Meat that comes from a muscle that has done a lot work during the animal’s life is the most flavorful. Cheeks are one of the best examples. In this recipe, wild boar cheeks are first cooked sous vide and then pulled for the ravioli filling. The juices that are released by the meat during the sous vide cook will be mixed with the pulled meat, such that not a single drop of moisture or flavor will be lost. Although making your own ravioli from scratch takes some work, this is a simple recipe. The sauce consists of mushrooms, enhanced by using the soaking liquid from the dried porcini mushrooms. This gives them an extra woodsy aroma and flavor.
I always cook a large batch of boar cheeks at the same time, 48 hours at 68C/155F, with just salt and pepper, and then freeze in individual portions of about 300 grams or .66 lbs (to serve 2 as a main course or sufficient to make this ravioli filling). This provides me with a supply of ready-to-use cooked boar cheeks so I don’t have to wait for a 48-hour cook to finish, and I save up on power (as it takes almost the same energy to cook 300 grams or 2 kilos of cheeks). If you are in a hurry, you could also cook the cheeks 24 hours at 74C/165F instead of 48 hours at 68C/155F. They will turn out a bit less juicy and a bit less tender, but still very good. With such long cook times, a couple of hours more or less does not make a noticeable difference, so it is not needed to be very precise about the cooking time. It is only the temperature that you need to be precise about when cooking meat sous vide.
Makes about 32 plump ravioli, to serve 4 to 8 as a primo piatto
- 300 grams (.66 lb) wild boar cheeks
- 250 grams (.55 lb) cremini mushrooms (also known as baby bella mushrooms)
- 30 grams (1 oz) dried porcini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
- 1/2 Tbsp minced frresh sage
- 2 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs
- 1 egg, beaten
- fresh pasta dough made with 2 eggs and about 200 grams (1 1/3 cup) Italian 00 flour
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- (optional) high quality extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over the ravioli when serving
Season the boar cheeks with salt and freshly ground black pepper, vacuum seal them, and cook them sous vide for about 48 hours at 68C/155F (a few hours more or less won’t make a noticeable difference). When the cheeks have been cooked, pour the juices from the bag into a bowl.
Pull the meat with two forks to shred it into pulled boar.
Mix the pulled boar with the reserved juices.
Add 1/2 tablespoon minced rosemary and 1/2 tablespoon minced sage.
Add a beaten egg.
Add about 2 tablespoons of dried breadcrumbs to obtain a mixture that is not too wet and not too dry. It is best to start with 1 tablespoon and then slowly add more until it is just right.
Taste the filling and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper, remembering that ravioli filling should always be slightly more seasoned when you taste it by itself. (If you don’t want to risk tasting the filling with raw egg in it, you could cook a bit of filling in the microwave or in a frying pan with a bit of olive oil.)
Allow the filling to firm up in the refrigerator, covered.
Making large ravioli is less work than making small ones. You can make the ravioli in advance and store them for a few hours at room temperature, or for a longer time in the refrigerator.
The mushroom sauce can also be prepared in advance. Allow 30 grams of dried porcini mushrooms to soak in 250 ml (1 cup) of water that is just off the boil for about 15 minutes.
Strain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Filter the soaking liquid using a coffee filter or kitchen paper. Rinse the reconstituted mushrooms with cold water to get rid of any residual sand, then pat them dry with paper towels.
Clean the cremini mushrooms and slice them. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms in the olive oil over medium-high heat.
Cook the mushrooms, stirring regularly, until they are almost cooked.
Then add the reconstituted porcini mushrooms, and a minced garlic clove.
Stir for another minute, making sure the garlic doesn’t get too dark, then add the filtered porcini soaking liquid.
Bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce is no longer soupy. The sauce can be prepared ahead up to this point.
When it is time to serve the ravioli, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water boils, add salt and the ravioli. Boil the ravioli for 2 minutes only.
In the meantime, reheat the mushroom sauce. The sauce should not be soupy, but not too dry either. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the mushrooms with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
After 2 minutes of boiling, lift the ravioli out of the pot with a strainer. Serve them on preheated plates with the mushroom sauce. If you like, you can drizzle some high quality extra virgin olive oil on top of the ravioli.
This pairs well with an elegant earthy Italian red wine, such as a Barbaresco, Roero or Nebbiolo, preferably at least 8 years after the vintage.