When I first came across this dish at the Château de la Chèvre d'Or, I thought it was sheer madness. Then I tasted it and decided otherwise.
A few weeks later, I can no longer buy sheets of Niçois ravioli stuffed with beef and Swiss chard or spinach without also picking up a ripe avocado and a punnet of cherry tomatoes. It helps that the first time I served this combination at home, Sam - who had never previously gone wild for avocadoes - declared it the best thing he had ever eaten as he lapped up the last drops of sauce.
Of course, I appreciate how lucky I am to have the fresh pasta shop Barale at the end of my street. Founded in 1892 and still run by the Barale family, it's the place I turn to whenever I feel like eating something delicious without going to any effort (which turns out to be quite often). I buy the pâtes vertes (thick-cut spinach tagliatelle) for pâtes au pistou, panisses (a kind of chickpea polenta) to cut into strips and fry as an apéritif or side dish, and ravioli à la ricotta to serve with a simple tomato sauce.
Until recently, it had never occurred to me to serve ravioli niçois, otherwise known as ravioli à la daube, with anything other than daube sauce, or perhaps tomato sauce (with or without meat). These ravioli were originally designed to use up leftover beef stew, known as daube in these parts, and the extra sauce from the stew would be spooned over the ravioli. Pasta shops in Nice almost inevitably sell this rich, winey stew, more for serving with pasta than eating on its own.
Avocado, lemon and tomato make a brighter, more summery accompaniment, one that works surprisingly well with these earthy-tasting ravioli. A generous quantity of freshly grated parmesan brings it all together, balancing the acidity of the lemon. If you don't have access to Niçois ravioli - I'll post the recipe one of these days - it would be worth experimenting with other types of meat or ricotta ravioli or even plain pasta.
* I'm thrilled to report that Les Petits Farcis was featured alongside other small and informal cooking schools in this month's issue of Gourmet magazine. If you happen to have a copy, turn to page 88 for the article and page 199 for my recipe for Lemon curd tart with olive oil.
Niçois ravioli with avocado sauce vierge
8 dozen Niçois ravioli, or about 450 g (1 lb) other ravioli
1 small avocado or 1/2 large avocado
150 g cherry tomatoes (6 oz)
Juice and zest of one organic lemon
Good-quality olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Plenty of fresh parmesan cheese
A few fresh basil leaves
Heat a large pot of water for the ravioli. Cut the avocado and tomato into small dice and toss together with the lemon zest. Squeeze the lemon, measure the juice and add it along with the same amount of olive oil to the avocado and tomato. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook the ravioli just until tender and drain carefully (they are fragile). Top with the avocado-tomato mixture and its juice, a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan and the torn basil leaves.
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