Renowned as a classic Italian dish and a staple in many other foreign cuisines, ravioli can be a true ally in the kitchen. Not only is it the perfect alternative to the usual plate of spaghetti, it can also add that wow factor to any meal.
Ravioli can vary greatly in size and type; they can be large, small, salty or sweet. The possibilities are endless. To distinguish them from each other, we use the dough, which can be made with egg or with water and flour, and the filling, that can be anything from meat to fish or even vegetables and cheese.
But the element that can make or break the dish is the sauce, which should enrich the dish, enhance its filling and delicately compliment the main flavours. So, here are some of the most popular ravioli sauces around the world from the most traditional to the downright peculiar.
Cream or Sour Cream
Cream is one of the most used ravioli sauces around the world, it is regarded as somewhat of a classic. In Italy, it is used to accompany tortellini with prosciutto and ravioli with ricotta and spinach as it is a simple and easy-to-prepare sauce that still has the ability to enhance the flavours while offering a fresh and tasty touch.
In other countries, sour cream is often used. In Russia, it is traditional that the sauce that is paired with the pelmeni, a type of tortellini filled with a mixture of meats, has a sour cream base. And in Ukraine and throughout the rest of Eastern Europe, sour cream accompanies varenyky which are similar to the Italian ravioli but filled with meat, potatoes and soft cheese.
If you want to take your sour cream to the next level, add a pinch of chives to create a sauce that is both light and fragrant and that will pair perfectly with whatever ravioli you choose.
Soy sauce may be native to China but it is widely used in East and South-East Asia. It is made by fermenting soy and adding toasted wheat, water and salt (different variations of the sauce can be made by altering the fermenting time).
It is mainly used to dress starters and main courses and is particularly suited to steamed ravioli (typical in China, Japan and Korea) as it enhances the flavour while giving an intense and savoury taste.
Sweet and Sour Sauce
An alternative to soy sauce is the sweet and sour sauce that also happens to be native to China. Its main ingredients, on the other hand, are rice or white wine vinegar, sugar and tomato paste.
It is usually used with starters to accompany steamed ravioli filled with prawns, pork or vegetables or with spring rolls. Somehow this sauce manages to create a perfect harmony of tastes and flavours thanks to the sweet and sour base.
Balsamic vinegar has long been an ancient tradition from the Italian region of Emilia Romagna and has proved to be the perfect ally for flavouring any dish, from appetisers to desserts.
With some pasta dishes, like ravioli, balsamic vinegar offers a more elegant and refined taste. It would pair very well with either pumpkin or spinach and ricotta ravioli! With a bittersweet yet well-balanced flavour, strong but not overpowering, it makes tasting a dish of ravioli an even tastier experience.
Red Wine Sauce
The red wine sauce is particularly suited for dressing ravioli filled with cheese (for example, taleggio) or meat. Or again, you could do something a little different with a sweet ravioli filled with pears and walnuts.
To make a red wine sauce, the base ingredients are simple and few: onion, aromatic herbs (like thyme and bay leaves) and wine.
Walnut sauce compliments ricotta ravioli perfectly. It may be simple but it has a strong and fragrant character.
As an alternative to walnut sauce, you could opt for a creamy pesto of dried fruit made with almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts and pistachios, which is ideal to pair with prosciutto ravioli. To make the creamy pesto, chop the dried fruit, combine them in a blender together with cream and season with salt and pepper.
Butter and Sage
It is perhaps the most traditional and most simple of sauces that is appreciated by all ravioli lovers. It may be simple but it isn’t to be underestimated. It enhances and perfectly accompanies many different flavours, thanks to its freshness and the scent of the sage.
Like butter and sage, the puttanesca sauce, which is perfect for ravioli di magro (a ravioli filled with cheese), is one of the most traditional and timeless dressings thanks to the savoury taste, given by olives and capers not to mention, its simplicity.
Chilli oil is, like many other types of oil like sesame, ideal for dressing fish ravioli as it enhances the flavour and enriches it with a spicy and slightly bitter note.
In conclusion, there are an infinite number of ravioli sauces (alongside those mentioned) to pair with a range of flavours from the traditional to the most innovative. There are many others that could be added to this list, not to mention the ones that you could create on your own! The secret is letting go and allowing yourself to experiment and be creative with your cooking and recipes.