to determine how many servings I was cooking. It was like, about half a bag-ish. Fortunately, this did not seem to matter, and every one of my approximately 16 Ravioli came out fine.
3. Place Ravioli into boiling water.
Is it just me, or should that have been Step 1?
4. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the Ravioli rise to the surface.
When I read that, naturally my first reaction was all, who are you to tell me which spoon I should use? In full rebellion against Step 4, I grabbed the closest metal spoon. Because first of all, I couldn’t reach the wooden spoons from where I was standing, and second of all, what difference does it make whether it’s wooden or metal? I’m stirring pasta in hot water. They might have done better to omit the “spoon” part of the instruction, because seriously? Are you going to plunge your arm into that hot water and stir?
5. Allow to simmer at a very slow boil for 5-7 minutes or until desired tenderness.
Here I was at Step 5, feeling like it should have been Step 2, yet still I had questions. Say I wasn’t an Experienced Cook. How would I know what a “very slow boil” is? At what temperature should I set my burner to achieve just the right rate of boil? And also, how in the heck do I know what “desired tenderness” is? Seems to me this is a good quality in a mate, for example, but as it applies to Ravioli, I’m at a bit of a loss.
6. Drain carefully.
Ah, the two-word sentence packs such a literary punch. Yet, after having been carefully guided around potential missteps in Steps 1 through 5, now I was faced with a decision: Do I fish the Ravioli out of the water with my spoon, or do I dump the whole thing into a colander? And if I do use a colander, can I use my metal colander, or would plastic be preferred? What dire consequences would befall the poor cook who chose to drain recklessly?
7. Serve with your favorite sauce.
After all of that, after painstakingly following the Steps 1 through 6, the bastards totally leave you hanging! What is your favorite sauce? What if it’s Ragu? Is the sauce ready or do you have to make it heat it up? What if you would prefer to have your Ravioli with no sauce at all? I feel like I just watched a Very Special Episode of a sitcom, only to be left hanging for a whole week to find out how it ends.
To me, it’s kind of like the shampoo instructions: Lather, Rinse, Repeat. BOIL. COOK. DRAIN. It’s not hard, people. It doesn’t warrant a seven-step process.