You may have noticed we’re really into home-making food items easily bought at the local market. Our work schedules* are such to allow ample time for food preparation. And the ingredient of the moment is the wonton wrapper. So versatile and so easily adapted to many cuisines.

Neither of us had spent much time around wonton wrappers not already presented as deep-fried wontons or wonton soup in Chinese restaurants. My first stab at working with the delicate squares of dough was a riff on Giada’s butternut squash and ricotta tortellini with brown butter sauce, replacing the squash with spinach

. Per his suggestion, our second adventure was deep-fried mozzarella sticks. For a unique twist, we also deep-fried blue cheese sticks and ‘shroom-schetta tortellini.

I can see why Italian women love making pasta. The method and care required to form each individual piece is enchanting and humbling — especially after one or two rip open or explode in the boiling water. It’s not something you perfect in your initial attempt, but definitely something you want to keep working at until you have. These tortellini are in a class of their own, charming you with that brown butter aroma and contrast of flavors from the silky soft interior, al dente ‘pasta,’ chewy cranberries and crunchy walnuts. A show-stopper, make no mistake.

DSC02303Growing up mozzarella sticks were something my family would occasionally order at restaurants, mainly to give us kids something to gnaw on as opposed to whining that our food hasn’t come yet. Initially, like most kids, I couldn’t get enough of that oooey gooey cheese and that crumbly deep-fried coating. As I grew older I began to notice the undercooked cheese nearly causing me to choke, or the soggy outside and overall floppiness due to the sticks sitting around too long before serving or over-frying.

I didn’t think I liked them at all anymore until relatively recently. This afternoon.

We filled the wonton wrappers with the two cheeses and dollops of ‘shroom-schetta To dip we set out homemade tomato sauce from a pizza several weeks back and the leftover honey mustard sauce served with Saturday night’s hickory wood-smoked pork spareribs.

All three were restaurant quality. The ‘shroom-schetta pockets burst with flavor in our mouths. The irresistible duo of cheese sticks enough to convert doubters left, right and center — crispy and melty, not at all oily, droopy or throat-clogging. Our consensus favored the blue sticks. How is this not already a fad?

DSC02341A game day feast rounded out by oven-warmed white and blue corn tortilla chips, two types of salsa, guacamole, soda**, and a bowl of fresh carrot, celery and apple — my attempt at adding healthy food to the meal. Go team!

Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini with Brown Butter Sauce [serves 2]

Printable recipe

For the Tortellini:

1/2 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 large shallot, chopped, about 1/4 c

1 garlic clove, chopped

3/4 t Herbes de Provence

1/4 t kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/8 t freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1/2 c whole milk ricotta cheese

1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg

1 package small wonton wrappers [you should use ~ 18 wrappers]

+ + +

For the Brown Butter Sauce:

6 T unsalted butter

1 T fresh sage leaves, torn

1/4 c toasted walnuts, chopped

1/4 c dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1/8 t kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/8 t freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

2 1/2 T grated Parmesan cheese, or other grating cheese

To make the tortellini, heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the shallots, garlic and Herbes de Provence until lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper; remove from heat and set aside.

In a food processor, combine the spinach, the shallot mixture, and the ricotta cheese and pulse a few times to blend. Add the nutmeg and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pulse until smooth. The tortellini filling can be made one day ahead.

To assemble the tortellini, lay out 6 wonton skins, keeping the remaining skins inside the package or under a lightly dampened paper towel. Place 1 T spinach mixture in the middle of each skin. Dip a pastry brush in a little water and wet the edges of the skin. Gently fold the square wrapper into a triangle, making sure the edges are securely closed and there are no air pockets inside. Dampen the two bottom corners of the longest side of the triangle and gently bring them together, pressing lightly to secure. Place the formed tortellini on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Before laying out another 6 wonton sheets, be careful to dry the work surface. This will help keep tortellini from sticking to the baking sheet. Continue until all the spinach mixture is used. There should be approximately 18 tortellini.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sage, toasted walnuts and cranberries and let cook until the butter starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and season with salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Gently place the tortellini in the boiling water and gently stir. When they begin to float they are done, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, gently spoon the tortellini onto a serving platter. Top with the brown butter sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.

*If you can call being unemployed to finish a Masters thesis legitimate work [??].

**His treat was a Mexican Coca-Cola with real sugar!

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